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  • Writer's pictureSam MacKinnon

Knook #19: Mutu

Mutu is a new peer-to-peer rental marketplace, launching in Christchurch in August. Photo: Supplied

I’m a bit of a chronic hobbyist.

I like trying new things and learning new things but that can become quite expensive when you’re purchasing gear just to give something a go.

That’s why I found the idea behind Mutu so inspiring - I immediately came up with a list of gear I could rent to give something a go without too much outlay.

Mutu is a digital asset sharing marketplace that allows individuals and businesses to rent, lend, hire and share almost anything.

Mutu’s founder, Toby Skilton says “The idea is that you’ll have access to whatever you need, whenever you need it. You can make money and help someone in your community by lending the things you own and hardly use as well as helping the planet by offering people a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to buying.”

“In terms of the ins and outs, when you’re ready to list your stuff, simply download the app, take a few photos of the things you’d like to rent out, write up a brief description and your item is ready to be listed. When someone wants to rent out your item, you will receive a rental request and will then be able to communicate via the in-app chat function. Mutu handles all payments on the platform, verifies all of its users and allows you to add ratings and reviews to help make sure you are sharing your stuff with someone you can trust. We’ll also provide an item protection policy so you don't have to worry about your things being damaged, broken or stolen.”

I asked Toby how Mutu got started.

“Like many Kiwis, after university, my partner and I travelled the world for about 10 months. We would often want to do things like camping, fishing etcetera, but didn’t want to buy the items for a single-use,” Toby says.

“From our experience with couch surfing, I knew that so many people had the items I wanted to use just lying there collecting dust, and would love to see them being used in exchange for a bit of money. This is when Mutu was born.

“I spent the first couple of months really fine tuning the idea and figuring out how a platform like Mutu would operate logistically here in NZ. I knew that in order to create a community of users who would benefit from Mutu’s platform, I would need to assemble a professional team with a range of specialities essential to the development and growth of a successful peer to peer marketplace.

“I shared my idea and vision for Mutu on a number of platforms and was amazed and really humbled at the amount of interest. I was able to establish the incredible team of 7 we currently have today and began shifting Mutu from a concept into a product.”

Mutu's founder, Toby Skilton. Photo: Supplied

I asked Toby what his motivation is behind Mutu.

“I myself am a serial hobbyist. As soon as I got a whiff of a potential hobby, I would go and purchase the gear I needed, only to find that same gear sitting in the garage collecting dust months later.

“I think we all have a funny relationship with the things we own and this mindset needs some work. With Mutu, we aim to embrace a circular economy, encourage product stewardship and change attitudes towards ownership by encouraging communities to share instead of buy.

“One of the stats that really bothers me is that in New Zealand, we discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year. This is equivalent to 3,200kg of waste per Kiwi, one of the highest levels in the world and only 28% of this waste is currently recycled. As a society, we are all becoming more conscious of the things we buy and our individual impact on planet earth. There’s no need to buy and store things you don’t use regularly. All that stuff you don’t use has a material impact on landfills, CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as water quality caused by landfill runoff and waste disposal. We’re trying to shift that relationship with things by offering people a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to buying.”

I asked Toby what some of the challenges were in getting started.

“As a young Kiwi company who is currently bootstrapping, we have actually been really fortunate in avoiding any significant challenges so far. Given our business model, it is difficult for us to test certain assumptions which does make some of the decision making a bit more difficult but that is all part of the fun with a startup.

“I am really fortunate to have such an amazing team who is so well connected and motivated. Any time we are presented with a challenge we are able to collectively come up with a viable solution.

“One of the biggest challenges we have had to face is around our item protection model. People love the idea of being able to earn a bit of cash by lending out their under-utilised things but they are often uneasy about the idea of lending these items to strangers. We wanted to create a policy that not only protects the lender but doesn't create a high barrier for use from the renter side. We decided to avoid paperwork and security deposits as these are the things people dislike about renting. Instead, we have been able to provide a policy, with no additional paperwork on deposit that protects items up to the value of $1500 in the event that they are damaged, broken or stolen.”

I asked Toby what advice he’d give to other entrepreneurs.

“For the last 5 or so years, my brain has been filled with different ideas for potential businesses and more often than not these ideas come to me as soon as my head hits the pillow. I constantly found myself writing out pages of notes in regards to how the idea would work and what a business model would look like and then that would be it. I didn't really know what to do next and how to build a team of people capable of turning this idea into a reality.

“The advice I would give to any other entrepreneurs is to be proud of your ideas and have the confidence to take it to the next step. You want to build a team of people who not only share your passion and vision for the concept but also have the ability to help your idea move in the right direction.

“This can be done by offering sweat equity instead of a salary to keep the costs down early on. Once you know the type of people you need, use platforms like LinkedIn and reach out to them. You will be surprised at the willingness Kiwis have to help one another and to collaborate on ideas. If that person isn't able to help you they will likely point you in the direction of someone who will.

“Most importantly surround yourself with people who enable you to learn and always remember that you are the one who came up with the idea and that in itself makes you invaluable to the team.”

And what’s next for Mutu?

“We are in a really exciting space at the moment. We are gaining lots of momentum and are having some exciting conversations with strategic partners. The team and I are having frequent strategy workshops to continually fine tune our strategy for launch.

“Our aim is to launch city by city, starting in Christchurch on the 1st of August. For anyone who is interested in the platform you can sign up and be kept in the loop on our website!”

For more info and to join the Mutu movement, visit:

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