Dallas Imbimbo is a well-practiced entrepreneur. Having grown up in the Bay Area, he was surrounded by people starting companies and even had one of his own by the age of 12. He was a DJ who, by middle school, had locked down a number of school dances to show off his mixing skills.

While attending college at University of California-Davis, Imbimbo launched Pack My Dorm, a platform designed to connect moving companies with students moving into and out of their dorms. After running that company for while, Imbimbo sold it to one of his regional moving and storage providers.

Now, he's based in Orange County and making moves to change the game for equipment rentals with his latest entrepreneurial endeavor, BigRentz. He met his business partner, Stephen Jesson, who pointed out how no one was renting heavy equipment online. His response?

"Let's do it."

From there, with the help of his longtime friend and high school basketball teammate, Nick Kovacevich, the trio bought domains such as forkliftrental.com, scissorliftrental.com, discountliftrental.com, and many more, aiming to own the online space for equipment rental.

Over the course of the next year, they fulfilled rental orders using local companies in order to validate their concept. They knew they were onto something huge when they started scoring national-level contracts with the top rental companies.

Shortly after, Imbimbo moved to scale the business. The domains and business units were consolidated into what is now known as BigRentz. The company hired its first engineer in 2014 to begin building the technology required in scaling, more than two years after it was founded.

Seizing the Right Moment

Fortunately for the BigRentz team, they were capitalizing on a massive trend. Owning large equipment like lifts and cranes is capital intensive and involves a lot of additional service costs, such as maintenance, transportation and a yard for long-term storage. Instead, heavy equipment users found it was much more feasible to rent, rather than own.

Yet, despite the consistently high margins the industry has enjoyed, Imbimbo observed a tremendous generational divide between himself and the rental companies; their strategies and approaches simply weren't evolving with the change in user preferences.

To start, the market is extremely fragmented: 25% of the market is owned by the top five firms in the vertical, 8% by the next five, and more than 2,500 make up the remaining two thirds. This scattered system means that the serious players haven't identified the right strategies for domination.

And, most importantly, almost the entire industry wasn't using technology and offering little to no transparency, which suggest low-quality service and frequently disappointed customers. The entire vertical is in dire need of digital transformation.

"Why can I order a $10 pizza from Domino's and know when it's ready and on the way to my doorstep, but, when I order a million-dollar piece of equipment, I don't receive a confirmation or know when it's arriving?" asked Imbimbo.

A fair question indeed.

BigRentz moved to solve just that problem. It offers equipment rental customers the ability to order equipment online, track the order and manage it all in one portal, something completely fresh for the industry.

The beauty of BigRentz's business model is that it has built a network of more than 7,500 rental yards to fulfill its orders, without owning any of the equipment or yards. By comparison, the largest construction equipment rental company owns about 900 yards. This is the hallmark of a platform: connecting providers and consumers of a given value and facilitating transactions.

A Big Deal

Using BigRentz is a cinch for its customers; it's built as a seamless one-stop shop for renting scissor lifts, boom lifts, forklifts, excavators, and so much more: a single point of contact and self-service portal.

On top of the rental marketplace is a rating system which enables the best equipment providers to rise to the top. Prior to this offering, the customer base largely made purchases in the dark, relying on existing relationships and word of mouth. Now, customers are being paired with equipment suppliers that best fit their needs, and suppliers are benefiting from the customer feedback.

In fact, the rating system is so effective, its boosted rental yards that otherwise would have had a harder time growing.

"Our first supplier has tripled his fleet since working with us," said Imbimbo. "And that's simply because we're sending more business his way because he provides 5-star service."

For equipment suppliers, joining the BigRentz network is a no-brainer. After signing on, they're able to receive demand data in their location and obtain better utilization on inventory, optimizing their supply to match with demand. And, according to Imbimbo, the best suppliers are seeing significant increases in incremental revenue.

Building Momentum

BigRentz is actively doing business throughout North America, with plans to take the model to new markets in the near future. As well, the team is looking to establish efficiencies wherever possible and reach escape velocity before any new entrants can hit the market and offer detrimental competition.

Currently, the company is in a very good position. For the last four years, it's supplied equipment for the World Series and captures a large swath of re-renting from the larger players. Even when their equipment supplier partners run out of equipment, BigRentz is ready and waiting to help them fulfill orders.

BigRentz has grown to 90 employees, with 25 working in engineering and product to appropriately scale the business. Growth has been achieved year-over-year and BigRentz earned the distinction of #48 on Inc's list of fastest-growing companies.

Next steps for the company include building high-quality partnerships with rental yards and looking into raising a Series A to continue scaling upward.

The equipment rental space is a $52 billion industry and largely populated by companies either too small to take over or too stagnant to truly innovate. It's exciting to see BigRentz apply the platform business model so deftly to the vertical and with such a positive attitude.

As Imbimbo put it, "We're not trying to disrupt. We're here to empower the equipment rental industry."

Published on: Feb 15, 2017