'Airbnb of storage' creating network of micro-entrepreneurs
Stashbee is creating a network of micro-entrepreneurs by connecting people who need storage space with those who have it.
The London-based tech company is behind an online platform which lets users generate revenue from letting out unused storage space.
The platform automates the end-to-end booking process, allows users to pay online and provides an easy-to-use dashboard for guests and hosts to interact and manage bookings.
The firm recently raised nearly £1 million through equity crowdfunding website Seedrs.
Co-founder Anthony Paine said Stashbee crowdfunded because "we noticed our community was incredibly engaged with what we’re doing".
"Especially the host network, we realised we were creating micro entrepreneurs who were running mini storage businesses and using Stashbee to make money, from container storage to someone with a garage or warehouse," he added.
"It was an opportunity to let them participate in the business and we had great stories of hosts who reinvested all their Stashbee earnings into the project. We ended up with around 700 investors in a couple of weeks."
Paine and his co-founder David Mantle set up the company after Paine went through a breakup and needed somewhere to store his things at short notice.
"I'd never really thought about self storage as a concept because at no point had I had enough things to do it or needed somewhere to keep them," he said.
"Now we have lots of insights on why people use it – it's life events. It's not something you do for fun, it gets thrust upon you.
"We all go through rubbish times and that's something that’s been baked into the culture we've built and the way we deal with customers.
"We try to be human, whether it's a small business that needs a place to store tools or someone going through a divorce or a business that’s downsizing because of financial difficulty. They’re going through a rubbish time but still need storage."
The company website is automated, allowing users to make a request in a similar way to Airbnb, although Paine describes situations where the support team have rushed through requests of people in distress with their belongings stuck in a van and nowhere to store them.
The first side of the business is people wanting to easily rent their spare space, where Stashbee helps them list features, write up a description and choose pricing.
The other side is people looking for a space, where they can search by post code or feature. However, the real key is letting people send personalised messages because Paine quickly realised it's about connecting people.
“We encourage people to tell the owners about themselves and what they want to use the space for,” he said.
"We get people to interact and up until a certain point either party can back out because ultimately it's a gut feeling. Looking at other marketplaces, we had an opportunity to be more thorough on trust."
Not leaving it to gut feeling alone, a more 'belt and braces' approach also means both parties in the transaction are ID checked, sign off on an inventory, and Stashbee provides insurance.
"One thing that’s become clearer over time is that we’re not just building a consumer to consumer business – it’s not just someone with a few boxes storing them in a garage," said Paine.
"More businesses are using it as a platform for things like monetising their warehouse. We've become 'the platform' for storage, as opposed to just 'a peer-to-peer platform' for storage."