SpareFoot Raises $10M More

SparefootSpareFoot, which operates the country’s largest online marketplace for self-storage, has raised $10 million in venture capital from Insight Venture Partners. Austin-based SpareFoot has raised a total of $26 million in venture capital since it was founded in 2008. Of that amount, $22 million came from New York-based Insight Venture Partners — $10 million this year and $12 million last year. SpareFoot’s other major investors are Capital Factory, FLOODGATE and Silverton Partners.

“SpareFoot will use this latest investment to double down on engineering and product development,” said Chuck Gordon, co-founder and CEO of SpareFoot. “We believe there is a big opportunity to expand our offerings in the market, and that’s what we’re going to do. Our goal is to make renting a storage unit easier than booking a hotel room, and this new investment will help us make that happen.”

SpareFoot employs nearly 120 people at its headquarters in downtown Austin. By the end of the year, the startup aims to employ nearly 160 people, Gordon said. Most of the new hires will be in customer service, engineering and product development.

Richard Wells, managing director of Insight Venture Partners and a member of SpareFoot’s board, said: “We’re thrilled about our latest investment in SpareFoot. SpareFoot has done a great job of bringing together a highly fragmented market of small self-storage storage operators and is doing an even better job helping them compete with the large players.”

Disclosure: I am an investor in SpareFoot.

SpareFoot Raises $10M More

SpareFoot Hosting Open House to Fill Positions in Rapidly Growing Call Center

Sparefoot logoSpareFoot, which operates the country’s largest online marketplace for self-storage, is hosting an open house this month to recruit team members for its Austin call center, whose staff will nearly double in size by this summer.

The invitation-only open house will be held from 5-7 p.m. Jan. 14 at SpareFoot’s headquarters at 720 Brazos St. in downtown Austin. Free food will be served.

To be invited to the invitation-only open house, you must submit your résumé and cover letter by Jan. 11 to SpareFoot recruiter Rachel Morse at rmorse@sparefoot.com. Be sure to put “ACE Team Open House” in the subject line of your email.

Employees of the SpareFoot call center, known as the Amazing Customer Experience (ACE) Team, handle inquiries about self-storage rentals from customers across the country. The ACE Team is set to expand from 24 members now to 42 members this summer, Morse said.

To learn more about available positions on the ACE Team, visit the jobs section of the SpareFoot website.

“SpareFoot is one of the best places to work in Austin, with a workplace culture that’s really hard to beat. In 2013, three separate organizations recognized SpareFoot as a great employer,” Morse said. “As a great employer, we are looking for great people to join the ACE Team and help fuel SpareFoot’s tremendous growth.”

Josh Lipton, leader of the ACE Team, said: “If the typical ‘call center’ is perceived as an entry-level, insignificant cog in the business machine, SpareFoot’s ACE Team is the exact opposite. We are an elite group of the best, hardest-working and most innovative doers at the best company to work for in Austin.”

Lipton outlined three traits SpareFoot is seeking in new members of the ACE Team:

•  You undoubtedly get your oxygen in both life and work by helping others.

•  You believe passionately in the idea that delivering an amazing customer experience shouldn’t be the exception but the rule.

•  You yearn to be part of a team of adults who are held accountable to themselves, each other and, most importantly, the customer.

“Our ACE Team is the voice of SpareFoot to our customers, and we are all committed to building a truly amazing experience for each and every one of them,” Lipton said. “Whether you choose to book online, via mobile or over the phone, our team is there to help throughout the process, from reservation to move-in and beyond.”

Lipton added: “We believe in a future where instead of describing our customer experience as the Zappos of the storage industry, others will look to what we’re doing at SpareFoot as the model for the next generation of customer experience.”

To learn more about jobs at SpareFoot, visit SpareFoot.com/jobs.html. To learn more about SpareFoot, visit SpareFoot.com/about.html.

SpareFoot Hosting Open House to Fill Positions in Rapidly Growing Call Center

SpareFoot Donates Storage Space to Tornado Victims

Self-storage marketplace SpareFoot is offering relief to those affected by the devastating tornadoes in the Oklahoma City area. The Austin, TX-based company will donate a month of storage to businesses, families and individuals who need temporary space to store and protect their belongings in the aftermath of the tornadoes.

