This story was first published by CultureMap Austin.
Brian Boitmann was visiting a friend when he happened to notice the DVD collection. In it were five movies that Boitmann, BA ’08, MA ’10, Life Member, had either rented or purchased within the last semester of school at The University of Texas.
When Boitmann remarked on the duplication, the friend said he would have happily loaned out the DVDs. The problem was that Boitmann had no idea his friend had them; the information connection was missing. He only knew that it seemed a waste that he had spent precious resources on something so readily available through sharing.
That problem, and its possible solutions, lodged in the back of Boitmann’s mind. The year was 2008, and that fall Boitmann started graduate school at UT. In spring of 2009 he took a course on social entrepreneurship, and the pieces began falling into place. Acts of Sharing was about to be born.
“AOS was how I had initially conceived of helping connect people to all the things they have access to locally through friends and communities,” Boitmann says. “In the course of building out the idea for AOS in the [social entrepreneurship] class, the professor approached me about investing in the idea. I realized how serious the potential was, and decided to take the idea out to friends and local business people.
Boitmann raised the seed money he needed to build and launch the website. Acts of Sharing, which Boitmann calls by its acronym, is based on a simple premise: borrowing the things you need or want temporarily from the community around you. From movies and books to kayaks, guitars and power tools, AOS is an online system that allows users to build their own collection to offer for sharing, as well as search for items to borrow from other members of the community.
The website states the mission clearly: Saving money and living simply by developing even better relationships with those we know and love. Acts of Sharing is built on the fact that we have more together.
After two years from the time of the initial idea to developing the business model, Boitmann went live for the beta test of Acts of Sharing on Earth Day 2010. By that fall, the website was ready to be unveiled to the public. The concept began creating a stir; at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in March 2011, Acts of Sharing caught the attention of festival organizers and was nominated for an Interactive Community Award.
“That was a really uplifting experience for me,” Boitmann says. “Having never been very heavily in the technology world before then, I was a bit intimidated. However, being a finalist at the Interactive awards was a huge confidence boost and an affirmation of the work that had been done to that point, and helped us garner further funding.”
Boitmann adds that the reception to AOS has been very good. For now, he’s focusing on the Austin area and a few college campuses, including UT. “I love the way the university of Texas impacts the dynamism of the city of Austin, so much of the thinking, tweaking and innovating happen because of what the university does to encourage young people to think about changing things, and Austin itself is a testament to that.”
The recent apps for iPhone and Android have garnered a lot of excitement, allowing users to scan barcodes and search for items at AOS before they buy it. “Most everything we need is right around us, and we’re helping people to realize it,” Boitmann says. “We feel strongly that if AOS becomes culture in one city, it will spread to others. Communities in four continents are sharing on the site, and we’re excited to have them as a part of The Acts of Sharing Movement.”
Boitmann personally extends an invitation for Austinites to join the Acts of Sharing movement and share within their community by signing up here.
Photo courtesy Brian Boitmann.