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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Andrew Adrian, founder of LENDIT (Photo: Sandy Huffaker) Andrew Adrian, founder of LENDIT (Photo: Sandy Huffaker)

Services for Rent

Andrew Adrian's idea for rental management software got a crucial lift from SDSU's ZIP Lauchpad.
By Jeff Ristine

“We can change this idea in society that you have to own everything.”

This story is featured in the spring 2019 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University.

The decisive moment in Andrew Adrian’s drive to start a company was when he realized he was doing it all wrong.

In an idea that emerged from a frustrating experience looking for a kayak, the ex-Marine envisioned LENDIT as an online marketplace for individuals to rent things to each other. Once in operation, however, Adrian noticed prospective customers seemed more comfortable dealing with established businesses than with strangers.

What made more sense, Adrian decided, was developing software to assist shops already in the business of renting but missing out on potential opportunities. He had seen many businesses operating at a level just one step above pencil-and-paper; others were trying to book rentals with software designed to reserve a table at a restaurant.

“You have this huge industry that’s not being serviced,” said Adrian, who pivoted the company’s business plan with assistance from San Diego State University’s ZIP Launchpad. Still in its beta phase, LENDIT’s app—essentially a specialized management system—now has dozens of clients who are testing the service or in negotiations for the business rental software upon public release.

“We can change this idea in society that you have to own everything,” said Adrian, who sees the proliferation of self-storage facilities as a sign people are hanging onto too much stuff they didn’t need to buy in the first place. “Making renting more convenient—that could be very powerful.”

The idea begins

Adrian spent four years stationed at Camp Pendleton “driving tanks into the ocean” and serving in a machine gunners team. He deployed to Afghanistan and shortly after his discharge in 2014, enrolled at SDSU through a scholarship program offered by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The 2.5 years since he developed the idea for managing rentals have been a high-stress whirlwind. The time overlapped with a job he had at a cybersecurity firm, where he rubbed elbows with members of Canada’s Parliament, Microsoft executives and the director of the National Security Agency.

At first, LENDIT occupied a series of “offices” that included his Pacific Beach living room and a friend’s garage before settling into donated space at a co-working facility in University City. No one was paid.

Once accepted into the ZIP Launchpad, Adrian received critical mentoring and support, office space and opportunities for networking. A 2016 gift from alumni Tom and Linda Lang specifically supports veteran entrepreneurs working in the center. “I basically lived there, because I could study and work on my business,” Adrian said.

Adrian raised $85,000 for LENDIT from savings, friends and family and brought on two SDSU alumni as partners, vice president Alex Weber and software engineer Nika Zaballa.

Next steps

The company is still strictly business-oriented, and for now, focused on recreation equipment rentals in San Diego. Users pay a monthly subscription fee. To Adrian, however, the possibilities are endless. He would love to show the concept to a national department store or home improvement chain. A friend is drumming up possible business in Hilo, Hawaii. He knows a guy with more than 100 board games, ready for lending.

Adrian also has plans to offer a marketplace via web and smartphone app that would allow local businesses and startups to post any kind of rental offerings—party equipment, for example—and how soon it could be delivered. And recognizing the advantage of saving customers a drive across town, he is developing a delivery component that would operate like Grubhub and DoorDash.

Then there’s Adrian’s mom, a budding entrepreneur back in Oklahoma. With LENDIT’s help, she hopes to start up a business to rent cooking equipment by the end of the year.