SpareFoot will mail a check to cover a victim’s first month of self-storage rent (up to $100). The check will cover rental of a storage unit within a 50-mile radius of Oklahoma City, OK. Customers must move in by June 21, 2013. Additional details about the offer are available on the SpareFoot website.

“The images of the destruction in the Oklahoma City area are heartbreaking. Our thoughts go out to the communities in this region that felt Mother Nature’s wrath,” SpareFoot CEO Chuck Gordon said. “While human lives obviously are the most important consideration in a situation like this, we at SpareFoot hope our offer of free storage space can help people in the Oklahoma City area recover from these powerful tornadoes.”

SpareFoot Donates Storage Space to Tornado Victims

Sparefoot Opens New Headquarters

Austin-based Sparefoot moved into new Headquarters last week, celebrating with an office party last week. Having been to their previous offices, which was substantially smaller and required storing massive amounts of snacks in the hallway, their new digs are downright luxurious.

The space features 99% re-purposed materials, graffiti art by Austin artist Sloke, an 18 foot shuffleboard table, dart board, foosball, a Super Mario mural (one of the co-founders is named Mario), sushi-inspired conference room, a full bar, and a kegerator.

The company is fresh off their 3rd place finish at the Startup Olympics, raised $2M in venture capital in 2010, and is a Capital Factory 2008 company.

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Sparefoot Opens New Headquarters

Start-up SpareFoot Modernizes $22B Self-Storage Industry

SpareFoot, the free online self-storage marketplace (like Hotels.com for finding storage), announced it is expanding to offer a suite of marketing tools for storage facilities. From humble beginnings as a person-to-person storage website slinging extra space in private residences, the Austin start-up has raised $4.5 million and is now a disruptive force in the notoriously low-tech $22 billion self-storage industry. SpareFoot’s new marketing products help facility operators nationwide reach a crucial audience of increasingly web-dependent consumers searching for local storage online.

SiteBuilder provides a facility with its own customizable, easy-to-update website that converts visitors into tenants. The product works to simplify everything about creating and maintaining a website. For facilities who already have a site, GeoPages works as the ideal supplement to dominate in local search. In this solution, SpareFoot optimizes a facility’s listing on directories like Google Places, then points visitors to a landing page that drives unlimited online reservations.

SiteBuilder and GeoPages join the company’s flagship AdNetwork product, which grants facilities highly visible, search-able listings on SpareFoot.com, SelfStorage.com and over 50 other high-traffic partner sites that serve storage and moving needs.

“We’re excited about all the ways SpareFoot tools empower storage operators to utilize new technologies and connect with online customers,” SpareFoot CEO and Co-founder Chuck Gordon said. “SiteBuilder and GeoPages really level the playing field by making it easy for smaller, local storage companies to compete with the big guys online.”

All SpareFoot products integrate seamlessly with storage facilities’ existing management software to keep unit pricing and available inventory up-to-date. With complete performance analytics, facilities can track page views, phone calls and online reservations. Every GeoPages and SiteBuilder page is conversion-optimized, featuring all the details consumers are looking for when they search for storage on their computers and smart phones.

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Start-up SpareFoot Modernizes $22B Self-Storage Industry

Start-up SpareFoot Makes Self-Storage Fun

SpareFoot, the online self-storage marketplace, launched a unique project and blog series called Adventures In Storage, designed to familiarize employees with their product in the most entertaining way possible. The new mixed-media “reality series” documents the start-up’s 18 employees as they experience the process of renting and moving into and out of self-storage units.

CEO Chuck Gordon coordinated the nine-week project, in which duos of employees moved a growing pile of possessions from one storage facility to the next around Austin, adding their own creative items for the next teams to discover and move. Each duo was responsible for finding storage near one teammate’s home, with or without the help of the company’s own self-storage finder site.

All employees – from developers to salespeople to marketers – booked units, signed leases, obtained locks and optionally rented trucks to cart the pile around town. Moving forward, every new employee to join the SpareFoot team will pick up where things left off and complete the task themselves.

