Colorado startup bets big on peer-to-peer storage

Bruce Goldberg
Published January 10, 2017

Colorado entrepreneur Devin Eldridge has unveiled a new peer-to-peer storage app, and he hopes to get self-storage operators on board as well.

Stow, based in Fort Collins, envisions homeowners making extra income from a garage, basement, outbuilding, land or elsewhere on their property.

“We want to prove it’s an effective way for people to find and use storage in a different way in an industry that really hasn’t changed in how people find storage and the types of storage people use,” said Eldridge, 29.

Eldridge also plans to work with self-storage companies to list their unrented units on his app, aiming for that segment to generate 10 to 20 percent of Stow’s revenues.

He’s first talking to a small self-storage company in Fort Collins, and eventually hopes to partner with a national player.

Putting it to the test

Stow conducted a product test recently in Fort Collins; 20 people listed their spaces for rent and five transactions were made, mostly to place a van, boat or vehicle in a detached garage or driveway. One transaction put personal items in a detached garage.

“We learned that people really like spaces that are more detached from the house — the more, the better — and the more accessible, the better,” Eldridge said.

Why mostly vehicles?

“People are still a little hesitant to have somebody put personal items in their house,” he said. “We thought the largest need would be for personal items and it may very well still be, but we thought people would be willing to rent out any kind of space.”

User friendly

The app provides metrics. Listers can check the app to determine how many potential customers logged in and what others are charging for similar spaces. Stow charges a transaction fee of about 15 percent.

Eldridge created Stow after renting a pod to temporarily store belongings for one month. But he and his wife, Ashley, who have three children, wound up using the pod for only three days, yet still paid $400.

“Even then, we didn’t have all of the space for our items to be stored, so we put some furniture at a relative’s outbuilding,” Eldridge said. “I wanted to come up with a less-expensive alternative.”

Eldridge at first expected his customer base to come from the Colorado State University student population and from Fort Collins’ growing number of tech employees, as well as those that own RVs, boats and other items that exemplify the state’s recreational lifestyle.

“But we’ve learned the 40-to-60-year-olds are the ones that have the extra space they want to make income from,” he said. “That age range is better to target, especially on the supply side.”

What if something goes awry, and the renter causes damage at someone’s home?

“Their homeowners’ policy could protect the space,” Eldridge said. “But it’s a little bit of a gray area.” So he hopes to create a customized policy with an insurance pro.

Fully committed

Eldridge, a CPA, believes so much in the Stow concept that he quit a job at OtterBox, a Fort Collins company that manufactures cases for cellphones and other products. Eldridge’s brother, Dillon, is the company co-founder and chief technical officer.

Stow has fared well in two recent contests. The Boulder event Beta drew about eight startup companies to demonstrate their products on Dec. 8; Stow won the most votes for best product. Stow placed second in Denver’s Battle of the Pitches Championship on Dec. 15, winning free office space for a month and a customized video about the company.

“I left a really good job to commit to this full time,” he said. “It was too hard to make this progress the way we wanted it to, just doing it part time.”

Bruce Goldberg

Bruce Goldberg is a freelance writer and editor based in Denver. He worked in newspapers and magazines as both a business writer/editor and sportswriter/editor for 35 years.

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