With 148.3 million square kilometers of land area, you would think the Earth has almost unlimited potential when it comes to space and storage. However, this is not exactly the case when you live in a crowded metropolis. In many modern cities today, development tends to be vertical, with sprawling residential and office grounds making way for skyscrapers and condominiums. This means cramped living quarters, unless you can afford big-budget real estate. And if you find yourself moving from one place to another, you might find your personal belongings displaced.
Temporary storage can be a good solution to address over-crowding in the cities, although it comes with the hassles of having to rent a locker and haul your items to store. Self-storage becomes more expensive the nearer it is located to prime real estate. And then there is the concern with security. Who exactly watches over your things while you’re gone?
SpaceWays, a technology startup based from the United Kingdom, is trying to rethink the business of storage and is bringing the resources and expertise of famed accelerator Rocket Internet in addressing these challenges. The team behind SpaceWays offers valet storage, in which trained drivers will deliver and pick up standard-sized and secure storage boxes, which can then be retrieved on demand. According to the SpaceWays team, the company can afford to provide cheaper services than self-storage because it keeps items in remote warehouses, which the company is able to rent for a lower cost than storage facilities near the city.
With the subscription-based model, users can store up to 80 liters or 31.5 Kg per box for GBP 6 per month. Bigger items are charged per piece. Pick-up and on-demand delivery are free, which means users have access to their boxes without the need to commute.
The 60 day launch
What’s interesting with SpaceWays is how it launched from concept to actual product in a span of two months. Such may be attributed to the resources of Rocket Internet, a Germany-based startup accelerator that is reportedly seeking to IPO at a valuation of 3 to 5 billion Euros in the coming months. Rocket’s business model has been mainly to dive into markets that already have a strong incumbent and then directly competing with its own brand or offering. This has been met with mixed success, with Rocket-backed startups sometimes dominating and with some folding up amid tough competition.
In launching SpaceWays, co-founder and managing director Rob Rebholz says the team started the business with a clear vision of disrupting the existing storage market. “We directly challenge the established storage industry,” he says. “Those guys have big margins and lots of money to spend, but I’m convinced we offer a superior service and will therefore truly rattle their cage.”
SpaceWays’ business model certainly fits into what can be called a “disruptive” business model, which is essentially doing things at a different level of quality (usually lower) for a significantly cheaper price, in the aim of pushing the market to drastically change along with it. The difference in the case of the storage industry, SpaceWays has sought to rethink the way individuals stored and retrieved items off-site.
“When we first looked at existing storage solutions we quickly realized how inconvenient and overpriced they were,” says Rebholz. “Why should you have to drive out to a remote storage facility and rent an entire storage unit, when all you really want to store fits in a few boxes? We want to start a new movement and trigger the shift of this offline market to a new, online reality. It’s David vs. Goliath right now.”
The value of mentorship and support
Launching a company from idea to execution in 60 days can be a big challenge, says Rebholz. This is especially true when it comes to a startup that handles logistics. The company needed access to storage space, vehicles, drivers, CCTV cameras, and such. But having the right team and access to resources has been a big help. “Launching in 60 days was a huge challenge and it required us to work very structured and systematic,” he says. In this regard, Rocket Internet provided support “like initial funding, expertise and even manpower.”
As with most Rocket Internet startups, the team was given full operational control over the business, while still providing financial support and mentorship. “[We were] given the full liberty and responsibility to build SpaceWays, so there’s no bureaucracy, but rather a constant knowledge exchange with Rocket,” says Rebholz.
The team says that seasonal items are among the most commonly-stored items by customers, so far. Memorabilia and valuables are a close second. Going beyond the customer market, however, Rebholz says SpaceWays is trying to attract business clients who need a safe and secure facility for storing their documents and archives.
On fast-tracking a startup launch, Rebholz advises to go beyond simply nurturing an idea. “A great idea is just the first tiny step — what matters most is passion-driven business execution and uncompromising commitment to your vision.”