Piling Canada

Equipment Connection

Kitchener-based DOZR simplifies equipment rentals
Written by Barb Feldman
June 2019

Kitchener-based DOZR simplifies equipment rentals

According to Kevin Forestell, the idea for Dozr was conceived in 2015 on a Florida beach when it occurred to him, his wife, Erin Stephenson, and brother, Tim Forestell, just how easy and affordable it had been to arrange their short-term rental property online. Back in Guelph, Ont., their large family-owned landscaping business owned a few hundred pieces of equipment, including many machines that sat idle once snow-removal season was over.

“The timing was right,” said Kevin, and what began as brainstorming about how to solve their own problem soon evolved into a much bigger idea. “We just realized we had to bring the sharing economy back to the heavy equipment industry.”

The three soon came up with a pilot platform: “the world’s first intelligent search for heavy equipment,” beta-testing it with a small group of contractors under everyday conditions to spot possible flaws. When they saw that the platform was working, they quickly started to scale, says Kevin, who sold the landscaping business “and went all-in on Dozr.”

The company, based in downtown Kitchener, Ont., now has 15 full-time employees in addition to its three co-founders and has been growing rapidly year over year. Kevin is the company’s CEO. Tim, as the company’s chief client officer, heads the group that ensures customer interactions go smoothly. Stephenson, Dozr’s chief operating officer, is responsible for overseeing the company’s global marketing and business strategy.

The team’s innovative ideas have won them recognition since the beginning. In 2016, Dozr was awarded $100,000 by the Waterloo Region’s business accelerator, Communitech, at their annual Rev Demo Day after participating in Communitech’s start-up program. Stephenson was named the 2018 Startup Canada Ontario Regional Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, and that same year Dozr won both the Stanley Black and Decker’s Innovation Prize and placed second in Connecticut’s Ventureclash Competition as one of the most innovative early-stage companies in the world; an award that came with $1 million in prize money.

These prizes have increased the company’s ability to invest in product development and marketing, and to attract more software developers and programmers, including experts in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Setting up suppliers

“When we started Dozr, it was more of a traditional classified listing of contractors renting to other contractors,” Kevin said, with individual listings and sometimes a photo of the machine. “What we learned along the way is that we had to make an option for all suppliers to participate – national professional rental houses, regional mom-and-pop rental houses, original equipment manufacturers and OEM dealers,” as well as individual contractors with idle capacity.

Today, the platform is similar to a combination of Airbnb and Hotels.com for heavy equipment. It’s “a one-click search… to see the entire industry on one page,” Kevin said, which instantly compares the offerings of thousands of suppliers across North America and returns the best matches based on factors including real-time pricing, availability and location.

Dozr’s online listing process has been designed for ease of use, says Kevin, so that suppliers “can hop online, enter information, the types of equipment they have [and] the prices they’d like to charge for it.” First-time suppliers are connected by phone to a Dozr representative in the Kitchener head office to help with their online listings. There is no cost to list products on the platform, Kevin noted. Instead, Dozr takes a percentage-based fee on every transaction, which also covers marketing expenses and a short-term per-rental insurance product designed specifically for the company by Federated Insurance Company of Canada.

Federated Insurance’s parent company, Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, has also invested $2.5 million in seed money for Dozr through its FairVentures subsidiary. Owners are still responsible for their own insurance covering their equipment, operators, third parties and work sites, as applicable.

For prospective renters searching the site, an automated assistant at the bottom of the computer screen pops up to ask if they’ve found what they’re looking for. Renters can also connect with a live rep who will have information about equipment that may not appear in typical searches. An online application for rental financing on the Dozr website offers “zero per cent interest and no payments for 90 days,” and states that, “most businesses can get approved in under two hours.”

Dozr’s platform allows users to connect with each other online. Once the connection is made, it is then up to owners and renters to negotiate between themselves the fees, terms of rental or purchase, and any additional services or features they agree upon. Dozr will also help facilitate contracts, negotiations and delivery between parties and across borders, including the Canada-U.S. border, if requested. They also collect and remit payments as a “limited payment collection agent.” As is now customary in the sharing economy, both parties are prompted to grade their experience once a transaction is complete, Kevin says.

Although price is certainly a factor in peer-to-peer transactions, which can save 40 per cent or more in
comparison to standard rates, market availability is “the number one reason” a contractor will use Dozr to rent from another contractor, Kevin says.

“They’re coming to us for track loaders, loaders, heavy excavators, long-reach excavators – a lot of earth-moving equipment,” he said, as well as boom and scissor lifts, dump trucks, tractors and compaction equipment. “If the market is surging for that particular category of implement for some reason – either prices are very high, or more likely, it’s difficult to find.” A Dozr search may turn up a complementary industry or contractor who has that equipment, he says. As with traditional rentals, renters can pick up the equipment themselves or pay to have it delivered.

Transcontinental network

Most Dozr transactions are fairly localized and take place within Canada and along the American East Coast, Kevin says. Although, it can make economic sense to rent equipment from quite a distance when the price is low enough, he added, citing the example of a contractor in Grand Rapids, Mich., who listed an idle excavator at such a low long-term rate that he had rental enquiries from across two-thirds of the U.S., some from thousands of kilometres away.

Such was the case with equipment from Ontario, “sitting idle on the ground up north,” Kevin said, that was moved to Florida after a recent hurricane to help with disaster relief.

About 3,000 customers are renting through Dozr, accessing approximately $300 million in construction and agricultural equipment inventory from almost 30,000 suppliers. These range from national- and international-level rental enterprises to owner-operators of medium-sized businesses with five to 80 pieces of heavy equipment, seeking to mitigate a large capital investment during times of seasonal or surplus overcapacity. There are also individual contractors using Dozr to earn occasional income from one or two idle machines.

It has become common for contractors to have successful user experiences as renters and return shortly later to post their own equipment on Dozr between jobs.

“We have a view that there isn’t a contractor with the perfect-sized fleet, with 100 per cent utilization,” Kevin said. Since Dozr is “brand-agnostic,” he added, and doesn’t give preferential treatment to any supplier, “many contractors see us as the source of truth for equipment pricing in the industry. There’s no need to make 35 phone calls anymore.” 🍁

Category: Profile

About Us

Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

Sign Up

Submit your email to receive our e-newsletter.