Startup Q&A - Tobly Allows You to Rent Construction Equipment Online
Tobly is a market network that enables businesses to rent equipment to other businesses at a national level online, specializing in equipment like scissor lifts, boom lifts, and forklifts. The company was founded in 2014 by Pablo Carvallo (left - also CEO) and Tanausu Gonzalez (right - also CTO).
I spoke to Carvallo to learn more about the New York City-based business, including how how it was founded, where the name came from, and what’s next for the company.
Alex Culafi (AC): To start, tell me the story of how Tobly was founded.
Pablo Carvallo (PC): In 2012 I had the opportunity to be involved in the planning stages of a modular construction project for a European nation. Through this experience, I saw how machines will eventually replace human in construction sites not only for efficiency, but also for safety reasons. Since then, the idea kept resonating in my head.
Later on, while pursuing a master's in Environmental Engineering, I took a deeper look at the industry dynamics and realized that underutilization was a big issue that was fueled by fragmentation.
Alex Culafi (AC): I know it's a marketplace focused on equipment rental, but I'd love to hear more in your words. For the uninitiated, what is Tobly?
Pablo Carvallo (PC): Tobly is a market network that allows businesses to rent equipment to other businesses at a national level. Additionally, we connect both suppliers and customers with insurance, financing, logistics, and training vendors.
The equipment rental industry is estimated to be $50B per year, and while our technology is built to handle any type of equipment rental, our current focus lies on Aerial Work Platforms (Personnel Lifts) and our goal is to be the best company renting lifts.
AC: Where did the name come from? "Tobly" has a very friendly ring to it!
PC: This name was the product of 72 hours of brainstorming and Google searches. We wanted Tobly to be friendly and refreshing unlike any other equipment rental company. We figured if we are going to change an industrym people need to like us. It also helps that Tobly is a hard name to forget.
AC: How has the marketplace (and company as a whole) evolved since its founding?
PC: When we first started, our main goal was to validate that people would actually rent an expensive piece of equipment online. We quickly validated that people would, and in fact, there was a high demand for this kind of service.
Once our thesis was validated, we started experimenting with the model, we went from selling a plug-and-play e-commerce platform for suppliers, to price comparison, to on-demand rentals.
The formula to our success has been to iterate our product based on hard data and a little bit of gut.
AC: What is your business model?
PC: Like many other marketplaces, we make a fee on each transaction for connecting the supplier and end user. Additionally, we sell other services such as rental protection and training. We are currently working on other services, and you should hear about these soon.
AC: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular positions in the upcoming months?
PC: We are currently a team of six, over the next few months we will be adding more sales and operations members to our NYC office.
AC: What’s next for the company?
PC: Over the past few month we have been working with national companies. We currently have active listings in over 135 cities in the US, and our next big milestone is to become a national equipment rental company. Next year, we will start operations in a few different countries.