Terry Drayton has seen plenty of ups and downs throughout his startup career. High-flying HomeGrocer.com cratered during the dot-com bust, and then a subsequent venture, Count Me In, was forced into bankruptcy.
But, like a classic entrepreneur, the affable Canadian just keeps getting back up. Drayton’s new effort, Storrage, is the latest gamble.
And it’s very much a throwback to the HomeGrocer.com days — combining technology with a personalized delivery service.
However, instead of delivering fresh produce, milk and other groceries, this time Drayton and his crew want to pick up your skis, backpacks, bicycles, tax records, holiday decorations and more — securely storing those items in a climate-controlled and closely-monitored Sea-Tac warehouse.
We first learned of Storrage back in June, stumbling on the company in a SEC filing. At the time, the 53-year-old didn’t want to share too many details.
Now, we’re getting a closer look at Storrage, which is publicly launching this week in parts of Seattle and the Eastside suburbs. And, like Drayton’s past ventures, Storrage is aiming big, this time in the $22 billion self-storage market.
“We want to be the Uber of storage,” says Drayton, referencing the successful private limo service that allows users to track the whereabouts of drivers on a smartphone app.
Storrage hopes to make its mark by undercutting prices of other traditional storage services, while at the same time offering the top-notch customer service he was known for at HomeGrocer.com. The company plans to charge $20 per month for five 20″x24″x12″ containers, with those containers picked up and dropped off by professional drivers for a $15 fee. Customers agree to a three-month storage commitment on each container, though they can request multiple drop-offs, say if you want your golf clubs out of storage for a winter vacation to Palm Springs or those holiday decorations for the festive season.
Pick ups and deliveries are scheduled on the mobile app, with a one-hour delivery window for next-day service. It will also offer same-day service.
Drayton has been testing the Storrage concept with friends and family for the past three months, with about 100 test customers. He said it will only take about 1,000 paying customers in a metropolitan market like Seattle to reach profitability, with the company already eyeing an undisclosed second market for expansion next year.
“The reason we are so excited about this is that storage is a huge and very successful industry … but it doesn’t service 90 percent of the population,” said Drayton. “Most people have extra stuff that they have to store, but the average storage customer spends $175 per month. We are 85 percent less than the traditional service.”
Drayton also plans to draw on the experiences of HomeGrocer.com, which raised tens of millions of dollars from Amazon.com, Martha Stewart, Kleiner Perkins, Madrona and others before going public with a $245 million offering in March 2000.
Of course, Storrage is starting with more modest funding, having raised $1.3 million from Seattle angel investors such as Rudy Gadre, Andy Liu, Serena Glover and others.
But there are similarities — including the focus on customer service and the branded delivery vans in which professionals are encouraged to interact with customers.
“I kind of joke with a couple of my HomeGrocer folks that we are probably 18 months further along than we were at the HomeGrocer launch in terms of how dialed everything is, the technology, all of the scripting when we go to the customer’s location, what are uniforms look like, the packing material,” says Drayton.
The company also is taking a different approach by franchising delivery and pick up operations, working closely with military veterans. That will allow Storrage to expand quickly into a “whole bunch of new markets,” starting first on the West Coast, Drayton says. Each franchisee will get access to a collection of zip codes, comprising about 250,000 people in a selected territory.
Drayton said what makes the business especially interesting is the use of technology, namely the mobile applications that allow customers to schedule delivery; take photos of items placing in bins; and even receive a text message alert with a photo of the driver when he or she is about to arrive.
“It has become an on-demand world. I want my stuff, and I want it now,” he says. “You just want to be able to click on something and have it miraculously show up the next day. That’s why we think we are right in the confluence of a bunch of activities.”
Storrage does face competition from traditional players, as well as upstarts including Clutter in the LA area, MakeSpace in New York and Boxbee in San Francisco, whose tagline is “simple urban storage.” Also, a new Seattle entrant by the name of StowThat, led by former Razorfish exec Joseph Mele, is allowing home owners to rent out garage space to neighbors.
Drayton investigated the StowThat model, but he said their research indicated that most people were not comfortable with the concept of storing valuables in that way.
“If we have your bike or your board or your tax returns, you want to be really sure where that is,” said Drayton, adding that the “trust factor” is key to the success of the business.
Here are the zip codes where Storrage is currently available in the Seattle area, basically from I-90 north to Green Lake as well as selected areas of the Eastside: 98101, 98102, 98103, 98104, 98105, 98107, 98109, 98112, 98115, 98119, 98121, 98122, 98195 and on the Eastside: 98004, 98005, 98007, 98008, 98033, 98034, 98039, 98052.
Here’s a closer look at how Storrage works.