Lensrentals acquires BorrowLenses | TechCrunch

Lensrentals, a titan in the online rental service for photo, video, audio and lighting equipment, has announced its acquisition of BorrowLenses, a key competitor in the space of photographic and video equipment rentals, TechCrunch has learned exclusively. It’s a competitive space in a commodity market, where neither brand has an obvious edge over the other. Neither company is willing to comment on the terms of the deal, but a source familiar with the deal suggests this is likely an all-cash acquisition.

BorrowLenses, in turn, has had an interesting journey. The company was acquired by Shutterfly about a decade ago. Shutterfly was public at the time, but was since acquired by Apollo — yes, the same Apollo that bought Yahoo, which owns TechCrunch — back in 2021.

Founded in 2006, over the years Lensrentals got the edge over BorrowLenses, both in terms of number of staff and overall number of customers. Operating from its headquarters in Tennessee, Lensrentals has cultivated a reputation for being a good place to work (the company is in large part owned by its employees), and that takes care of its customers well.

Tyler Beckman, CEO of Lensrentals, tells TechCrunch that his company has seen BorrowLenses as “friendly rivals” that “push each other to excel,” and that the company sees the acquisition as an opportunity to lean into the benefits of operating at greater scale.

“When you put ownership in the hands of employees, good things happen for customers. We look forward to all BorrowLenses customers getting to experience what I mean by that,” says Beckman.

It is not yet clear what the acquisition means to the job security for the staff at BorrowLenses, nor the San Carlos location itself. A source familiar with the deal says that the acquisition is happening very quickly, and that the Lensrentals team is evaluating the viability of keeping the employees and the location as the process unfolds.

BorrowLenses has a broad selection of gear — a source at the company says that its assets need to be integrated into Lensrentals’ existing inventory of more than 400,000 rentable items across more than 6,000 different lenses, cameras, drones, lighting, audio and studio equipment — which has enabled it to compete with local camera rental operations. Fast nationwide shipping and comprehensive insurance gave the company an edge over often poorly run mom-and-pop camera rental shops.

The company also introduced the Lensrentals Keeper Program, which, with the informal slogan “if you like it, keep it,” enables customers to purchase gear they have rented at a reduced price. Photographers have embraced the program as a low risk to buy secondhand gear: Do a few shoots with the lens, and if it works well, they buy it at a steep discount. It’s not impossible that the newly merged company will start liquidating excess gear, so now might be the time to keep an eye out for good offers.

Similar to Lensrentals, BorrowLenses boasts an extensive inventory. The main difference between the companies is their geographic footprints. BorrowLenses has established a strong presence in certain regions, complementing Lensrentals’ national reach. This localized approach — for some reason it’s more reassuring if a lens get shipped a few hundred miles than thousands of miles across the country — has enabled BorrowLenses to cultivate close relationships with its customer base.

Over the years, BorrowLenses has also placed a strong emphasis on educational content, offering tips, tutorials and guides designed to help customers make the most of their rental experience. This focus on education and support has not only enhanced the customer experience but has also positioned BorrowLenses as a thought leader in the creative industry, committed to empowering photographers and videographers at all skill levels.

In many ways, the acquisition represents an obvious one: Two companies that are so similar that they are hard to keep apart help augment each other with small, incremental improvements in localized presence and educational initiatives.

Of course, Beckman told TechCrunch that Lensrentals was kept on its toes by the competition from BorrowLenses. In theory, the customer wins when a single, monolithic company can reap the benefits of operating at a greater scale. In practice, it remains to be seen if the prices will stay the same and the larger company will be able to retain its personal-touch reputation when that element of friendly rivalry is removed.