Sharing the rest of our lives?

“Commerce with the promise of human connection”.

Airbnb’s Co-founder Joe Gebbia eloquently explained the value and crux of the sharing economy in these seven words – and I can shamelessly say that I buy into it completely. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have discovered how to take the human feeling of trust and design for it. Not only am I a huge user of both of these apps but I also truly believe in the power of this sharing economy to transform traditional transactions as we know them.

It was this fascination that led me on a wild goose chase. In today’s society we have chosen to share only the “big things” in our lives – i.e our house and our car and I couldn’t help but think about all the other objects in our lives we haven’t yet…this curiosity and belief in the sharing economy had me researching to find if other companies had realized this untapped potential in the market. And so, I bring to you the San Francisco based start-up Omni Technology.

Omni is an on-demand storage service company that developed in San Francisco – where the two biggest housing problems are sky-high rents and lack of storage space. Omni serves to alleviate the latter by helping its customers better manage the space in their homes. “I think we’re offering a service that’s way more about a lifestyle” says Omni co-founder and CEO, Tom Mcleod. Omni is trying to change the way you approach your life.

Omni’s storage service works in this way:

  • You as the consumer realize that those expensive new skis you bought for this upcoming winter can’t fit into your $3000 / month shoebox of an apartment.
  • You download the Omni app, and schedule a time for your skis to be picked up by an Omni concierge – customizing pickup down to the date, time, and place.
  • Then an Omni representative comes, picks up your skis, photographs, catalogs and categorizes them so they can be managed and viewed on the Omni mobile app. Now those fancy new skis are safely packed away in one of Omni’s warehouses.
  • January rolls around and you are ready to break those bad boys out – so you log onto the Omni app, look through your “virtual closet”, and schedule a time for your skis to be delivered.
  • Pretty neat right?

So where do the costs come in, and how is Omni actually making money? Omni charges its customers on a per item and monthly basis – 50 cents for regular items, $3 for larger items (i.e. bikes or strollers) and $7.50 for a box of things (i.e. tree ornaments). When a customer requests delivery of an item Omni will deliver next day free of charge. However, if you need the item sooner there are extra fees – $4.99 for same day delivery, $9.99 for within three hours, and $19.99 for within two hours. Additionally, there are charges for late cancellations, delivery to a different address other than the one listed on your Omni profile, or delivery to an area outside of Omni’s typical area of operation.

As cool as all of this sounds, Omni is actually not alone in the market for on-demand storage. Companies like Clutter and MakeSpace bring similar services online as well. But it is Omni’s newest feature that has come to differentiate them from their competitors, and the reason why I think Omni embodies the sharing economy.

Omni launched their “sharing service” this past summer. Now the items in your “virtual closet” on the mobile app can be made available to both your friends and the wider community through a borrowing system. Omni users can let others borrow the belongings they have stored with Omni, and then once they have been granted access, that friend can schedule a time to have them delivered.

According to Omni VP of Product and Growth Ryan Delk, “everything happens at the item level” – individually tagging and categorizing items and then adding them to the cloud database is what is key.  It is this infrastructure built from the start that made it possible for the company to move in this direction. The idea that you can actually make use of what you keep in storage rather than letting it sit and collect dust is a completely new concept. The hope is to take the sharing economy to the next level by giving more people access to that bicycle, leaf blower, or camping tent that’s been sitting untouched in someone’s garage for months. Omni’s service is cultivating the notion that you can have access to just about anything you want, when you want it. Omni is letting us share the rest of our lives.

Omni’s move towards “borrowing” and “lending” brings users one step closer to being able to make actual money off of their unused goods. Adding a rental piece to Omni’s app will allow users to make a profit on their items that sit in storage – allowing other users to have experiences they might not have been able to have before because of lack of gear or tools.

***disclaimer – this rental feature is supposed to launch next month!

Omni is tapping into this white space I talked about at the beginning– essentially transforming and integrating the rest of our lives into the sharing economy. I am excited to see where they go next, and if our generation is truly ready to “share it all”.

 

5 comments

  1. Great post! Just as we talked about in class this week we have transformed into a sharing economy. Omni seems like a great tool and as you said brings us closer to sharing personal items in our lives. I can see many people in Boston using the Omni platform to help declutter our lives in our small apartments. Also being able to search to see what other people in the surrounding areas are putting into storage and it is something that I could potentially use is a great feature!

  2. Great post! This is my first time ever hearing about Omni and I think it ties in the major consumer trends (on demand economy and environmental responsibility). The renting portion of Omni would be a great option for young professionals but at the same time puts a lot of brick and mortar rental businesses in danger. I’m curious to see how that would play out.

  3. This is a pretty cool idea. What I think would be a fabulous add-on service would be that if you hadn’t requested to retrieve an item after a year, they offer to try to sell it through their service. I would have a fear, though, if the company went bankrupt that you’d never get the items back. There would be noone around to return them or to prove that it’s yours.

  4. I would love to see an idea like Omni take off and spread to other cities. It is taking the exact idea of the sharing economy that we were discussing in class on Wednesday, and applying the concept potentially to each individual item that we own. If people are willing to trust others with their cars or homes, I could see see people getting on board with utilizing, say a ladder or skis, when they are not using them.

    It will be interesting to see how the insurance will work, in terms of holding users liable and reporting/paying for any damage done during use. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  5. This was really cool! Definitely is a possibility that soon we will all have some sort of “virtual closet”. I know my roommates and I talked about renting out space in our off campus basement over the summer to store other students stuff. Crazy how the sharing economy is making us think like this. I really like the borrowing feature that it mentions as a way to increase the value you get out of your items, but wonder if people would use this service simply to rent their stuff out. Also loved @geraldckane idea of the company selling your unwanted items, but agree with the fear of never seeing your item again. I wonder if they have any sort of item insurance.

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