French startup Fleet has grown nicely over the past four years as the company has deployed nearly 10,000 devices under long-term leases. The company has not raised any outside financing and is reinvesting as much of its earnings into the business as possible.
Originally, Fleet had a very simple product offering. Businesses of all sizes could rent a fleet of MacBooks instead of buying them. Instead of spending a lot of money all at once, companies could turn this capital expenditure into predictable operating expenses.
The Fleet team has set up the company in such a way that it remains as lean as possible. It doesn’t have a warehouse with huge stacks of laptops. It does not have a large credit limit with a bank.
When a customer orders a number of laptops, he sends a request to a financial partner to finance those devices based on various criteria. The customer signs a contract on Fleet’s website and then the order is processed.
“We are connected to the APIs of seven financial partners in France, representing almost the entire market. We completely automated the process,” Fleet co-founder and CEO Alexandre Berriche told me.
Fleet prices are transparent. The company shows on its website how much it will cost to order a specific laptop model. “We price our devices in a way that takes into account the rates because it depends on the risk of the customer, the size of the orders and also the suppliers,” said Berriche.
If a Fleet customer files for bankruptcy, the financial institution is responsible for the line of credit. Fleet does not bear any risk in the event of a failed payment.
But financial companies are willing to work with Fleet because it’s difficult to address that market – especially very small businesses. A company can order one laptop on Fleet. It works because it is automated.
And because many startups are currently trying to increase their runways, companies can also lease their devices back with Fleet to spread the cost of their existing equipment over time.
Expand beyond laptops
In addition to Mac and Windows laptops, Fleet has added other things you can rent on its platform, such as smartphones, tablets, accessories, and even phone booths and furniture.
Some Fleet customers reach the end of their laptop lease after three years, meaning they are eligible for renewal. That’s why the company now has a real donation program for unused devices. Fleet works with non-profit organizations and can forward old laptops to teams that can still use these computers. Fleet also accepts laptops not originally issued through the platform.
The startup now wants to add new features and services. This is how Fleet works with Eve offer insurance products. The company also wants to add Mobile Device Management (MDM) features to locate and remotely lock lost devices.
The idea is that centralizing products like MDM has some value in itself because you don’t have to think about it – you don’t have to compare different services and sign a new contract with yet another company.
“I’m really inspired by this American company called Rippling. We have unbundled SaaS products in such a way that recreating tools that can handle everything from A to Z in a large segment has some value,” said Berriche. “We’re building the operating system for the workplace.”