Omni raises $7 million for storage-by-the-item

Al Harris
May 13, 2016

Omni is the latest full-service storage company to snag a large chunk of funding—$7 million in its recent round led by Highland Capital.

That brings the startup’s total funding to date to $10 million.

But the San Francisco, CA-based startup adds a new twist on the valet-style concept, that founder and CEO Tom McLeod hopes will turn the way people think about storage on its head.

“We look at ourselves as a distribution company. It is less about the stuff and more about the movement of stuff,” McLeod told the SpareFoot Storage Beat.

tom mcleod omni

Tom McLeod, Omni founder and CEO.

By the item storage

Unlike other companies in the space that charge by the box or by the amount of space your stuff will occupy in their warehouse, Omni charges by the item.

Standard items like clothes, books, cameras, waffle irons, blow dryers and so on cost 25 cents a month. Larger items like bikes, surfboards, guitars and standing lamps cost $2 a month to store. Closed containers that contain multiple items, whether it is a box or a packed suitcase, cost $5 a month to store.

Customers manage items and schedule pickups and deliveries exclusively using the Omni mobile app.

Lifestyle users

McLeod said that the company is able to charge by the item with no minimums because it is targeting lifestyle users, as opposed to users who have a temporary problem they are trying to solve.

“We don’t store stuff that becomes a problem,” said McLeod.

For example, the company doesn’t store large furniture that a customer is only keeping in storage temporarily during a life event. Its customers store sporting equipment, baby gear, textbooks, toys, and hobby materials—items they need from time to time but don’t want overtaking their closets.

Omni customers can check in and check out items without incurring any delivery fees, unless they miss an appointment or request a rush.

“We expect, and data shows, that people send stuff back in.” McLeod said.

The system is designed so users can easily rotate items, without having to bring back large amounts of stuff when they just need one thing.

“It is the equivalent of a video game load out,” McLeod said.

Need an item just once a year? Omni enables customers to store and retrieve single items via its app.

Need an item just once a year? Omni enables customers to store and retrieve single items via its app.

Different vision

McLeod spawned the idea for Omni after moving from a two bedroom apartment in Washington D.C. to a one bedroom in San Francisco. He and his wife’s excess belongings went into a storage unit.

“After about eight months I had forgotten what I was storing and was going to have to pay a taxi just to go check it out,” McLeod said, “I wrote down “on-demand storage” in an Evernote file as an idea.”

As time went on, McLeod saw new start up companies entering the full-service storage space and decided it was a good time to get his own company up and running—but one that has a very different platform and vision.

Distribution is the key

Because customers store items individually, which are photographed and catalogued by Omni employees, McLeod said in the future it might be possible for customers to rent or sell items to other users.

“In the past if you wanted to sell or rent something, it is a long process where you have to meet them and coordinate a time,” McLeod said, “With Omni we are building a transportation and distribution system, so that is definitely where we are heading.”

Currently customers’ items are stored throughout three secure facilities in the San Francisco area that Omni controls.

“We are focused on the Bay Area for now, until we understand the economics of the place we are, then we will definitely have an aggressive expansion plan,” McLeod said.

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