Feather is throwing back the curtains to reveal its rental service for mid-priced to high-end apartment furniture.
The New York-based startup is part of the latest crop of Y Combinator companies and is looking to attract the kind of liminally living person who’s currently between the life stages of finishing their eduction and starting a family or owning a home.
“The idea here is, it really doesn’t make sense to buy furniture between when you get out of college and when you buy your own home,” says company founder Jay Reno.
For Reno, this is the logic of the sharing economy taken to its logical endpoint. “For people who are between college and owning their first home,” Reno says, “ownership doesn’t make sense for big ticket items. Throughout this period people are renting houses; then their second biggest asset is the car, and the third is renting furniture.”
Indeed, people already renting housing and lease cars, why not rent the furniture as well?
Already quietly in operations for about two months, Feather has managed to book $50,000 in revenue and is doing roughly $8,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
While there’s no rent-to-own option today, the company is considering it as a future feature, but Reno doesn’t want renters to assume that this is something that would be akin to the (basically usurious businesses) Rent-a-Center.
For frugal buyers of low-end or mid-range furniture, renting with Feather may not make the most sense, since the company’s prices and offerings trend to the “West Elm-style” furniture.
For longer term rentals the company will be rolling out sliding pricing, so the monthly fee to rent a piece of furniture will go down the longer the duration of the rental.
Feather typically breaks even on a rental after about six months.
“In a sense, it’s basically a utility,” says Reno. “Instead of paying thousands and thousands of dollars upfront, you can rent.”
So far, no company has tapped the rental furniture market except companies that service corporate or government relocation packages, Reno says.
“What we have going for us is that Ikea is such a pain,” says Reno. “There’s so much pain involved for people who are shopping at Ikea that people can see why it may be worth it.”
Perhaps for a certain class of apartment dweller, that’s true.
It’s the idea of being in-between days, or phases, of life. Liminal life is one without firm commitments to a job, a place, or a community. In those days of figuring things out, people will typically move apartments multiple times, and build and tear down countless pieces of shoddily thrown together pasteboard furniture.
The siren song of Feather’s service is that it removes even those little pain points from a liminal life. A person can float on with someone else’s furniture, driving someone else’s car (or taking rides in it), living in someone else’s house, and taking care of someone else’s chores.
“If we can remove the pain point, and do it for around the same price as it would cost for you to buy the item,” Reno asks rhetorically, “there’s all of those reasons why to removing the friction.”
Buying something on Feather is much like a typical shopping experience, except your card is billed monthly. Furniture typically arrives in a week to ten days and is delivered and picked up by Feather affiliates (birds of a Feather?).
So far the company has rented about 300 items and has been catering to Airbnb hosts, business school students and corporate relocation companies.
The company was founded roughly a year ago by Reno and his compatriots from his previous startup, Happy.
The company’s furniture rental services are currently on offer only in San Francisco and New York, but Reno hopes to expand the business along the coasts initially before moving into Middle America.
Ultimately, Feather’s vision is to start selling complete furniture packages and a monthly membership fee that will allow users to swap out furniture as they choose.
“That’s something that’s coming in the next three months,” he says. “For instance… I am moving into a two bedroom apartment… I just want to click a button for a two bedroom apartment and have that furniture delivered.”