Rocket Internet launches pick-up and storage business in Britain
* Rocket Internet start-up enters self-storage market, starting in UK
* Self-storage incumbents include Safestore, Big Yellow, Lok'n Store
* UK self-storage market turnover 355 mln pounds last year
By Eric Auchard
VIENNA, July 3 (Reuters) - German startup backer Rocket Internet is entering the British market for self-storage, with a pick-up and store business that seeks to eliminate the need for customers to rent their own locker space.
SpaceWays, as the new company is called, will launch in London on Thursday, with plans to expand to other British cities and around the globe in the near future, said one of the three co-founders hired by Rocket Internet to create the service.
In effect, it is looking to transform the self-storage market into an on-demand business more like package delivery with an online twist.
It aims to remake the market for storing excess goods, which typically offers rented locker space in low-rent locations, leaving customers to pick up and deliver their goods themselves as well as cover the cost of insuring them.
"We are bringing technology and added customer service to an old-fashioned industry in hopes of expanding the market," Rob Rebholz, a SpaceWays co-founder said in a phone interview from Rocket Internet's Berlin headquarters.
The SpaceWays concept was only conceived of eight weeks ago, in keeping with Rocket Internet's philosophy of rapid business creation and execution.
It will provide customers with heavy-duty boxes for storing away old clothes, odd-sized items or other personal goods plus free pick-up for delivery to a secure storage warehouse rented by the company outside London.
Space-constrained Londoners, from students to mobile young professionals to growing families and small businesses, will pay 6 pounds ($10.21) a month per 80 litre-sized box.
Any number of boxes can be picked up by the company's dedicated delivery service for a flat fee of 19 pounds, it said. The service is available online at www.spaceways.co.uk.
Britain's self-storage market currently comprises a handful of national brands including Safestore Holdings Plc, Big Yellow Group Plc and Lok'n Store Group Plc.
The British market had 355 million pounds in turnover last year, according to trade group Self Storage Association UK, but the top six brands account for less than 30 percent of the market, with the rest run mostly by 400 independent, local operators.
SpaceWays' offering is aimed at customers with small lots of odds and ends rather than whole rooms or houses to pack up.
"If you store your entire household you wouldn't do that with us," Rebholz says. However, he says SpaceWays eventually plans to handle larger lots of goods and removal services, both for consumers and businesses.
Its parent, Rocket Internet, run by online entrepreneur Oliver Samwer and covering online shopping to taxis, groceries, domestic cleaners and financial services in more than 100 countries, plans an initial public offering later this year that could value the venture funder at between 3 billion ($4.09 billion)and 5 billion euros ($6.82 billion).
SpaceWays will take advantage of the warehousing skills of fellow Rocket Internet company Zalando, Europe's top online fashion retailer, and partnerships with established warehouse and delivery firms it declines to name, Rebholz said. It will also use Rocket Internet's centralized back-office technical functions run from Berlin.
David Fuchs, one of the three co-founders who all met at top German business school WHU's Otto Beisheim School of Management, will run the business from London.
"Our vision is to be the No. 1 storage company worldwide that provides logistics or storage services to end users," Rebholz said. ($1 = 0.5877 British pounds) ($1 = 0.7331 euros) (Editing by Susan Fenton)