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The Fund Founder Spotlight Interview: Tuomo Laine of Rentle
Tuomo Laine is co-founder and CEO of Rentle, the circular commerce platform. Start, grow and expand your circular business - it's great for your business and even greater for the planet!
Welcome to The Founder Spotlight where we highlight the incredible people behind the companies we’ve backed at The Fund. The Fund is a founder collective and early stage firm, by founders for founders.
The world is drowning in stuff and consumers are more conscious than ever of the dire need to reduce the amount of waste. People are becoming less concerned with owning material goods and care more about the experience and getting access to what they need, when they need it. Linear commerce just isn’t sustainable for people, businesses, and our planet. Rentle is the circular commerce platform that empowers merchants to expand their commerce from ownership to access. Rentle’s proposition is that if you’re not going to eat it or drink it—if you’re not going to consume it, in a literal sense of the word—you’d be better off renting or subscribing to it.
Rentle was founded in 2018 by Tuomo Laine, Toomas Kallioja and Joel Mikkonen. All three founders attended Aalto University in Espoo, Finland and after they developed the business idea for Rentle, they piled into an RV and spent a week driving around to Finnish ski resorts and other companies offering rentals. They asked a lot of questions and were very encouraged with the answers they received. They became very aware of the sustainability issues and knew that they could create a software solution that embraces the circular economy. CEO Tuomo Laine shares how Rentle is changing the world — it's where sustainability and capitalism meet.
What’s Rentle’s Northstar?
We always look at the number of merchants that we empower with our circular commerce platform. We have over 10,000 SMB merchants, and more than 1,000 merchants are signing up every month. We enable revenue streams like subscriptions, rentals, buybacks, or even second-hand sales and refurbished sales. We want merchants to move from linear commerce towards circular commerce, towards a business model that aims to reduce the junk we have in the world.
Why is Rentle going to win?
Circularity and re-commerce by definition is 100x more complex than linear commerce, as money and products are moving in both directions. When it comes to circular commerce infrastructure, there are so many things that haven’t been optimized at the same level as linear commerce, which is what we’re solving for. We’re basically the Shopify of the circular economy, and we’re trying to do in 5 years what they did in 10. It’s not only that the demand is so great, but the fact is that the world doesn’t have time to wait 10 years for us to become more sustainable in our consumption.
How does Rentle inspire “customer love”?
Our approach, and the founder background, comes from service design. Everything that we do, we go quite deep, not only into the superficial level of UI, UX, and usability, but we really drill down on understanding the real root problems the customers want to solve with our platform. Our merchants experience enjoyment and more profitability when we provide a frictionless way for them to grow their circular business, while making the world of commerce more sustainable.
Tell us about some recent milestones that Rentle crushed.
The end of last year we raised a 3.8 million seed round; it’s exciting to be backed by investors sharing a vision of a better world.
Product wise, we have a background in supporting rentals, but starting this quarter, we will add support for merchants to offer subscriptions for their customers. We see that this will have a huge impact on all sorts of items like sports equipment (think children’s bikes), electronic subscriptions (iPhones and laptops), and clothes, to name a few.
This year we’re launching buyback programs. I’m the most convenience driven consumer (some could say lazy) and the fact I can give back an item to the merchant at the end of the life cycle, rather than having to figure out a responsible second-hand or recycling solution just makes my life so much easier. I know the merchant is much more capable of providing the item the most sustainable end of its life cycle - or in the best case a second cycle!
We are also now proud members of the Unreasonable Fellowship, a fellowship re-purposing capitalism to be a driver of sustainability. They should get all the visibility possible, they have gathered an amazing group of purpose-driven people driving positive change in the world.
Do you have any podcast recommendations or advice for founders?
One podcast I fell in love with and haven’t looked back from is Acquired. I've probably listened to every episode and I think it’s one of the best podcasts for any founder. I’m also a huge fan of Ben Thompson’s Stratechery.
On a personal note, as a Nordic founder, I’d like to bring to the table that sometimes it’s better for founders to consider themselves more like activist investors. You are often the biggest shareholder, board member and a CXO. Having that separation of concerns, rather than only viewing yourself as a founder can allow you to make the difficult hard decisions that actually push the company forward, as in that framework things are not so personal. It can also help you be a better leader.
What’s something interesting about you that people may not know?
I was struck by lightning. I was in the Finnish navy finishing my compulsory service and we were in a tent during a powerful thunderstorm, which is probably the worst place you can be. In the fraction of a second lightning coursed through the bodies of all eight of us in the tent, and while today all of us luckily are ok, some people suffered internal burns, nerve damage, paralysis and memory loss—the usual array of lightning-related injuries. It changed me and really motivated me to challenge myself to the fullest. I was literally jolted full of energy and my battery has since been charged to take on one of the most important missions in the world - to help global consumption become sustainable!
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