Founded In Friendship: The Story of Storable

Posted by Erica Shatzer on Jun 11, 2024 5:43:24 PM

Rewind to August 2005. George W. Bush is in his second term as president. Hurricane Katrina is battering the Gulf Coast. And two high school graduates from opposite sides of the country are packing their belongings for their first semester at UCLA.


While Chuck Gordon, CEO of Storable, was relocating from Washington,D.C., to obtain a degree in art, Mario Feghali, chief innovation officer of Storable, was moving less than two hours away from his mom’s home in Bakersfield, Calif., to study psychobiology. The lives of these two (former) strangers were about to intertwine as roommates on UCLA’s illustrious campus.


As fate would have it, their random room assignment proved to be a life-changing experience in more ways than one. From roommates to friends, then later business partners and brothers-in-law, Gordon and Feghali have a self-storage journey that may seem more like the screenplay for a new rom-com than real life. Unbelievable as it may seem—with two likable leads, a light-bulb moment, and a pair of sisters who become their wives—it’s all true, so sit back and enjoy their story about the formation of Storable.


An Innovative Idea


It’s long been said that necessity is the mother of invention. The scenario that sparked the original idea for SpareFoot coincides with that statement. When preparing for a semester abroad in 2007, Gordon realized that he’d need somewhere to store his belongings that wouldn’t be accompanying him to Singapore. Unfortunately, storage space in West Los Angeles exceeded his budget and his father was unwilling to give him more than a $1,000 to foot the bill, especially when the expense was more than the total value of his possessions. Due to the distance, it was also impractical to ship his stuff back to Washington, D.C.


Being less than two hours from home, Feghali offered to store Gordon’s belongings in his mom’s attic. Their ability to spare a foot of space for one semester generated the concept for their future startup business SpareFoot, a company that would enable hosts to rent any space they had available in their homes, garages, businesses, etc., to renters. It was intended to be a win-win setup for both renters and hosts: a cheaper storage alternative for those needing space and a source of income for hosts.


The roommates saw promise in the first-of-its-kind enterprise, so Gordon drafted a business plan after taking entrepreneurship classes in Singapore. Then, in the summer of 2008, Feghali and Gordon started fundraising to get it off paper and onto the web. By reaching out to family members and friends, they were able to raise $80,000. That money was used to hire a software developer, and within a few short months, the new business partners launched SpareFoot.


Storable Startup


Gordon recalls that SpareFoot was initially well received and garnered “lots of great press” due to the fact that it launched during The Great Recession. While cash-strapped citizens were eager to make some extra money by renting their spare space, renters weren’t keen on storing their belongings in places that couldn’t be accessed at their convenience. Renters also disliked the thought of someone potentially rifling through their possessions. Indeed, not being able to secure their stuff with their own locks or access to storage spaces around the clock were two factors that kept many customers from becoming renters through SpareFoot.


Although customers weren’t sold on the idea of renting from strangers, there was one type of host on SpareFoot that caught the attention of Gordon and Feghali: self-storage operators.“Mom-and-pops were signing up to look for new tenants,” says Gordon, “and I thought that was interesting.”


With independent operators joining SpareFoot as a way to promote their facilities and attract customers, Gordon and Feghali saw a potential opportunity to shift gears and provide a new service. Comparison websites for hotels and airlines had been around for years, but not a single similar site existed for the self-storage industry. Gordon thought the “concept had legs,” so instead of scrapping the company they began reinventing SpareFoot in the spring of 2009.


Feghali and Gordon applied for a startup program through Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, that was providing seed funding and business connections to entrepreneurs with the most promising ideas. After being selected for the opportunity, they moved to Austin for the 10-week educational experience. In addition to acquiring new knowledge and potential investors, they received $20,000 to get their business up and running.


“Capital Factory was a great experience for us,” Gordon says. “We learned from many seasoned entrepreneurs and ultimately met our first institutional investors.”


With capital and conviction, Gordon and Feghali set to work calling as many self-storage facilities as possible; they needed to generate enough listings to enable SpareFoot to become an effective comparison website. The more facilities that signed up to post their rental rates on the site, the more valuable it would be to renters who wanted to shop for the ideal storage location in their market. The duo also took their efforts on the road, attending every trade show possible to build relationships, promote the new version of SpareFoot, and educate operators about their customer’s desire to compare self-storage facilities without having to call every location in their area.


Feghali admits that it was a tough sell at first, as many self-storage operators were hesitant to post their rates online—and perhaps somewhat apprehensive about trusting young businessmen. “The attendees thought we were somebody’s kids,” he jests about their age during SpareFoot’s early days. But as larger operators and REITs began “setting the example” by posting their rental rates on their websites, many smaller operators followed suit and decided to give SpareFoot a shot.


“We’ve worked with thousands of facilities,” says Gordon, adding that they’ve helped operators increase their occupancy rates and grow their businesses while growing their own. “There have been so many amazing success stories.”


Storable with Anne


Gordon and Feghali spent 10 years building SpareFoot into the “world’s largest online self-storage marketplace,” and it took plenty of venture capital along the way. To enhance the budding business, the SpareFoot founders brought on their first investor, Silverton Partners, in 2009. This enabled SpareFoot to secure additional customers, establish partnerships with other self-storage-specific listing companies, and eventually acquire several of those listing companies.


