Hauling your stuff to a storage unit is one of life's least enjoyable experiences.
But that's changing thanks to a new crop of on-demand self-storage startups -- you download an app and they show up at your front door, load up your items and deliver them to a storage facility.
Austin startup SpareFoot, which operates an online marketplace for finding storage units, has watched the on-demand business take off. And now it's hoping to leverage that by adding the option to search for on-demand providers on its website.
SpareFoot's site compares the prices of self-storage units, and users can book a storage unit the same way they book a hotel room on Hotels.com. SpareFoot has more than 10,000 facilities listed nationwide.
The $25 billion self-storage industry consists of more than 52,000 facilities owned by more than 30,000 companies.
Chuck Gordon, SpareFoot's CEO, said on-demand storage startups hope to disrupt the traditional self-storage industry.
"Many of these guys have raised a substantial amount of venture capital, which is interesting," he said. "It's going to be something, but we don't know how big."
Among the players is Clutter, based in Los Angeles, which recently raised $9 million from Sequoia, while Colorado-based Closetbox received $1.82 million from Roser Ventures.
Prices for on-demand service are typically about the same per-month as traditional storage, Gordon said. "They have warehouses further out of town, and they're able to stack crates, so their cost for storing stuff is actually lower."
SpareFoot is hoping consumers going with on-demand storage will turn to its site to price shop and book a service. So far, SpareFoot has listings for on-demand storage in 30 major U.S. markets.
Gordon got the idea for SpareFoot in 2007 when he was a student at UCLA and looking for temporary storage space before moving to study abroad. After realizing it would cost thousands of dollars to store his possessions, he instead used friends' empty garages, attics and bedrooms.
He and co-founder Mario Feghali initially built an online system for renting space, but shifted their focus to creating a website that would let users compare and book storage units.
In May 2009, SpareFoot's four employees moved from Los Angeles to Austin after being chosen as one of five startups to participate in Capital Factory's 10-week incubator program.
Today, SpareFoot has 120 employees at its downtown Austin headquarters.
News on Open Source is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of 512tech.com comes with an American-Statesman digital subscription, which also includes myStatesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe at statesman.com/subscribe.