Spacer takes on world’s largest self-storage market with buy-out of US equivalent, Roost


Left to right: Mike Rosenbaum, Jon Gillon (Roost, founder) and Roland Tam

Australia’s ‘AirBnB of storage’, Spacer, has signaled its intention to become the global leader in space sharing with the acquisition of US start-up Roost.

Like Spacer, Roost is a peer-to-peer marketplace for shared storage, commercial and parking space.  The acquisition will see Spacer take control of Roost’s database, tech platform and customers. Spacer will also continue Roost’s partnerships with several car rental services in the US to offer shared parking space across the West Coast of America. In addition, Roost will be renamed Spacer.com to ensure brand consistency. The takeover is part of Spacer’s global expansion strategy, which saw it strike a strategic partnership with Costockage, Europe’s leading peer-to-peer storage marketplace, last year.

Former equity professional Roland Tam co-founded Spacer with ex-DealsDirect CEO Mike Rosenbaum, and their start-up is involved in running the Sharing Hub – Australia’s first sharing economy start-up accelerator, which launched in October, last year. Tam spoke to Dynamic Business about taking over Roost, taking on America’s $28b self-storage market and his company’s plans for domestic growth and further global expansion.

Dynamic Business: What is the appeal of Roost for Spacer?

Tam: Roost holds a strong position in America’s car sharing ecosystem due to partnerships with rental car services Maven (General Motors), Zipcar and Enterprise. Plus, 500 Startups is one of Roost’s original seed investors, meaning well connected with the Silicon Valley network. Crucially, the Roost gives us a platform in the world’s largest housing and consumer market. America’s self-storage market is 33 times the size of Australia’s, and we have every confidence we can translate our learnings into that market.

Dynamic Business: How did the acquisition come about?

Tam: It was opportunistic in that, ironically, we got the idea for Spacer.com from Roost in 2014 when they were pitching to investors at 500 Startups. Our Australian business is growing well and we have always had a strategic plan to expand into the world’s largest market. We have stayed close to Jon Gillon, the founder of Roost, and when he told us he was selling the business, the timing was perfect.

Dynamic Business: What growth made the deal possible?

Spacer has experienced 30% month on month growth since launching in October 2015 but we are still very Sydney centric, and we are planning a big push into Melbourne and Brisbane over the next 3 months. No external capital was raised to support the acquisition and we have a great investor base who continue to support the business.

Dynamic Business: How will you support Roost’s rebrand?

We operate a global operations team out of Manila, which works well with Australian and US time zones. Our intention is to invest heavily in the first few months with some of the marketing tactics that have worked for us locally, to build brand acceptance. Roost’s existing customers have been very supportive of the rebrand, and the additional functionality our tech platform has given to them.

Dynamic Business: Where are you at with global growth?

Our strategic partnership with Costockage in Europe (and another soon to be announced in UK) gives us significant value in shared learnings; however, it also gives us options to take platform synergies should the businesses come together down the track. Asia is harder, given the lack of available space and cramped living, but we continue to talk with various parties around partnership opportunities.

We are conscious that our model is about creating local markets, scaled on a larger basis. People rent out their homes and spaces to people around them, which is part of the attractiveness of the model. Our plan is to build enclaves or communities which share space, and build many of them, across cities and then countries.

Dynamic Business: How is the Sharing Hub progressing?

We have been delighted with the interest in the Sharing Hub. The four founding members (Car Next Door, Zoom2U, Mad Paws and Spacer.com.au) have all moved in together and are sharing resources, learnings and networks. We have an exciting launch in April (don’t want to spoil the announcement), and we are actively advocating on behalf of the sharing economy players with regulatory and service providers.

See also: New ways for Aussie start-ups to thrive in the shareconomy: Ex-DealsDirect CEO talks Spacer, Australia’s first sharing economy accelerator launches; head identifies start-up ‘must haves’