The media tends to over-generalize millennials in the news. Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissist. They talk to their smartphones more than other humans. They’re destroying the napkin industry.

Everyone is trying to figure out the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, but the truth is millennials are more than just self-absorbed napkin killers. Studies show that millennials are more charitable than their generation is given credit for, and they’re basically no more narcissistic than the previous generation.

Studies also show millennials are into access, not ownership; experiences are often more important than material goods—driven largely by skyrocketing student debt.

As millennials gravitate toward experiences, and as the sharing economy makes ownership less of a necessity, a new Chicago startup wants to capitalize on millennials’ growing desire to do more and own less.

Bevy is a startup that lets users rent things like camping gear, grilling equipment, games, an Oculus Rift and more—allowing people to pay just a fraction of what it would cost to own those items.

A six-day Oculus rental costs just $85, for example. Camping gear, which includes a four-person tent, sleeping bags, camping stove, folding chairs and other equipment costs $115.

Colin Keeley (courtesy image)

The idea is to give people access to experiences without breaking the bank, CEO and founder Colin Keeley said.

“There’s a big generational shift from ownership to access,” Keeley said. “Our target customers use Netflix for TV, Spotify for music, Uber to get around … They’ve grown tired of the consumerism to some extent in the U.S.”

Bevy curates experiences on its site, allows customers to select the dates they want, and then coordinates via text on drop-off and pickup times. Other items on the site include a Nintendo Switch, an outdoor projector for movie night, a karaoke system, and beer pong table. Bevy owns all the inventory, which separates itself from other peer-to-peer sharing startups.

Keeley, who also runs a Chicago startup podcast called Tech in Chicago, said he came up with the idea while doing the show. He was able to pick the brains of some of the top tech folks in town who could offer advice on the product.

“The podcast was a networking machine,” he said. “For me, it’s an excuse to reach out to the most prominent people in Chicago. Show up with two microphones, and people are super willing to talk.”

A theme that kept coming up during his interviews was that Chicago startups often play it too safe and don’t take on the type of ambitious projects you see in Silicon Valley. Bevy wants to be an ambitious consumer startup in a town dominated by business software companies.

“Chicago startups don’t tend to reach far enough, as far as they probably should,” he said. “So I wanted to do something super ambitious.”

Keeley is building Bevy while at the University of Chicago, where next month the startup is set to take part in the school’s New Venture Challenge startup competition.

Jim Dallke is a Senior Editor at American Inno. As part of the team that launched Chicago Inno in 2014, and Wisconsin Inno in 2018, Jim covers the ins and outs of Chicago and Wisconsin's tech and innovation scenes. He's always looking for a good story. Get in touch: