U-Lend: an umbrella sharing service

When it rains, it pours. This could be a slogan for New Orleans, where torrential downpours can arrive seemingly out of the blue. Three Tulane students learned this lesson the hard way and decided to do something about it. With their new startup U-Lend, the trio hopes all students can be ready for rain at a moment’s notice.

Their idea is to bring an umbrella sharing service to Tulane’s campus. Stations will be set up in campus buildings where students can easily rent and return umbrellas whenever they need. Matthew Friedman, one of U-Lend’s three founders, remembers having to get used to the unpredictable weather patterns of New Orleans.

“When I came to Tulane I was completely caught off guard with how much it rains. Sometimes I would walk into class on a sunny day without rain gear, and my valuables in hand, and when I came out it would be pouring rain.”

Friedman and his business partners Frank Zhang and Raymond Powell met one another during the Startup Tulane club fair. It was Zhang who first brought up the idea.

“So when Frank brought this idea to us, we immediately took action and began developing our business model, product, and school relations to make this happen.”

When it came to choosing a name, Friedman says U-Lend was not their first idea.

“Our original name was corny and limited our future to only umbrellas. We wanted a name that was brandable and open to other products down the road. That is when we came up with the name U-Lend.”

For students constantly on the go, carrying around umbrellas is often a hassle and just another thing to lose track of. Friedman hopes U-Lend can take away these concerns.

“Sometimes carrying around an umbrella can be a nuisance. On a rainy day, only some might remember to bring their umbrellas. We want to eliminate the need for anyone to ever have to carry one around with them. They can simply rely on ours wherever they go on campus. Students won’t have to carry around rain protection or purchase umbrellas.”

Friedman, a business management major with a focus in entrepreneurship, says that this process has taught him a lot about the skills needed to start a business.

“One of the biggest things we had to learn and get better at was patience. Things always take longer than you expect and things are always going to go wrong. Adaptation is a big one. The way you look at your goal and how you are going to get their can change in a heartbeat.”

Currently U-Lend is prototyping their smart umbrella technology and programming an app that can facilitate the payments and rentals. The entire team is excited with what the future has in store.

Article by Will Potts, Lepage Student Fellow