Blazing Saddles

Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph has a thing for rental startups. Today he is joining the board of Getable — a company making tablet payments a reality for rentals.

“I do a fair amount of angel investing. It’s natural that I see every “Netflix of” type business,” said Randolph in an interview with VentureBeat. “I’m pretty selective about where I spend my time, and I’m comfortable that [Getable] is a long-term thing.”

There are a number of companies bringing a part of the rental industry up to technology speed. Netflix did it for movie rentals, Zipcar does it for cars, Chegg does it for textbooks, but Getable wants to do it for all of the $85 billion rental industry.

At its launch in 2009, Getable (then known as RentCycle) had created a website where rental stores across the Bay Area could list inventory available for rent and join the e-commerce era. It also set up an online shopping cart for individual rental websites, a software-as-a-service back-end inventory manager, and customer relationship manager. Then, in March, 2011, the company introduced its payments processing tool for physical rental stores. Think of it as like Square, except for the rental niche, with an iPad app that lists the store’s inventory and a dongle to accept payments.

“I think [the payments system is] actually tremendously exciting because so little happens these days behind a cash register,” said Randolph (pictured right). “We think it will change the entire flow within the store.”

Marc RandolphToday, the company is beginning to deploy the tablet payment systems into an even more niche market: bike rentals in San Francisco. Getable is starting primarily with Blazing Saddles, a company anyone knows if they’ve walked by Fisherman’s Wharf and seen cycling tourists headed in packs toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Starting small is, for Getable chief executive Tim Hyer, a very strategic business move. He hopes that being in a such a small market will help prove the concept. Randolph says this takes discipline to not jump out into the rest of the industry.

Companies are saying, “‘We are putting our store in your hands,’ and that’s why you need to focus in and really get it right,” Randolph said. “I think they’re actually being very, very smart on being focused and disciplined on saying, ‘Let’s focus on one geography and get it right in one category.'”

Of the stores where Getable has tested its tablet payments system, 50 percent of purchases have been completed through the tablet, and it expects those numbers to increase by the summer.

Randolph, who joined the company as an advisor over a year ago, is playing an instrumental role in keeping Getable on track. Hyer says he and the rest of Getable’s board, which include OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton and Collaborative Fund founder Craig Shapiro, gel very well, especially since Getable positions itself as the OpenTable for the rental industry.

Hyer also forged an early relationship with Jeff Jordan, former chief executive of OpenTable and current partner at Andreessen-Horowitz. The venture firm went on to participate in Getable’s $1.4 million seed round last August, along with Collaborative Fund, PayPal’s Max Levchin and others.

Randolph says the four board members often meet with Jordan, and Hyer says Andreessen-Horowitz is “as good as they sound.” As for Randolph, Hyer says he has been a “fantastic advistor,” and says Randolph’s time at Netflix is invaluable to Getable’s business.

Of course, Hyer told us that Randolph is concerned he’s going to become “Rental Guy,” as he is the founder of Netflix, invested in Getaround, and is on the board of BookRenter.

The Avengers are looking for a Rental Guy, right?

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