The idea sprang from Gordon’s realization that most SpareFoot team members had never personally used self-storage, but he wanted them to understand the challenges storage customers face. He hopes Adventures In Storage inspires improvements to SpareFoot’s website that will make finding, reserving and executing self-storage easier than ever for everyone.

“To speak intelligently about anything related to the consumer experience, everyone at SpareFoot should have personal experience renting a storage unit,” Gordon said. “Everyone will learn what it really means to rent storage, and see how much of a pain it is. This should help guide everything we do to make the process easier for consumers.”

The project was documented through filmed interviews with each duo at SpareFoot’s office, and some scrappy video footage taken at the storage facilities. Weekly blog posts will unfold the story in a narrative style similar to that of a typical TV reality series. A short video, featuring interviews and photos, will accompany each written post. New blog “episodes” are released every Monday for nine weeks at 6 p.m. CST, starting June 20.

In tandem with the June 1 release of a teaser trailer for Adventures In Storage, SpareFoot is running a social media contest whereby the first three people to correctly guess one item in the final storage unit win $100. All in all, the series should reveal a lot about how a fun high-tech start-up staffed by a team of smart, nerdy personalities operates. It will also be an experiment in pushing the social media reach of a niche industry. Follow along on Twitter @SpareFoot with hash tag #adventuresinstorage.

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Start-up SpareFoot Makes Self-Storage Fun

Sparefoot Connects with Open Reservations Network

Part of the very first Capital Factory class of 2009, SpareFoot has been growing, selectively hiring, and iterating their way to success. Along the way they’ve also attracted capital from legendary angel investor Mike Maples, Jr. and local investors Silverton Partners.

Today, they announced that they’ve joined the INSOMNIAC Self Storage Network (ISSN), an open reservations network that allows any third-party marketing company to communicate securely in real time with several self-storage management software systems.

Created by OpenTech Alliance Inc., ISSN is designed to allow self-storage operators to leverage the marketing efforts of third-party companies. All facility and unit data is obtained from each facility’s property-management system at the time of the search. When the consumer has selected his unit, the data is immediately stored in the software.

Sparefoot, which offers consumers a comparison-shopping experience encompassing more than 5,000 self-storage facilities nationwide, can now leverage the ISSN reservation-to-rental confirmation function, which simplifies the reconciliation process.

Due to the volume of reservations SpareFoot is sending to its clients, the company needed a simpler way to confirm when tenants actually move in to a self-storage facility, according to CEO Chuck Gordon. The partnership with OpenTech will allow SpareFoot to automate the process, and reduce the amount of work facility managers have to do to keep their inventory updated, he said.

SpareFoot operates on a pay-for-performance model, so self-storage operators who list their facilities on the site only pay for leads when a customer actually rents a unit.

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Sparefoot Connects with Open Reservations Network

Sparefoot Raises $2M Series B

Disclaimer: I am an investor in Sparefoot, and they were in the 2009 Capital Factory program where I am a Managing Director.

In early 2009, the founders of Sparefoot (then called Homstie.com) had a vision of allowing people with extra storage space in their homes to make a match with people who wanted to store things. It was a way to bypass the traditional self-storage providers, and create a mutually beneficial relationship between people who otherwise would never have met. That was the premise of the company, which was founded in Los Angeles.

The company was accepted into Capital Factory, an early stage technology accelerator, where the team was given some funding, free services, and some mentorship to help them get to the next level. During the summer of 2009 the founders did more research on the market, tested out some ideas and refined their offerings. At the 2009 Demo Day, the company announced on stage that they had secured a round of significant seed funding.

Today the company announces a $2M Series B financing, with return investors Silverton Partners, FLOODGATE (the new name for Mike Maples firm), and Capital Factory returning as investors. SpareFoot will use the proceeds to grow its team and expand into new marketing channels with the goal of driving even more tenants to its clients.

“We’re excited to use the proceeds from this round to grow our team and drive more tenants to our clients. The support from Silverton and FLOODGATE is reflective of the traction we’ve achieved in the storage industry,” said SpareFoot CEO Chuck Gordon.

