Why buy when you can borrow? The concept of a new renting platform named Mutu, brainchild of Collegian Toby Skilton (Fitchett 2013), connects the owners of under-utilised assets and spaces with people who prefer access over ownership.
Users make money by sharing the things they own and hardly use, as well as being able to save money by borrowing the things they will only use once or twice. Mutu allows people to seamlessly rent, lend, hire and share almost anything through an app.
Toby went to St Paul’s in 2013 after spending his early high school years at Te Aroha College. He says
St Paul’s helped to set him on a pathway to tackle any opportunity when it presented itself. Following high school, Toby qualified with a Bachelor of Commerce, double majoring in Tourism and Management and says university is valuable for teaching students to be accountable for their own success.
“You also learn important skills for business, like time, relationship management and working with others.”
At University, Toby began searching for development opportunities and ways to generate income, starting his first business venture, Scarfie Repairs.
“Scarfie Repairs was a rental home repairs business fixing student flats in Dunedin for student rates. I didn’t have much of a clue about repairing, but there is a wealth of tutorials on YouTube. I successfully ran Scarfie Repairs which was set to be acquired when the deal fell through before I set off on my OE.”
While travelling overseas with his partner Elise, Toby found inspiration for the Mutu concept.
“When we were travelling around, we found it difficult to get access to things we wanted without purchasing them. When you’re on the road travelling, buying something and having to lug
it with you is incredibly inefficient.”
Staying in places through Airbnb meant they also saw homes filled with unused items and equipment.
“I thought back to my family garage of all the tools, gardening equipment, sports gear and other items that lay idle and are hardly used and this is where Mutu was born.”
Toby launched Mutu in November 2019 and the couple moved to Christchurch in 2020 to get the venture moving. Beginning with six industry professionals, Mutu has grown to a team of 11 based in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson, Dunedin and Melbourne.
“My initial vision for this platform was for it to be heavily used by tourists. Picture visiting New Zealand from Australia, America or Europe and you want to go surfing. You download the Mutu app and you are able to borrow a surfboard from a Raglan local who tells you where the best waves are and where to grab a coffee after.”
However, due to COVID-19, the business model changed to focus on the domestic market. This allowed the team to build up supply and to test systems before welcoming international users. COVID-19 also presented an issue domestically, as the idea of sharing equipment was challenging at the time of launch.
Building in measures to counter this with online tutorials on how to clean gear and practise safe distancing have been ways the team have minimised the Covid challenge.
The app launch was to achieve a critical mass of users and items to create a thriving marketplace. “To date we have around 12,000 users across the country and we are tripling our growth month on month.”
“Unlike traditional hire companies which can be expensive, time consuming and paper heavy, the process we provide is a simple, social and sustainable platform for Kiwis to share everyday items that would otherwise be collecting dust or discarded as landfill.”
Toby’s had some great guidance along the way. His aunt is well-known New Zealand businesswomen Annah Stretton. He says she has been a mentor, challenger and ultimately a friend throughout his entrepreneurial journey.
Toby isn’t waiting for the world to come to him, he’s ready to take Mutu to the world and completely revolutionise the way people view asset ownership.
He wants Mutu to become a household name, much like TradeMe.
Check out the website here