A San Antonio startup is bringing the emerging storage-on-demand concept to Central Texas, but with a slightly different business model than other players in the space.
Remote Garage seeks to team up with document storage companies that have existing space to store boxes of people’s stuff. Other storage-on-demand startups typically rent warehouse space to store customers’ belongings.
Jaakko Piipponen, founder of Remote Garage, said the document storage industry is declining in a paperless world. Family-owned document storage companies face stiff competition from larger companies such as Iron Mountain. “Every month, they have less documents,” Piipponen said of the small companies.
Piipponen envisions Remote Garage as a way for document storage companies to add new revenue by filling their empty space with items from new customers who might otherwise opt to rent a small self-storage unit. Document storage companies already have logistics in place to pick up, store and deliver boxes; Remote Garage aims to connect them to storage consumers.
How it works
Remote Garage launched in San Antonio in June. In San Antonio, the company has teamed up with Advanced Services Inc., a document storage company that’s been in business for 20 years.
Customers sign up for Remote Garage online or by phone, and Advanced Services deliver sturdy plastic boxes to the customer. The customer fills the boxes, and the document storage company picks them up. The customer pays $7 a month per box for storage for the first four boxes; additional boxes are $5 a month.
Because of the volume of customers it expects to deliver, Remote Garage has negotiated prices with the document storage company similar to those it would offer a major customer. In essence, Remote Garage pays the storage company the wholesale price for each box it stores, and then offers storage to consumers at a retail price.
Delivery of boxes is free as long as its scheduled during normal business hours. Evening and weekend deliveries are $20 plus $2 a box.
Piipponen said the service is geared toward urbanites who live in high-rise apartments and need to store seasonal items such as winter clothes or holiday decorations. The target customer either doesn’t drive, or is too busy to go back and forth to a storage unit.
“I think that part of the population is underserved. It is a niche, but it is a big niche,” Piipponen said.
Piipponen doesn’t see his business, or other storage-on-demand services that have cropped up in major cities, as a threat to traditional self-storage, but rather a complementary service.
“I don’t believe in breaking the self-storage industry—that’s not going to happen,” Piipponen said.
In the incubator
In May, Remote Garage was selected to join Capital Factory in Austin, TX, an incubator for tech startups with less than $1 million in funding. Capital Factory provides office space and mentorship to startups. Eventually, many mentors end up investing in the startups, and Capital Factory matches that money. (Full disclosure: SpareFoot was housed at Capital Factory, which remains an investor in our company.)
“It’s amazing,” Piipponen said of Capital Factory. “I didn’t have any idea it would be this helpful.”
Remote Garage is operating in Austin on a limited basis and is in the process of finding a document storage partner there. For now, the Austin market is covered by Advanced Services.
Remote Garage is still small, with just three employees, including Piipponen. But he thinks he can scale the business rapidly. Piipponen said the company most likely will expand next to Dallas and Houston next, but he thinks the company could expand more than that in a short period of time.
“There are more than 100 document storage companies around the country that are potential partners,” Piipponen said. “What we really need is around 50, and in each major city we need one or two.”
Photo of Jaakko Piipponen courtesy of Silicon Hills News