From 2009 to 2018, SpareFoot raised more capital and had between 10,000 and 12,000 self-storage facilities signed up. SpareFoot later acquired US Storage Search, which operated, in Feb. 2021. These acquisitions enabled SpareFoot “to continue pursuing our goal to make finding the best storage solution easier for even more customers. More facilities in more places gives customers confidence as they find and compare storage facilities.”


Simultaneously, SpareFoot formed partnerships with various self-storage software companies, integrating with their management software to stream-line the listing process for operators. In other words, self-storage operators could effortlessly post their inventory listings to SpareFoot through their facility management software. Thus, SpareFoot was providing an easy way for operators to promote their vacant units with “no risk” since operators only pay SpareFoot when a customer rents a posted unit.


As for its end-users, SpareFoot’s online marketplace allows potential renters to search for storage units based on location, size, and type; they can then compare the results based on price and features. SpareFoot also provides storage and moving tips through its blog and website.


Ever since Gordon’s exhausting search for storage during college, he and Feghali have shared the objective of making affordable storage space easier to locate. And according to Gordon, they are crushing that goal, having rented more than 270,000,000 square feet of storage through SpareFoot so far.


The Storable Umbrella


Screenshot 2024-06-11 at 5.10.43 PMObviously, Gordon and Feghali learned a lot about self-storage by running SpareFoot, but it was their relationships with self-storage operators that shed light on an issue in need of correction. They came to discover that many operators were using five or six vendors for their facility operations, which was causing “a lot of pain points.” To alleviate those tech aches, Gordon and Feghali began contemplating ways to possibly “bring the entire tech stack into one platform.”


That was the start of the Storable journey.


In March 2018, SpareFoot announced that it had acquired Raleigh, N.C.-based SiteLink, a leading provider of cloud-based software solutions for the self-storage industry. The deal, which Gordon calls the “foundation” of their vision for an “all-in-one” tech company, was constructed to “accelerate investment, drive innovation, and generate value for both consumers and facility operators.” It was made possible through financing from Cove Hill Partners, a private equity firm based in Boston. He then became CEO of the combined company. At the time of the acquisition, Gordon said it “allows us to increase investment in our products to help self-storage operators run their businesses cost-effectively and help consumers find the perfect storage solution.”


With the footing for their shared vision in place, Gordon and Feghali worked on creating a new brand for the combined companies. Storable was unveiled in 2019. Along with the launch came the acquisition of storEDGE, a Kansas City-based provider of software and self-storage websites. Hires at all three companies officially became Storriors—the company’s nickname for employees that rhymes with warriors.


Since the creation of Storable, the company has gained another investment partner, EQT, and acquired other vendors to become a one-stop shop for self-storage operators. Under the Storable umbrella, there are insurance, marketplace, payment processing, access control and facility website options that integrate seamlessly with their three software platforms, storEDGE, SiteLink, and Easy Storage Solutions.


Storable - Mario & Chuck


Integrating these companies and their products into the Storable platform has also streamlined tech support. “There is one number to call for support,” says Feghali, who adds that this has eliminated the finger pointing that can occur when products are meant to work together but aren’t operating as intended. This makes it easy for operators to resolve issues within the software, because their tech support handles the call regardless of the problem at hand.


What’s more, having multiple investors and experienced staff members from various backgrounds has enabled Storable to continually make improvements to its existing features and launch new ones, especially features that are geared toward eliminating repetitive manual tasks. These strong fundamentals allow Storable to either acquire products from other companies or build them from scratch, which the company plans to do on an ongoing basis.


The most recent addition to the Storable bundle was the access control product in 2022. It also opened a research and development center in India this year that is focused on accelerating innovation for all Storable customers.


“Being the first to innovate in our category is what drives us and leads us to ask, ‘What’s next?’ We’re constantly thinking about how we can create better tools and experiences for our customers.” Gordon says. “Being on the leading edge only means the view is wide open to dream bigger and better.”


The company has also been expanding through a second vertical: marinas. It recently acquired marina management software companies, Atlanta, Ga.-based Stellar and New York-based Molo, which are utilized by marinas, yacht clubs, boatyards, etc. Feghali is overseeing this new endeavor—one that he says mirrors self-storage in many ways. 


“Many of the same challenges we solved for storage operators can apply to marinas,” says Feghali. “We’re excited to leverage these best practices and bring a similar integrated suite of solutions to marina operators.”


In Unison


Despite the fact that businesses founded by friends are less likely to succeed, according to research conducted by a former Harvard Business School professor who studied 10,000 technology and life-sciences startups, Storable has continued to thrive thanks in part to their co-founders’ unbreakable friendship.


Gordon and Feghali actually remained roommates seven years after graduating from UCLA in 2009, and their friendship only grew stronger over the years. Before pursuing separate living arrangements in 2016, Feghali began dating Erika, who has a sister named Jessica. When the new couple introduced Gordon to Jessica, they hit it off and started dating too. Eventually, these good friends would go on to marry the sisters and become related as brothers-in-law.


storable couples


“It’s really amazing how a random dorm assignment in college was the catalyst for making me who I am today,”says Gordon. “I’m so grateful.”


Whether it’s their shared vision of being the industry’s No. 1 tech brand, their unwavering mission to help operators run better businesses, or their mutual admiration as friends, colleagues, and family, it’s clear that Gordon and Feghali have an alliance that has stood the test of time. And they plan to stick around for the long haul!“


We feel incredibly fortunate to have found our way into the industry,” says Gordon. “We see value in what we’re doing and we’re really just getting started.”



Erica Shatzer is editor of Modern Storage Media.



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