While a student at the University of Missouri, Eric Laurent had to be moved out of his apartment by the end of July, but he couldn’t move into his new home until mid-August. “I was moving from place to place,” Laurent told PYMNTS in an interview. He needed to find a place to store his belongings in the meantime. He called nine storage facilities before finding an available spot, but the unit he found was far away and costly.
As a broke college student, he needed to find a different solution. He asked a few friends if they had any extra space, but none did. A friend of a friend (of a friend), however, had a garage three doors down from his home where he could store his items.
That sparked the idea for Roo, which is a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform that connects those with extra space in their homes or businesses – such as a garage, basement or bedroom – to those in need of storage. If renters are in Roo’s geographical markets, they can visit its website to browse listings for storage.
On the home page, renters can input the addresses where they are located, or can select “My Current Location.” They will then see choices that meet their search criteria. Renters can then ask to reserve space and the host has 24-48 hours to respond. Once the reservations are confirmed, renters can drop off their items. Payments on the platform are handled via Stripe, and the company claims that 6,000+ days have been booked.
Roo’s target market is college students and young professionals, a demographic that Laurent says is the “easiest path to entry,” as they are most inclined to be open to sharing platforms since they’ve been associated with Uber and Airbnb for so long. When it comes to hosts, users can create a listing online, select their type of space, enter the features they offer (e.g., security system, climate control, 24/7 access) and enter other details such as an address, size and description.
Once hosts submit their listings, they have to go through a background check to ensure they are who they say they are and don’t have a criminal record. Upon confirmation of the space, Roo conducts a virtual evaluation to ensure that the pictures are of good quality, the description is correct and the pricing is in a solid range. (The company offers suggested prices, but hosts can dictate how much their spaces are worth.) Hosts receive their reservation requests and can then confirm them.
Roo has a wide variety of listings on its platform, including basements, garages, bedrooms, sheds and commercial spaces. The ideal spaces are clean and “easily accessible,” Laurent said – although, he added, a great host is what makes a great space. The company has a broad range of people offering storage space through the platform, ranging from 22-year-old college students to 65-year-old empty nesters.
Beyond Roo, other innovators are also aiming to reinvent the storage industry with digital solutions. Callbox Storage, for instance, has a team of licensed, trained movers who wrap furniture as well as add a barcode and take a picture of each piece. The company charges a monthly fee for its service.
Callbox Storage Co-founder and CEO Kyle Bainter told PYMNTS in a previous interview that the price is generally in line with what climate-controlled storage facilities charge. He also noted that the company’s pricing is dynamic, only charging customers based on the space they are using. Callbox generally stores household goods, staying away from specialty items like pool tables and grand pianos.
With the help of eCommerce, digital innovators like Roo and Callbox Storage are aiming to change the way consumers stash their items when they need extra space by offering alternatives to traditional self-storage.