A History of CodeLaunch - Looking Back at 2016 Finalist: ProsRent
ProsRent - The Idea Before the Launch
The construction equipment industry is dominated by three large enterprises who own most of the 7,500 equipment rental companies and supply yards across the United States. When businesses needed to rent construction equipment outside of their own territory, it was from vendors they were unfamiliar with or had never utilized before. To make matters worse, these vendors were demanding marked-up prices from new customers.
ProsRent CEO, John Clark, and COO, Nicholas Powell, identified this major pain point in the construction industry - which was the inspiration behind the creation of their company. The mission of ProsRent is simple: to provide contractors a one-stop online marketplace where construction rental equipment could be rented directly from the supplier.
It's common practice that contractors have to rent from brokers or rental companies, which created quite a bit of havoc. Often, they would have to go to 10 different suppliers to find the right piece of equipment, not to mention extra wasted time sourcing and calling providers – all while they could instead be working on the job at hand with the equipment they needed.
Thanks to the concept behind ProsRent, smaller equipment rental companies can now compete with the larger firms by creating a database that connects equipment rental companies and the businesses that need construction equipment across all regions. This enables customers to get more competitive rates and small to medium-sized construction rental companies to find new customers and grow their businesses.
ProsRent streamlined process allows them to partner with thousands of suppliers across the nation. 9 times out of 10, contractors can find equipment closer to the location of their job site and at a more competitive price.
The “hotels.com” for the Equipment Rental Industry
In the construction industry, as mentioned, it’s standard to go to the larger rental companies to secure equipment for jobs. Or you go through a broker who re-rents the equipment at a much higher margin. ProsRent goes one step ahead of both of these options. This is the “game changer” when it comes to sourcing equipment.
Instead of wasting time calling around to find the equipment needed for a job, users can log on to the platform to see what supplier has which pieces of equipment in stock and where they are located – in real time – and they can book that piece of equipment for their use. ProsRent has partnered with thousands of suppliers across the nation, giving them greater access to available contractors that they never had before.
The ProsRent concept is similar to a platform like hotels.com. You log on to the site, enter your needs, and it shows you a real time view of what equipment, dates, pricing, location, etc. are available. The construction industry is quite slow to adapt to technology, so an application similar to ProsRent had not previously existed.
The concept of ProsRent was created, but what now? That's where the real work for Clark and Powell began. They had to determine if their idea would resonate with the industry and whether or not to take that big leap of faith.
Making the Decision to Enter CodeLaunch
Ironically, the decision to enter CodeLaunch was not initially on the radar. In fact, 30 days before making the pitch it was still just an idea. Clark called Code Authority CEO, Jason W. Taylor, to discuss some possible ideas for website development and the topic of CodeLaunch came up and the option to enter their concept before the deadline was presented.
Clark was already facing a few obstacles developing the ProsRent concept and now had to make the decision to enter CodeLaunch:
- He already had a successful business, USA Renovations. Was it crazy to start another one? How hard would it be to run 2 businesses at the same time – growing one from the ground up while making sure the other wasn’t suffering?
- How much capital was it going to cost to start up ProsRent? He knew Prosrent would need start up capital. Usually start ups approach friends and family at this round however John took this round of funding on in effort to speed up the business’s time-to-market.
- He needed to find a business partner who shared his vision for ProsRent. Not an easy task at all
- Would he regret not giving ProsRent a try? Would he fail with this new endeavor? Or would ProsRent become a success? This was more of a mental challenge. He didn’t want to put it by the wayside and always wonder “what if”.
So Clark figured why not? He put his concept together, entered CodeLaunch where ProsRent advanced to the semi-finalist round, and then became a finalist to pitch his concept on stage at the 4th annual event.
The CodeLaunch Experience
“Had it not been for CodeLaunch, ProsRent would simply not exist,” says Clark. He views his experience as essentially one huge, valuable focus group. He got that all-important feedback from a large group of people who will definitely “let you know what they think,” he says.
In presenting his pitch, he immediately got the affirmation he was looking for and the reassurance that ProsRent was fulfilling a real need in the marketplace:
- CodeLaunch helped him to foresee the excitement of what he was trying to put together
- Initially he questioned if anyone would adopt this idea or think it made sense. The CodeLaunch audience understood it. They got it. It was the push he needed to move forward.
- He had construction professionals who heard his pitch come up to him and tell him to his face that they wanted and needed this product.
There are so many great aspects of CodeLaunch that Clark points out which will be beneficial to other entrepreneurs. The opportunity to network and build important relationships is one of the major takeaways that Clark brings out of the CodeLaunch experience. Even though ProsRent didn’t win, Clark left with so much more.
After CodeLaunch and What the Future Holds
The CodeLaunch experience gave Clark the go ahead he was looking for to dive in and “just start” the actual development of ProsRent.
ProsRent officially launched in October 2017. The overall platform is still in progress and the number of suppliers being added continues to grow. Currently they have over 5,000 supplier locations nationwide – which is more than 3 times that of United Rentals, viewed to be the leader of direct suppliers with only 1,500 locations.
Sales are growing at a steady pace, too. Since October 2017 until now, sales for ProsRent have reached approximately $2.75 million. They expect to close a seed round in April, with the hopes of another $1 million raised. These numbers clearly show the gap in the market and the need for a service like ProsRent for the construction industry.
While the first phase of the ProsRent site is more manual, with basic software and a website in place, there are two more phases to go. Phase 2 introduces version 2 of the platform, which will integrate more partnerships with vendors and API integration for software. Phase 3 is where Clark sees things as getting really exciting. He forecasts around $15-20 million in sales and more in-house technology employees building a front facing platform for customers, supplier and contractor dashboards, and a live marketplace for all users.
Clark knows this is a tedious process to bring this concept to life, but he also knows that he is able to get to the next step where so many others have failed. This is due in large part to his construction background and the connections he’s built in what’s viewed as a very relationship-based industry.
Advice for Others Considering Applying to CodeLaunch
Clark definitely looks fondly on his CodeLaunch experience and wholeheartedly recommends it for other budding entrepreneurs or those wondering “should I?” He still has his two CodeLaunch awards prominently displayed on his desk. When asked if he has any words of advice about his journey for others just starting out or considering submitting an application for CodeLaunch, he shared these three points:
- Fund smart money. Go to people that understand the industry you’re entering and understand the idea you have and how it can make an impact. While they have a place, don’t go to VC’s if you don’t have to. Find mentors and advisors you trust who aren’t just in it for the money.
- Don’t plan yourself out of the business. Dumb it down if you have to. Focus on the basics of the business before you get going. We went into CodeLaunch with a concept, barely a business plan. Our real business plan didn’t even come to fruition until 8 months after the idea.
- Always wait for the best partners. It’s better to wait and find the right person to go on the journey with you. Push back your target date(s) if you have to. Better to wait than to rush, find someone, regret it and have to start over again.
CodeLaunch is an annual seed accelerator competition between individuals and groups who have software technology startup ideas. The event was founded by Code Authority, a software development company in Frisco, TX in 2012. Since its inception, CodeLaunch has accelerated numerous startup companies and has curated over 1,000 applications from all across the United States and Worldwide. The purpose of the competition is to accelerate the best startups with mission-critical seed services provided by sponsors. There’s no cost nor surrendered equity to participate in the competition and all ideas are protected under an NDA.
CodeLaunch VII will take place Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the Comerica Center in Frisco, TX. In addition to the entrepreneur competition, CodeLaunch features a Startup Expo trade show that is beneficial for other startups who can meet up, network, and connect with interested supporters and investors.
Click here to learn more about what’s new for CodeLaunch VII.