On-demand door-to-door storage.
Due to ecological, financial, and practical reasons, people are downsizing their homes to more modest proportions all over the world. This trend is especially clear in the most densely populated areas. This leads to every square meter of living surface being optimized, and every crook and nanny being used as storage space. But smart storage solutions and asceticism only get one so far and at some point renting space at a storage facility, at a location where real-estate is less expensive, becomes a necessity. Traditionally self-storage locations fill this need but bringing/getting stuff there isn’t super practical and often not feasible by public transportation. So that’s where Clutter sees an opportunity to make life more convenient.
Clutter is a storage and a moving company. It organizes the pickup and delivery of the things you want to store at their warehouses and stores them for you. They photograph your stuff on entry and provide a picture book where you can select when and what you want to be delivered back to your doorstep.
imagery courtesy Clutter
But Clutter is also a technology company. Silicon Valey is pumping money into the company hoping the company can leverage its proprietary technology to fix inefficiencies in the traditional storage unit business model, deliver efficient warehouse and transportation logistics, and at the same time build a top-notch consumer experience via its app. One of the co-founders quoted the company as being: “Imagine Amazon logistics meets Dropbox software”.
In the future, they plan to expand their offering to also help people decide what to move, sell or donate and they are working on a way to rent out your stuff while it’s in storage.
The company was founded in 2013 by Ari Mir and Brian Thomas. Working the first 100 jobs themselves they quickly learned that people were willing to pay for a better storage experience.
They have raised $300M from a number of VCs, including Softbank, Sequoia Capital, and Google Ventures.
🕵️♀️ Who else?
The physical storage space is very capital intensive and hard to scale, while Clutter is obviously one of the best-funded companies in this space, there are still a lot of other players, often operating in limited geographical space. In the US the most notable competitors are MakeSpace, Closetbox, Doorage, Callbox, and Boxbee.
Neighbor has a different take on the storage industry, being the AirBnB for storage they help you find neighbors with spare space that can be used as a storage location.
Internationally competitors try to implement the same concepts around the Globe. Some striking names: StowNest in India, Koxbox in France, Boxie24 in Germany, LoveSpace in the UK, Boxify in Belgium…
Affordable storage options will enable people to live closer to each other, decreasing their ecological footprint, making the world a more sustainable place. Smaller living arrangements will also result in more affordable housing. The reason why storage at door-to-door storage companies can offer storage space cheaper than traditional open storages units is that decoupling the physical space that is used from the amount of storage and replacing strolling through your storage unit with a digital photobook allows them to use modern warehouses techniques to optimize storage volume and reduce prices.
👎 Why not?
As a user, you lose part of the privacy as everything you store gets cataloged. This could make it slightly more challenging to store narcotics or illegal guns (which is probably a plus for the storage company). While transport is arranged by professionals there is still a risk of damage during transportation.
Even though the concept sounds simple enough, it’s not easy to make the business model economically viable as companies like Omni (out of business), Handy (acquired), and Trove (out of business) can attest to. Time will tell if the remaining companies can find ways to profitability once the VC-money dries up, especially taking into account that younger generations tend to prefer access to ownership. What’s the use of additional storage when you only own everyday necessities? Not owning might be even more convenient than on-demand storage.
📚 Further reading?
✨ Things happening
The Guardian has an article on the pushback to the proptech centric approach from Google-backed Sidewalk Labs for the Toronto Quayside development site… It will take a long time for office spaces in metropolitan to return to normal… If you’re interested in #proptech used in meeting rooms you might be interested in this webinar….