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On November 28, 2011, David Domzalski, Founder of Financial Bin spoke with Apu Gupta and Jost Kowitt of Storably, a startup based in Philadelphia, PA. According to its website, Storably is a “community that connects people with extra space to people with extra stuff.” Storably focuses on storage space and parking. Check out the transcript of the interview below:
David Domzalski, Financial Bin: Please give us a background of what you were doing prior to Storably.
Josh Kowitt, Storably: I went to business school at Wharton. Prior to that, I ran Collegeboxes, which I sold before going to business school.
Apu Gupta, Storably: I’m from theSilicon Valley, and was an early employee at WebEx. I left after WebEx’s IPO and did volunteer work overseas before heading to Wharton for business school. After graduating, I built the second-largest pharmacy chain inIndia. That company recently sold. I was also involved with a real estate software company in theUnited States.
DD: How did you come up with the concept of Storably?
JK: Through our personal experiences. I had a storage background. As I was finishing business school, I purchased a home with a large, empty basement. My friends asked if they could store some of their extra belongings in the basement. I said, “Sure!”
AG: I lived inPhiladelphia,PAwith my wife. I didn’t mind parking my car on the street. However, my wife didn’t want to run the risk of someone breaking into her car. The parking lots are expensive in the city. But, we noticed there were a lot of driveways that were not in use. We decided to see if we could rent out a neighbor’s space instead of paying $300 per month. So, it really was a result of personal need.
AirBnB was also a source of inspiration. We saw that people were becoming increasingly comfortably sharing their unused space and making good money doing so, and thought this would be an extension of that trend.
DD: What are your plans for expansion?
AG: Well, we started in Josh’s basement, but recently moved to offices. We really want to get it right, so right now we are focusing on customer acquisition and customer service inPhiladelphia. We recently performed some test marketing inNew York City, but want to be more comfortable with our process before expanding nationally.
DD: What other areas does Storably plan to focus on?
AG: Basically, what can you do with spare space? We want to help people put it to good use. We have had requests for things like batting cages, art studios, and band practices. But, that is more experimental. There are other companies that focus on other areas and do a good job in those areas (for instance, AirBnB in the hotel area and other companies with office space). We rather focus on perfecting our niche market.
DD: When did Storably launch?
AG: Our site went live two months ago on September 21, 2011.
DD: Name for me the most rewarding moment and the most frightening moment in the process leading up to the launch and now the growth of Storably.
AG: The most rewarding experience was forming a good team. I am grateful to have such talented people who helped us to jump on the opportunity and get it launched.
The most frightening had to be the early days in Josh’s basement. Trying to get the product to reflect our vision was challenging, and then there was the nagging question – “Would people even get this?”
DD: Global Entrepreneurship Week took place in the middle of November 2011. So, I must ask what is entrepreneurship to you?
JK: Entrepreneurship is combining what you know, what exists, and what you think exists and going beyond that to find what is interesting and exciting.
AG: Entrepreneurship is creating. It can take place in existing organizations as well as new organizations. It’s having the vision to do something different and the ability to make it happen.
DD: A question I see a lot asks whether entrepreneurs are born or made. So, let me pose it to you – are entrepreneurs born or made in your belief?
AG: I think there is a continuum there. Some people naturally grow towards risking taking and it is an obvious path for them. For others, maybe by necessity, entrepreneurship is a path they stumbled upon. For instance, maybe job prospects didn’t work out for them. They may have had a desire to do something on their own and circumstances push them towards pursuing that interest. At the end of the spectrum, there are others for whom entrepreneurship poses too much of a risk. It’s simply not worth it for them.
I think we’re somewhere in the middle.
DD: What is one think that you learned in starting Storably that you would like to pass onto aspiring entrepreneurs?
AG: They need to learn that as entrepreneurs they need a willingness to change. Ultimately, it is about carefully balancing persistence with flexibility. Entrepreneurs need to know when to stick with something or change direction. It’s being able to look at your business unemotionally. It involves being honest with yourself and knowing what to change.
Good entrepreneurs are resilient. They can be told their idea stinks 1,000 times and are able to bounce back. They just keep going and break through.
On the other hand, being an entrepreneur does not mean being irrational when it comes to your business. Some entrepreneurs are blind to the fact that their idea needs a change especially after it’s launched.
Make sure to check out @FinancialBin‘s book, Entrepreneur Intervention: Triumphs & Failures of Entrepreneurs. It’s available now in paperback on Amazon and CreateSpace and electronically via Kindle and Nook.