The Need - in the US an estimated 15 million tonnes of furniture gets either incinerated or landfilled annually. At the same time, each year in a city like NY, a quarter of a million people either move in or move out.
The Solution - Furnishare has created an online marketplace that allows furniture to be kept in use for longer cycles.
What makes this smarter - the business provides cleaning, repair, storage and inventory analysis to create a hassle free and tailored service to customers.
The result - Additional revenue from furniture, more flexibility for workers and students on the move and less waste to landfills and incinerators.
Stressful and highly wasteful
Alpay Koralturk set up Furnishare in 2014, after the stressful and frustrating experience of moving house six times in as many years. Each time he moved, like other citizens, he would try and sell some furniture that was no longer needed, but being against the clock and juggling other jobs, lots of good quality furniture ended up being thrown out. Some items find a new owner in this way, but Koralturk decided to investigate the scale of this loss to the economy.
In the United States alone 15 million tonnes of furniture is wasted annually, and only 2% recovered for recycling. The actual potential in the used furniture market has been estimated as $10 billion per year.
Koralturk saw an opportunity for something new and unique in the market - an offering that could be more convenient for consumers and better for the city. It could also benefit manufacturers and designers. There’s not much of an incentive to create furniture that stands the test of time when customers buy and use cheap products that get the job done for a while, but then throw them away. Koralturk believes that a different model, one that keeps furniture in productive use for longer, could influence designers and manufacturers to create products that last.
In Turkey, where I’m from originally, great furniture stands the test of time and is passed down - that sort of furniture is not really incentivised anymore.
Increased revenue and flexibility
The Furnishare model has a number of components but revolves around a central concept - to keep high-quality furniture in use, thereby creating additional value for previous owners and more flexible access options for future 'users'.
When someone has an unwanted piece of furniture, they can contact Furnishare who reviews the item and collects it from the current owner. The item is then placed on the Furnishare platform, where people seeking furniture can view it and lease it. This is done through a subscription service at a price Furnishare claims is a ninth of traditional rental stores. Similar to other sharing economy platforms, the leasing revenue is split between Furnishare and - for an agreed period - the person who donated the item.
The model gives people a chance to monetise a burdensome or underutilised asset rather than simply disposing of it, a process that might itself cost money. When items are returned to Furnishare after the lease period they are repaired and cleaned, something the founder says is far more effective when well-designed, well-built items are cared for by professionals.
"Keep products and materials in use"
Smart logistics and quality are key
With a proposition based on convenience, choice, affordability and quality, it’s a wonder a similar model doesn’t already exist in the furniture industry. Koralturk thinks this is because the most important strength of Furnishare is its capabilities in logistics - an area a typical furniture manufacturer isn’t eager to get into.
Another advantage is its focus on maintaining quality; a marketplace doesn’t worry about the quality or type of listings, just the volume. As a platform, Furnishare wants to get smarter in its interactions with those who donate and lease furniture, using data to tailor inventory to reflect what people want and need in their homes, and ensuring furniture is kept at the highest level of utility and value at all times.
The team behind Furnishare say that the biggest challenges they have faced are the same as those facing any new logistics company. However, they also have the task of changing people’s perspectives about a traditional industry, and bringing the public around to their way of thinking: that ownership is overrated, and experience is far more valuable.
The next few years are going to be about getting the word out about the Furnishare proposition, and for Alpay Koralturk, the wind is blowing in the right direction. The entrepreneur says that he’s seeing companies in different sectors making changes that favour access and better utilisation of resources, and from Zipcar to Rent the Runway, the response is often in favour of owning less.