Monday July 10, 2017 0 comments
FORT COLLINS -- Fort Collins-based startup Stow, which provides a peer-to-peer storage platform and has branded itself as “the AirBNB of storage,” has re-branded as STOW IT and added a new valet vehicle storage service.
STOW IT will pick up and drop off cars, RVs, boats and the like, store them at secure facilities for a monthly fee and possibly provide ancillary services like cleaning and winterizing large vehicles.
“Imagine if you were done with boating for the year, you park it in your house, we come pick it up, weatherize it, send you photos of it, and then when spring starts we bring it back to your house,” says Carmelo Mannino, STOW IT’s director of growth.
“We just took care of everything that was going to cost you two days of work and hundreds of dollars for probably less of a cost and none of your time.”
Although the company has seen 50-80 percent month-over-month growth since January, STOW IT anticipates the new valet service will become its primary offering.
(Click here to see an archived InnovatioNews story on Stow)
“This model is super scalable. It’s more of a logistics battle than it is a matchmaking battle,” says Mannino.
STOW IT's leadership is confident that finding “super hosts” with an acre of land or 4,000 square feet of inside storage space, renting that space and sub-leasing to many individual clients will prove more scalable than its original service and allow it to more quickly reach profitability.
The company introduced the service less than two weeks ago and found interest almost immediately.
The demand for convenient, reliable vehicle storage is robust and meeting that need is an expansion on what Stow was already doing. CEO Devin Eldridge notes that, before introducing the valet service, Stow was having to turn away customers.
“We have kind of a lot of customers that want vehicle storage and … one of the biggest challenges is finding the perfect spot that’s next to somebody within 3 to 5 miles,” Eldridge says.
He hopes valet vehicle storage will help overcome that hurdle.
“Right now we still see the peer-to-peer as the main focus,” Eldridge notes, “and this is just kind of an additional service and a way to capture some of those customers that we were having to turn away because we didn’t have all the right locations.”
Mannino points out that Craigslist for vehicle storage already exists, although it’s highly fragmented and lacks security features. STOW IT will streamline and modernize it, adding safety features, reviews, concierge services and other enhancements.
The company’s real estate-as-a-service model also allows it to forego capital expenditures and charge less than self-storage market rates. It’s a true sharing economy innovation with a supply side focus, according to Mannino.
STOW IT doesn’t specifically plan on phasing out the peer-to-peer platform, although it’s a possibility. The company’s role in general purpose, peer-to-peer storage will evolve to a more hands-off approach.
“We’ll design our peer-to-peer more for trust” says Mannino.
“Right now we’ve been very hands-on. We will phase our peer-to-peer into something that we are hands-off, in the same way AirBNB is pretty hands-off on their reservations.”
Currently, each time STOW IT takes on a new host the company makes a site visit and conducts a background check. The economics make more sense the more customers are at a specific site. STOW IT currently has about 105 recurring peer storage units.
Standard car and renter’s insurance policies cover most of the liabilities a host would incur with this arrangement, but STOW IT said it has a $3,000 host guarantee for potential contingencies.
It will also be interesting to see if the platform’s value snowballs once it reaches a critical mass.
“We think that network effect will definitely take place,” says Eldridge, “and we’re already starting to build a piece of our software so we can have a referral system in place because people do enjoy sharing it. They kind of enjoy sharing their experience of saving 30 to 50 percent if they’re a renter or talking about how they earned extra money from their space for really little extra effort.”
STOW IT’s team is comprised of founder and CEO Devin Eldridge, CTO Dillon Eldridge, Mannino, one intern and one contractor.
“We think that we can kind of revolutionize the way that people see space and the way that people see storage,” Mannino says.
“You think of storage facilities and you think of storage wars, you think of terrible experiences, you think of locker repossession, you think of high fees -- you don’t think of pleasant experiences.
“So we want to change that. We want to come pick up your vehicle, take it to the place, and in the future we maybe offer things like washing your car, flushing your RV, doing things that normally take up so much of your time.
“We want to take care of all those storage needs so you can just focus on the drive.”