Clutter is an app that makes storage easy by allowing you to manage your box drop-off, storage, and retrieval.
Los Angeles, CA
Brian Thomas, CEO
What was the hunch that got you started?
I’ve used self-storage for years and I hated it. It felt like a problem that I wanted to avoid. The whole process of going to a self-storage unit was so frustrating and inconvenient that I would end up not enjoying the things I owned because they were so inaccessible. I looked around at how easy it is to do so many things these days with our smart phone; hailing cabs, booking restaurants, buying tickets to the movies, and it felt like that level of service should be available for the storage industry.
What have you learned? How have you failed? How have you had to pivot?
Our philosophy was to launch quickly and iterate based on real-world customer interaction. We started working on Clutter in June of this year and we had the App out in the iTunes store by mid-August, so we were going after it pretty aggressively. I’m glad we did because we’re learning so much about product-market. I’m finding out different use cases for how people are choosing to use the App, what kinds of things they’re storing. Interacting with customers is the most valuable type of feedback for me and my team to bounce ideas off of each other with and iterate upon.
What is your team like? Company Culture?
I had the opportunity to attend the Zappos boot camp. Tony Hsieh, who is the founder of Zappos, is the biggest believer in company culture ever, and his company has ten core values. So, I went to this 3-day boot camp and was convinced of how important core values are to a company. I was on the leadership team at my previous company and after the bootcamp we started implementing a set of core values that we defined with employee feedback.
At my previous company, I felt like we chose too many values. Unless you’re really working on them and reinforcing them constantly it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It doesn’t matter if you have a list of ten adjectives on the wall, but if you have three ideas that you just reinforce with every interaction and you make decisions around them that’s a powerful thing.
Our first core value is service; great customer service is absolutely essential. We are a business that is all about convenience, so we’d better be good at it. The other thing is trust. People are handing over photo albums, important family mementos, their favorite clothes, pairs of shoes that they are going to want back in six months, and so we really emphasize just being trustworthy. Finally, we just want play it smart. That includes things like, in the future, we’ll notify people if they’ve had things in storage that they are never really using that they might want to donate or sell instead of letting it languish.
What is your plan for monetization?
I think at ten bucks a box a month, we can definitely be profitable with our current subscription model. It does require that customers remain customers.
The fifteen-dollar return fee that we charge is not a moneymaking thing. That’s just what it costs for us to pick up peoples stored boxes and return it to them. We chose to price it this way because I felt it gave us more flexibility to figure out what works and it’s easier to lower price than it is to raise a price. In the future, once we have economies of scale and are present in other cities, I could definitely see us charging less, being more competitive and still making money.
What could brands learn from you?
First, if I could say one thing about Clutter, it’s that I think we are really onto something here because the future of the Internet is fulfilling all of these needs around convenience and ease of use. At its inception, the internet was just connecting people to things, then it was connecting people to people, and now we are having this third level of maturation around convenience.
The Ubers, Hotel Tonights, AirBnbs are making life easier by using your phone and your computer and I think Clutter is poised to help facilitate that same level of convenience for the storage industry. In terms of just learning, I would say get a rough version of the product out as soon as possible. The feedback that you get from customers is hugely important. I could have spent a lot more money developing the App and additional features that customers may or may not have wanted and it ended up being great. Having a simpler version one and hearing from people what things to build later helped me far more than spending the money up front to build features they may or may not have used.