Featured Startup Pitch: SpareFoot is disrupting the self-storage business, for consumers and storage businesses alike

By Editor August 1, 2012


Company: SpareFoot

Website: www.sparefoot.com

Founders: Chuck Gordon, Mario Feghali

Investors: RSH Ventures, Capital FactoryKip McClanahanSilverton PartnersFLOODGATE

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Year Founded: 2008

Twitter: @SpareFoot

Brief Company Description: Fun tech startup makes finding self-storage easy and offers smart web marketing tools for storage businesses.

Chuck_Gordon-SpareFootBy Chuck Gordon, co-founder

Product Overview

SpareFoot is the world’s largest online marketplace for consumers to find and reserve self-storage units, with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals. We also offer web marketing solutions for storage facility owners and operators. Our AdNetwork tool helps facilities modernize their marketing and win new tenants online. SpareFoot AdNetwork listings get more traffic than any comparable directory, featuring software integration and ROI-proving analytics. This fun tech startup works hard and plays hard in Austin, Texas.

Founders’ Story

I majored in fine arts at UCLA, specializing in sculpture. I enjoyed making serving dishes and selling them, which ignited my interest in entrepreneurship. Before leaving to study abroad in Singapore my junior year, I realized I would need storage space for my furniture and other belongings. A traditional storage unit would cost hundreds of dollars—my dad pointed out that rent on the unit would cost more than the worth of the contents. So I ended up storing my stuff in spare closets and garages in the homes of my girlfriend, Anna, and my best friend, Mario (Feghali, now co-founder and COO of SpareFoot). An idea was born.

After taking entrepreneurship classes in Singapore, I founded the company that would become SpareFoot. It was 2008. Mario and I devised a business plan and did some ‘fundraising’ amongst our family members. It was originally called Homstie, a peer-to-peer storage website that helped people rent extra space for storage in private residences. It was a cheap alternative to traditional self-storage that garnered some media attention as the recession struck. We started to see a lot of mom-and-pop storage facilities signing up for the site, even though it was really designed to compete against them. This indicated there was potential to actually profit from all of this, so we applied to a few Seed mentoring programs and were accepted by Capital Factory. We packed our bags and headed to Austin, Texas, quickly changing our business plan to serve the traditional self-storage industry.

I’ve since led SpareFoot to $4.5 million in funding, and Mario and I built our team out from two employees to over 50. We are ramping up faster than ever.

Marketing/Promotion Strategy

Our self-storage finder service is free for consumers, so storage businesses pay us a finder’s fee for sending them new tenants. The goal is to get as many storage businesses signed up as possible, and we are currently at over 6,000 facilities. We are positioning ourselves as the thought and tech leaders of this $22 billion legacy industry, so much of our marketing revolves around education. We are working to educate this somewhat old-school industry on the merits of technology and how web marketing can transform their businesses. So we present a lot of educational seminars at storage industry trade shows; there are many of these events throughout the year at both state and national levels. Also on the B2B marketing side of our business, we experiment with email campaigns.

On the consumer side, we do PPC and work with other paid advertising channels like local search directories. Testing conversion throughout our site is also important. But there’s a huge focus on SEO and content marketing to support organic search rankings, such as PR and blogging. We have built out co-brand deals with over 50 relevant websites, including truck rental giant Penske, that also host our storage search platform, and work to push our own sites to stack up in Google results for storage in cities nationwide.

How We Differentiate from the Competition

We are a tech company through-and-through, and innovation is at the core. We are also an incredibly smart and passionate group of people, truly obsessed with modernizing the storage industry and building the best business we can. As a venture-backed startup, we subscribe to the well-known ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle, but we take both pieces of that to extreme levels. We work so many long hours and have a team full of sharp-as-a-tack employees cranking away and loving it. Our clients trust us because we take care of them, because we are technology and web marketing experts, and because we increasingly deliver more value with our products. Our partnership model is also unique, benefiting both storage business clients and storage-seeking consumers. This is especially true now that we can deliver on both storage and truck rental needs of DIY movers with partner Penske Truck Rental.

Business Model

We are focused on making the storage-finding experience better for consumers, while giving storage businesses a chance to compete with increased visibility online. Our flagship self-storage marketing product is the AdNetwork, so storage facilities who sign up with us are listed in our storage search results for their city. They are listed in these results across our 50+ partner sites, which greatly improves their chances of being discovered across relevant moving/storage websites online and in Google search results. Consumers can see current availability and find all the information they need to comparison shop local storage units and reserve storage directly online. They may also call us to make a quick reservation by phone. Our facility clients often offer exclusive promotions for SpareFoot reservations, so consumers have a better chance of finding a great deal through SpareFoot than anywhere else.

Current Needs

We are hiring in sales, support, and development, particularly for a front-end developer. Our job postings are listed here: www.sparefoot.com/jobs.

SpareFoot – www.sparefoot.com