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MakeSpace – watch out eBay and Craigslist, cloud closets are coming to get you!


makespacemain MakeSpace   watch out eBay and Craigslist, cloud closets are coming to get you!

You can always tell when a new service is being hyped up as a billion dollar possibility, because you start seeing a lot of fancy comparisons. Like ‘the reverse Amazon‘ or ‘the Uber for x‘. This is VC short speak for ‘we’ve dumped a ton of money into this venture because we believe it’s going to be incredibly disruptive and change the world. Maybe.’ The PR trick is to associate the new venture with a massive veteran success story, as well as a hot new company which is creating waves. Job done.

So it is with the new MakeSpace service which launched a scant 15 months ago. The company is ostensibly a ‘Dropbox for physical storage’ (there we go again), which means they’re trying to make it super easy for people to store the personal belongings they don’t have space for, in a remote warehouse.

makespace3 2 MakeSpace   watch out eBay and Craigslist, cloud closets are coming to get you!

This self storage business is apparently worth $6 billion a year (or $24 bn depending on who you believe) in the US alone, which is a big but not humungous number. And one thing we know about VCs is they don’t deal in merely big. They need much more to keep the money machine running.

makespace4 MakeSpace   watch out eBay and Craigslist, cloud closets are coming to get you!

So we get MakeSpace (and rivals UrBin and Boxbee). While their backers talk about increased convenience vs the traditional Shurgard type storage services – the new services pick up and return your stuff by van and it’s all managed online or via your phone – there’s more to this than meets the eye.

boxbee

One of the clues lies in the fact that MakeSpace has just announced a new service called MakeSpace Air, whereby you can ship your stuff to them for free (return shipping is also free) from anywhere, and more importantly the company has started crowing about the fact that users can select parts of their consignments to be returned, using photographs to remind them of what is stored in which box.

makesspaceair

Which leads us to the punchline. As embarrassing as it is to admit it, we’ve all got far too much stuff. We’re drowning in appliances, gadgets, gear, clothing and just general stuff. That’s what makes self-storage such a big business, we desperately need places to store all this extra baggage. But the irony is we don’t actually need to store it, what we should be doing is recycling it, but it’s generally too much hassle. And we have all those sentimental reasons etc.

urbin

Now imagine that you combine ‘cloud closet’ services with a free classified ads service. So when you send your items off for storage you can specify that they’re automatically available for sale, along with photos, free automatic shipping to buyers and a heap of other services (like optional personal examination at the warehouse or whatever). What’s the biggest hassle with selling on eBay or Craigslist? Yep, packing and shipping.

makespace6

It would involve marginally more work on the part of the user, they’d have to fill out details of product condition and descriptions etc, and supply more photos allied with box numbers etc, but once that stuff was done it would be simply a matter of waiting around for a buyer to search for or spot the items on the sales site or in their phone app, and everything’s done. No further involvement. And if you get teary eyed in the meantime, just remove it from sale with the click of a button. Brilliant.

lovespace

Right now it’s obviously very early days for all these new services, and most of them are confined to one or two cities only (even though we’re starting to see international clones start up like LoveSpace in the UK), so there’s lots of consolidation and sweat to come before any of this happens, but the writing is on the wall.

amazon1

The huge elephant in the room is of course Amazon itself, which has the technical systems, physical buildings and more importantly customer trust already in place to take this market by storm if it wanted to, but maybe that’s a part of the plan all along?

amazon2

What could be better for a hungry VC than having your cloud closet startup bought out – Google style – by Jeff Bezos for a suitably huge sum of money in two or three years time? Jackpot.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.



  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    This could actually work. I’d give it a shot.

    • http://www.redferret.net/ Nigel Powell

      Yes, it’s interesting isn’t it? I think if they could get the momentum it definitely might work. I can think of a lot of stuff hanging around here which I’d be happy to put up for sale if it wasn’t for the hassle.

  • Paul

    The biggest selling point this sort of system (well any self-storage system actually) has for the future is the constant demand by governments and opposition parties for “affordable housing” which actually means “smaller tiny boxes you can barely lay your head down in with no space whatsoever!”
    As houses get even smaller (and not always cheaper), the need to be even more minimalistic is going to be needed, and that is the problem, because humans tend to hoard things out of sentimentality!
    So this is why self-storage schemes like this will take off, because as generations find themselves living in ever more cramped housing, their need for “extra space” will grow and the current self-storage container solutions are too expensive when people merely want to store a bit of sentimental junk or important memories (your childs first pictures and school books, the wedding dress, photo albums and family photo frames, etc) that they do not have the room for in their small 6ft x 4ft bedroom spaces!
    If you can offer rentable storage space at reasonably good prices to allow you to expand your small and cramped house by moving all the junk you want to keep and have fairly easy access to should you need to add or remove items from it, then you are on to a constantly growing business that can only increase in both size and revenue the more the UK runs out of space and needs ever-smaller houses on tiny plots of development land to house everyone in!

    • http://www.redferret.net/ Nigel Powell

      Yes agree. But there’s no doubt that our urge to accumulate junk doesn’t help. :)

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