Need a ride but don’t have a car? There are some apps for that. Need a place to stay overnight? There are apps for that too. But what if you’ve got some possessions you need to store, but it’s not worth paying the monthly fee at a storage facility? Well, thanks to University of Tampa student John Publicover, there’s an app for that too — called StoredBy — coming soon. Publicover recently won Best Business Concept at the Governor’s Cup of Florida Business Model Competition. I was able to catch up with Publicover, a senior from New Hampshire, while he was working in the startup accelerator in the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at UT. He told me the story of his award-winning app.
Can you describe where you were when you heard that you won Best Business Concept? Was it at an awards ceremony? Did you get a phone call?
After a series of presentations, the top three finalists were in the audience at the keynote speaker for Saturday’s event of the 2016 South Eastern Entrepreneurship Conference, where the award was to be presented. Sitting eagerly in the audience, awaiting the result from the judges, both Storedby Inc. and my name were announced. At that moment, I felt a whirlwind of emotions as I was asked to come to the front of the room to collect my trophy and pose for photos.
How did you come up with the idea of creating an “Uber for the storage industry”?
Like many entrepreneurs, I was presented with a challenge in my personal life and sought to find a solution to my problem. I was at The University of Tampa in March of 2015, asking myself what was I going to do with all of my personal belongings when I wanted to spend some time traveling. I had thought about the typical solutions of traditional self-storage as well as other companies that collect and drop off storage belongings. However, each would have cost me more than my suitcase of clothes and mini-fridge was worth. I wrote down my problem in a journal and researched what companies were becoming extremely successful and how I could use their models in the solution to my problem. I analyzed both Uber and Airbnb, both correlated with the Sharing Economy, and connected the dots.
Once it becomes an official app that people can start using, explain how it will work. How will it change the storage industry?
Storedby Inc. is an online platform as well as a mobile application where users are able to find all types of underutilized space. Users can filter for the type of storage needed as well as review different listings and profiles, selecting the underutilized space that is perfect for them. Although the Sharing Economy has gained significant traction over the last several years, we understand that not everyone would take a ride in an Uber vehicle, or stay in an Airbnb accommodation, which is why we have incorporated the ability to find traditional self-storage facilities on our platform. The self-storage industry will transform into a model that 21st century consumers demand.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far when it comes to launching something like this? And what did you learn from this challenge?
The biggest challenge throughout the development process of this technology venture has been seeking sufficient resources to turn the idea into a reality. Having no background in coding or development, there were various options of having the platform developed. I thought about having a local technology company develop the product, but I came to the conclusion that it would be expensive for a start-up to develop and would require constant updating as user trends change. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to bring on an experienced technology co-founder to the team who could provide their skill set throughout the entire development and growth of the company. I learned that it is absolutely necessary to bring on individuals who possess a variety of skills in order for long-term success.
What’s been the most helpful factor in making this dream become a reality?
The most helpful factor in making this dream a reality has been surrounding our team with industry leaders who have been able to provide their time and knowledge to work with us in order for our dream to enter the marketplace and grow in consumer traction.
Photo of John Publicover by David R. Wheeler
AliveTampaBay thanks John Publicover for taking the time to talk to us, and we wish him the best of luck in his endeavor. Do you know an interesting artist, craftsman, or entrepreneur who you think should be profiled for our Tampa Bay Q&A? Contact me, David Wheeler, at firstname.lastname@example.org