In less than one year, SpareFoot has aggregated the largest real time inventory of self storage units on the web. SpareFoot offers consumers a comprehensive comparison shopping experience coupled with exclusive pricing. For storage companies, SpareFoot fills vacant units with a strictly pay for performance. “We are extremely pleased with the high quality tenants SpareFoot.com has sent to our facilities,” said Simply Self Storage Director of Marketing Christina Furnia. “Their pay for performance model means no risk for our company – there is only upside. Getting set up was a breeze through the direct integration with our software and I’m happy to report the quantity of tenants from SpareFoot is growing substantially every month.”

Sparefoot Raises $2M Series B

Capital Factory Showcases Its Inaugural Class

The economic downturn has prompted credit scarcity, layoffs, and cutbacks.  Despite the tumult, however, earlier this year twenty Austin business luminaries pumped $100,000 of their own money into the creation of Capital Factory, an Austin-based technology startup incubator that gives funds and mentorship to the most innovative startups.

In May, the Capital Factory partners picked five potential blockbuster startups to invest in, even spending ten weeks helping the young entrepreneurs grow and develop their business concept.  The startups are showing off their results of more than two months of hard work at the Capital Factory-hosted DEMO today, at the AT&T Exeutive conference center on the University of Texas’s campus.  More than 250 investors, executives and media representatives are in attendance.

During the intense 10-week development program, all twenty of the incubator partners worked closely with each of the five winners.  They taught the young entrepreneurs everything from how to pitch effectively to handling tough legal issues to successfully marketing their product.  The partners invited a bevy of guest experts – accountants, analysts, and designers – to answer tough questions and explain the ins and outs of their field.

“It’s hard to get a lot done in ten weeks, but our goal was to make sure the startup was in a position to get customers by the end, and we did,” says Josh Baur, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory.  “We’ll continue to help and work with them and offer any advice; the partners are all equally and personally invested in these companies.”

In addition to hands-on help from seasoned entrepreneurs, the incubator gives the winners
$20,000 for startup capital, as well as an additional $20,000 in free perks, including office space, public relations assistance, and legal support.

When Capital Factory launched at the end of January, the partners encouraged hungry entrepreneurs from around the globe to submit their innovative business proposal via a five-minute video.  With only a two-month slot for applications, the partners expected about 100 submittions; they received a whopping 300 plans, including some from the United Kingdom and Germany.  You can check out the videos from most applicants on the Capital Factory YouTube channel.

Here’s a list of the five winners:

Cubit Planning: its technology automatically gathers a plethora of data that, say, engineering firms and urban planners need to create a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document, which is a required written summary of the potential environmental impact of an infrastructure project, such as a road or bridge.  With Cubit’s technology, it only takes five minutes to build a report versus ten or more hours typically spent manually plugging in data.

FamiGo: a very early stage startup that develops mobile games that encourage the entire family to interact.  The first game – scheduled for release as an iPhone application in the next couple of weeks — is a virtual edition of the old timey game “Hot Potato.”

Hourville: an online marketplace where consumers can, for free, find service providers in their area and book time with them directly and instantly online. Services range from singing lessons to Spanish language teachers to therapists.  For $10 a month, service providers can create real-time schedules with times, prices and locations on the site; customers can select an available time and book an appointment directly online.

PetsMD.com: an online health care site for pets.  Consumers can find everything for their pet ranging from diseases to drugs to veterinarians in their area.  The site even has a “symptom checker” feature, so consumers can try to figure out what could be wrong with their pet.  They can also purchase any of the hundreds of pet supplies offered on the site, including toys, beds and furniture, and grooming tools.

SpareFoot: an open marketplace that offers more than 100,000 listings of the best deals on storage spaces, including space at a local storage facility or a neighbor’s garage.  The listings are broken down by location, unit size, cost, and amenities.  In addition, the site allows consumers to make some extra cash by renting out their parking space or garage space.  Transactions are secured by a customized lease agreement.

Capital Factory Showcases Its Inaugural Class