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ShareGrid: Production’s Peer-To-Peer Marketplace – An Interview With Co-Founder Brent Barbano

ShareGrid founders, from left to right: Brent Barbano, Marius Ciocirlan and Arash Shiva. Photo credit: ShareGrid

By Marjorie Galas

Imagine one resource where you can book a twelve-foot camera crane, a green screen production space with lights and a two-ton grip and electrical package that comes with a sprinter van.  Now imagine this resource as a sharing economy business, in the vein of Uber or Airbnb.  Fortunately, this resource is the very real ShareGrid – a peer-to-peer marketplace where filmmakers, photographers and creatives can rent gear, spaces and resources directly to and from other local creatives.

ShareGrid is the brainchild of co-founders Brent Barbano, Arash Shiva and Marius Ciocirlan.  An active cinematographer, Barbano was working on a documentary highlighting the share economy in 2013 when the inspiration hit him: “I realized the need for a sharing network for filmmakers such as myself.”  Once he began researching the concept, he discovered product designers Shiva and Ciocirlan had a few months head start in creating ShareGrid.  Barbano reached out to Shiva and Ciocirlan, ultimately joining them in the development and implementation of ShareGrid.  They officially launched in Los Angeles in January, 2015.

“(Arash and Marius) are both product designers for e-commerce marketplaces, and their idea was to develop something for the film industry.  They had worked at a tech company and had a great understanding of how marketplaces work.  I’m more boots on the ground for the industry,” said Barbano.  “While camera equipment is a recognizable choice, we have grip, lighting and studio spaces and a growing amount of production resources for every department.”

Prior to launching ShareGrid, the founders recognized the importance of having a robust community in place.  They put up a two-week advertisement on Facebook announcing the launch and received 3,000 sign-ups in that period alone.  The quality of material renters had available exceeded Barbano’s original expectations.

“We’ve done everything we can to take away the headaches, such as creating a vetting process and adding insurance.  We had (high quality gear such as) Arri Alexas and grip trucks (from the start),” said Barbano.

Wanting to offer all members as much protection as possible upon joining ShareGrid, Barbano and the founders understood establishing insurance policies was paramount.   Partnering with Athos Insurance, ShareGrid members without insurance can purchase short term or annual policies directly through the ShareGrid website.  The ShareGrid Insurance and Damage Waiver system can cover every rental up to $750,000.  Members who already have insurance can have their 3rd party policy vetted for use prior to renting any equipment.  ShareGrid also features “Bank-level security” – a facet soon to be managed by BlockScore; every new member is asked a series of security questions and has a background verification run to validate their identity.

“We take every measure to prevent fraud and keep our community safe,” said Barbano.

Since its Los Angeles launch in 2015, ShareGrid has rapidly grown.   Due to user requests by city, ShareGrid expanded to New York in October, 2015, and will be launching in Atlanta in July 2016.  Barbano notes, per current demand, ShareGrid anticipates expansion in Chicago and San Francisco within the next year.  Looking at the numbers, ShareGrid currently has over $100 million in inventory and thousands of rentals weekly.  Owners are making an average of $850 a month.  Renters save anywhere between 30% to 50% off traditional rental options.

To manage the needs of a growing company with increasing demand, ShareGrid is currently hiring developers, city managers and marketing professionals to its current team. There are also openings for customer service staff, an element of ShareGrid’s business model Barbano takes very seriously.

“Production is a high stakes business.  If you have a shoot in the morning and are having trouble obtaining equipment it can be very stressful,” said Barbano.  “Our customer service is handling calls and emails at all hours of the day.  That reply is important.”

As ShareGrid continues to expand and add new locations to its network, the company is looking at planning community events in the future.  These events will provide members greater chances to connect, learn new techniques together and have robust collaborations.  Currently, everyone is welcomed to enjoy original content created by ShareGrid that is featured on their blog as well as their Youtube Channel highlighting professionals such as cinematographer Jas Shelton (Keanu, The Stanford Prison Experiment).

“We find it to be very important to give our community meaningful content about their craft. It’s a collaborative industry first and foremost and so we want to highlight not only the quality of members we have on ShareGrid, but offer a channel for them to share stories and their experiences as a professional in this ever-evolving industry,” said Barbano.

To learn more about ShareGrid please visit: www.sharegrid.com