Startup develops college storage service
A startup is delivering space, convenience and "peer-to-peer storage" for college students in search of a little extra closet room.
Start Garden, the $15-million seed fund in Grand Rapids, said this month that it will make an initial $5,000 investment in Vaultd in Ann Arbor.
Vaultd is taking the “self” out of self-storage for college students.
Using two business models, Vaultd allows students to store their items in either a secure warehouse or with peers on campus in durable, waterproof plastic boxes supplied by the company.
Brett Mecham, co-founder and CEO of Vaultd, said the startup provides a full-service storage process, handling logistics, such as pick up, security and retrieval.
“We drop off heavy duty, durable boxes to students for free, and then they can fill up the boxes with whatever they want, taking as much time as they want to fill them up,” Mecham said. “Once they do, they just contact us via our website, and we will come pick them up for them and take them to our secure warehouse. If they ever need a box again in the future, they can schedule a drop off, and we can drop off whatever box they need. They never have to leave their house or their apartment.”
With a typical monthly fee of $10 per box in Vaultd’s secure warehouse, Mecham said students can also choose to pay an upfront price for an 8- or 12-month period.
Pricing for the peer-to-peer model depends on each student host, according to the website. The alternative business model is being tested this fall and allows Vaultd users to locate available space on campus, while still using the company’s durable boxes.
“Students on campus who live in a house tend to have storage space in their basement, so we are trying another model where students can store other students’ stuff if they have room,” Mecham said. “That way, these students can make money, plus also store their stuff locally on campus.”
The idea for the storage company developed during an entrepreneurship course at University of Michigan last year.
After recognizing a need for storage space delivered in a convenient and inexpensive method for their peers living in small dorm rooms or apartments, Mecham and co-founder Mikey Shen began coming up with ideas to solve the problem.
“We went about coming up with experiments, seeing how we could help students with their storage issue,” Mecham said. “We found out the only thing they can do is use self-storage units, but the problem was a lot of students don’t have vehicles or cars. They can’t really travel to and from.”
Mecham said the startup team at Vaultd also consists of Caroline Lupini, marketing manager.
Due to positive feedback and interest in Vaultd, Mecham anticipates hiring more employees in the next month or two.
Mecham said Vaultd will use the Start Garden funds to purchase a bulk order of custom durable boxes incorporating a lock feature and acquire larger servers to develop a mobile application for improved accessibility for students.
Vaultd was selected for the investment from Start Garden based on public endorsement and a decision by the team at Start Garden.
“We heard of Start Garden previously and thought it would be a great opportunity to try and get involved with some people who would be able to help us really scale our business. Once we found out we got the $5,000, we were pretty ecstatic,” Mecham said. “We performed an experiment over the summer to test our business model, and we have just been bootstrapping, using our own money, which is risky, but we were excited to do it, and we wanted to take it to the next level.”
Vaultd is required to return to a monthly Start Garden Update Night event after a couple of months to present on its progress to be considered for further funding.