Traveling is fun, but not when you have to pack half a baby store to accommodate your kids’ needs. Babierge (baby + concierge) is addressing this market through its baby gear rental service and today announced the close of a $1.3 million seed round. Investors include Startup Capital Ventures, Quake Capital, Rostrum Capital, the GWC Innovator Fund, and the Stanford-StartX Fund.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, Babierge founder and CEO Fran Maier knows a thing or two about scaling a business. The CEO has five companies under her belt, including Match.com, which she cofounded.
“In some way, Match.com has given birth to Babierge,” Maier said in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat. “I went from matching and marriages to babies!”
Maier says the demand for baby gear rental is there. According to her, more than 8,000 traveling families in over 170 destinations in the U.S. and Canada are using Babierge — renting gear like cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, and even toys.
A primary concern for parents is, of course, health and safety, which is why Babierge works with what it calls “trusted partners” who operate locally. These individuals undergo ongoing training in baby gear safety and cleanliness and receive tips on sales, marketing, and hospitality. Babierge says it carefully screens them after they apply and provides them with liability insurance in case of damage or accidents.
It’s important to note that Babierge doesn’t rent out any baby gear itself but rather connects interested parents with local suppliers.
“The idea is to empower moms, grandparents, and other interested individuals to launch their own baby gear rental business,” said Maier. “On average, these trusted partners earn between $600 and $800 in extra monthly income.”
There are currently over 200 partners on the Babierge platform, and Maier expects the number to grow to 500 by the end of the year.
The types of gear that partners propose varies by region. “In Mill Valley, for example, you’ll find more of upper high-end gear,” said Maier. “In Tahoe, Ted will offer a hiking package, and then the gals in Miami have a beach package.”
Because yes, different locations require different kinds of baby gear.
Although Babierge doesn’t determine the rental prices, the company takes 20 percent of each rental fee and charges end customers a service fee, as well. Trusted partners also pay $100 to get access to the platform.
Babierge already has a strong foothold in the baby gear market. In addition to its seed round, the San Francisco-based startup announced that it has acquired the Rent Baby Equipment directory, and it snapped up another directory, Baby Equipment Rental, back in 2016.
Hotels and apartment rental companies are beginning to see the benefits of the Babierge network. “Airbnb and HomeAway are calling us to help serve families they are hosting,” said Maier.
Babierge has also forged partnerships with travel and leisure brands like Destination Hotels and Kid & Coe.
To date, the startup has raised a total of $1.7 million, and it will be graduating from the Quake Capital accelerator program next week. The seed round will be used to expand to additional markets and onboard more trusted partners.
Founded in May 2016, Babierge currently has seven employees.