Peer-to-peer sharing networks are hot these days. You can share your car when you’re not using it on networks such as RelayRides, or turn your home into a hotel with room-sharing platforms like Airbnb.
But what about sharing storage space in your home or office with someone in need of a place to leave bags or boxes? The new Cubbyhole storage app is working to satisfy that need.
The Boston-based company is a bootstrapped startup founded in 2013 by recent Boston University alums Nus Sharif (CEO), Alex Corrado (chief technology officer), Jason Kaplan (chief marketing officer) and Philippe Bosshart (chief development officer). Selim Nedhi, vice president of new business development, and several developers round out the team.
The Cubbyhole Concept
The Cubbyhole team recently launched an app on the iTunes store that provides a matchmaking platform where people with storage needs can find people with the space to store their items for a set fee.
The five co-founders of Cubbyhole set up the company in 2013.
“You can select the amount of space that you need–anywhere from a drawer to a full room,” Kaplan said.
While some people using Cubbyhole are seeking long-term storage and might otherwise use a self-storage facility, most users are seeking short-term storage.
“Most people using the platform for short-term storage are visitors who are looking to store their luggage,” Kaplan said. “They might be in town for just a day, and don’t want to drag their bags around to restaurants or stores.”
Cubbyhole’s short-term storage offering fills an unmet need in the Boston area, Kaplan said.
“There haven’t been any day lockers in the city since 9/11,” he said. “Unless you’re staying in a hotel that can store your bags for you, you need to drag all of your stuff around with you.”
The Business Model
Rather than letting users set their own rates for storage space, Cubbyhole sets flat rates depending on the amount of storage needed. For a single day, a user can rent a storage space of any size up to 10×10 for $15; if longer-term storage is needed, the monthly rate varies from $79 to $199. Users pay directly through the platform, and Cubbyhole takes a 30 percent cut. The rest of the money is passed on to the owner or operator of the space.
The people who offer storage space through the platform aren’t traditional self-storage operators, Kaplan said. Rather, they’re ordinary people who have some spare room in their homes or offices. Since they must be available for item drop-off and pickups, “it’s best used by people who are in the same location most of the time,” such as office workers with extra space or people who work from home, Kaplan said.
The system offers a number of security features for both storage operators and renters. Both sides of the deal must use their Facebook accounts and a credit card to register, “so that we know you are who you say you are,” Kaplan said.
The Cubbyhole team plans to expand the company’s service to U.S. metro areas.
The platform also provides up to $1,000 of insurance coverage in case of damage to items or the storage host’s space. For the hosts, “you won’t be charged for not going through with a transaction if you’re not comfortable with it,” Kaplan said.
Given the moderate insurance allowance, the system is not ideal for storing high-value items, such as jewelry or electronics. Additionally, because Cubbyhole users are offering storage in their homes and offices, they aren’t likely to provide the kind of security features or climate control that many self-storage units do.
If you are considering a storage unit for family heirlooms or antiques, Cubbyhole probably isn’t your best choice. But if you’re simply looking for a fridge to store groceries or a place to leave your luggage while on a business trip, Cubbyhole may be a good solution.
For now, Cubbyhole serves only the Boston area, where the founders live. The company is spreading the word about its service via social media and traditional media, and its user base has grown to about 250, according to Kaplan. The company hopes to expand to other U.S. metro areas in the coming months.
So far, the founders are optimistic about the company’s growth and appreciative of the support they’ve received from the Boston startup community. “Everyone has been eager to offer us advice and help us on our way,” Kaplan said.
Photos courtesy of Cubbyhole and Mike Spencer/Boston University