Launching online self storage startups seems to be all the rage this year, with Rocket Internet-backed SpaceWays launching in Australia in February, and Melbourne-based competitor Boxly following soon after. Whether consumers are actually taking to them is a different story – SpaceWays recently shut up shop and headed back to London.
Now, another startup is trying its hand in the $753 million self storage market. Christie Whitehill came up with the idea for Boxbird, a service that delivers boxes to a customer’s door then picks them up to store in a warehouse, with her father, a property developer and founder of a Queensland self storage garage business.
“I live in a two bedroom apartment in the Eastern Suburbs, so I’ve got quite a bit of clutter taking up space – things like golf clubs, and luggage that I wouldn’t bother taking to a storage facility,” she said.
The services offered by Boxbird are basically identical to those offered by Boxly and the dearly departed SpaceWays: customers can order boxes online which are delivered to their door and taken away for storage once packed. Then, when they want the items back, they can go online and ask to have them delivered to their door.
The startup also has a service for larger boxes which can fit the contents of a one bedroom apartment. Boxbird will deliver a large box on a flatbed truck, which a removalist will then pick up for storage. It’s also offering boxes for rent for people moving house.
The pricing for the simpler storage service sits somewhere between Boxly and SpaceWays, where standard boxes cost $8/month and $9.90/month to store respectively. Storing a standard box with Boxbird ranges between $1.60-2.00/week, while bulky items like bikes and skis can be stored for $2.50-3.00/week. The large box service costs $145/month.
Whitehill, who is also founder and CEO of the digital agency Hatching Lab, began researching the concept in February, at which point she says there was no competition in Australia (SpaceWays launched at the end of February).
She said her experience working with startups at Hatching Lab, as well as the experience of co-founders Richard Atkinson and Ryan Catzel in storage, logistics, and startups, meant Boxbird was able to go from concept to launch in just over three months.
Interestingly, Boxbird already has a number of customers – SpaceWays referred its customer base to Boxbird when it left Sydney. For now, Boxbird is the only player in the Sydney market but, with Boxly cornering Melbourne and looking to expand, it soon won’t be. Of course, there’s still traditional self storage companies to content with.
Despite this competition – and the fact that SpaceWays lasted only a few months – Whitehill remains undaunted.
“I think competition is a good thing, especially when you’re trying to create a new market and a new service in a market. This kind of service is something we’re going to need to educate the customer on, because it hadn’t been in Australia before. It’s good to have similar people out there,” she said.
“Like watching any competitor, what marketing tactics competitors use is always a good sign, the pricing model…there are lots of things you can learn off competitors that can help you get an advantage, especially if you’re second or third in the market.”
The agreement Boxbird made with SpaceWays also allowed Whitehill to learn more about the business itself. She said Boxbird now has a solid PR and marketing plan in place, as well as a timeline for expansion.
The startup is focusing on Sydney first, before rolling out to Melbourne in the coming months, targeting urban areas with people that are either relocating or downsizing, people storing in between having families, and people who are going travelling overseas.
Boxbird has a 5000 box capacity warehouse in Rockdale, with another secured in Alexandria when more customers come on board.
Whitehill is looking to raise a seed round soon, having funded the development of Boxbird with her co-founders thus far.
Image: Ryan Catzel, Christie Whitehill, Rich Atkinson. Source: Provided.