The Borrow feature, launched ahead of COP26 opening, is aimed at getting people to share things like drills and pasta makers (the classic lockdown impulse buy) with their local community. The app wants to help families both save money and avoid long-term waste.
The idea is: Why does everyone need to buy a drill or roomba in a block of flats, when many of these will end up in landfill eventually? Every purchase also fuels demand for more consumption. Why not share a couple between the building?
"Waste isn’t just what ends up in landfill. Waste is also all the stuff gathering dust in our homes - whilst our neighbours are busy buying yet more of the very same stuff," writes co-founder Tessa Clarke .
She cites research showing the average American home has 300,000 items inside, many of which are hardly ever used.
Borrow will allow neighbours to lend and temporarily use items such as books or camping equipment, and then rate their neighbours on helpfulness and the state of items’ return. Users can give a star rating out of five.
"If we’re to avert the worst effects of the rapidly accelerating climate and ecological crises, it’s absolutely essential we move from our economic model of ownership (and waste), to one of guardianship (and utilisation)," Clarke argues. "We very much hope that through making borrowing simple, safe, fast and fun, it will become second nature — much like buying is today."
Last month Olio revealed it had raised $43 million in a Series B funding round led by VNV Global. DX Ventures, the venture capital arm of food delivery giant giant Delivery Hero, also joined.
The start-up grew more than 5-fold over the past year to see more than 5 million users. Around 80% of users are UK-based. It takes under 30 minutes for an item of unwanted food to be snapped up on the app, the app says.
Olio’s boom is partly down to its recent partnership with Tesco. The tie-up allows the app’s 30,000-plus volunteers to collect and share food waste not claimed by charities. Since the partnership launched, the number of food items listed on Olio each month has jumped to more than 1.6 million, from around 300,000.
The start-up has also partnered with catering giant Compass, and recently began working with speedy grocery delivery firm, Zapp. Such partnerships have helped the app create a lucrative revenue stream. It is not yet profitable.
The start-up plans to use latest cash to grow further and expand into new markets.
It also plans to unveil an insurance offering to users, to "offer extra peace of mind".