BYU grads create the “Airbnb of storage”

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From left: Joseph Woodbury, Colton Gardner and Preston Alder are co-founders of Neighbor, the peer-to-peer storage marketplace. Together they are changing the storage industry. (Neighbor)

After every school year, students scramble to find a place to store their things as they venture home or to internships for the summer. Finding an available storage unit is not easy, and if you are lucky enough to find one, it will end up costing you a pretty penny.

Preston Alder ran into this problem as he was heading to an internship in the summer of 2016. He and his wife looked for storage facilities in the area but found they were very expensive and had limited availability.

He was eventually able to get in contact with an old neighbor who had room in his garage. He was grateful for the storage space but had to take multiple trips to transport his things — an hour drive each way — during finals week.

“It was the middle of the night, and I was driving home. I had this moment of frustration,” Alder said. “I spent five hours of my day during finals week driving a truck. I thought, ‘There’s got to be empty garages and empty basements all around us.’ Then I had the thought: ‘What if we had some platform that could connect people?’”

That is where the idea sparked. A peer-to-peer storage marketplace.

That next summer, Alder approached former mission companion Colton Gardner and classmate Joseph Woodbury and shared his idea. They began creating what has become the “Airbnb of storage.”

“It allows you to rent out your extra space to make money and allows others to store their items in your space. You can rent out your RV pad, and your neighbor can store their boat on it, for example,” Woodbury said.

The company has found that storing with Neighbor is actually much safer than storing in a storage facility.

“About one in five storage facilities is broken into every year. They have a high crime rate because they are just boxes with goods sitting inside of them sitting on the outskirts of town,” said Woodbury. “They kind of attract people looking for trouble. Residential areas have a 50 times smaller crime rate because of all the social capital. There are alarms, there are dogs, there are neighbors.”

Beyond that, the company takes a number of steps to protect hosts and renters. Each member must have a government ID, and the renters must submit a statement of what will be stored. That statement will go through a strict vetting process prohibiting items like food and organic or flammable materials. Both the renter and host must agree to the statement.

The host is not liable for the goods stored, except in the case of gross negligence.

“We have a guarantee on our platform. We’re safe, we’re trustworthy and you can entrust your neighbor with your valuables,” said Gardner.

Neighbor currently operates in 26 states. Utah is its largest market.

The company anticipates huge growth in the future. It plans to provide storage services to people everywhere and in every neighborhood. In just the United States, one in ten Americans is leasing out a storage facility — proof that the need is everywhere and the growth is possible.

“There are more storage facilities built in the U.S. than there are McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger Kings, Domino’s Pizzas and Wendy’s combined. It’s a massive $500 billion industry that Americans are paying into every month,” Woodbury said.

Neighbor’s mission is to provide safe, easily accessible storage. A byproduct of Neighbor’s model is helping people profit from renting their unused space.

“Why don’t you pay half of the cost, have your stuff two doors down so it’s much easier to get to, in a much safer location, and the money you pay will go to help pay your neighbor’s mortgage instead of to some company,” Woodbury said.

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