After Brandon Gotlieb, a third-year in finance, and his roommate, Mike Gargasz, a third-year in electrical and computer engineering, saw a flier in the 18th Avenue Library for a business idea pitch competition with a $1,000 prize, they went to their dorm and got to work.
Hours later, the pair created NXTSTOR, a peer-to-peer online marketplace that connected individuals with spaces, such as a spare bedroom or garage for storage space. They won the competition hosted by the Business Builders Club competition in fall 2016.
“Coming from an engineering background, I was conditioned to solve problems under a set of defined constraints with a single right answer,” Gargasz said. “Starting a business is the complete opposite; there are no guidelines or existing assumptions to help you form your product.”
Gotlieb said they realized they could help international students over the summer with a place to store items while the students returned to their native countries. He said that as they helped those who needed a place to store items, the two learned more about the students’ interests and needs.
During summer 2017, Gotlieb and Gargasz stored items for 25 students at a self-storage company and said they hated it. Every day in the moving process, the team rented a U-Haul for six hours in the midst of finals.
“Never in my life again will I move boxes, but I know about self-storage now and what the issues are,” Gotlieb said.
With the knowledge and experience of working with a self-storage facility, the team knew it was time to offer the NXTSTOR marketplace to the public.
In order to launch a website marketplace to give users the ability to pick a service based on their needs, such as storage or parking, the team needed a front-end web developer. Ashwin Rajgopal, a third-year in computer science, took the lead on design and launched the online marketplace.
On the marketplace, students include the location and the length of time they are in need of storage. The NXTSTOR team works within communities to keep users’ items as close and convenient to them as possible, Gotlieb said.
Last summer, the trio set out to do beta testing. They sought feedback from international students about their experience with NXTSTOR.
“The students loved it, and it was the encouragement and feedback we needed to keep going,” Gotlieb said.
Gargasz said the biggest point of growth for him was his ability to explain the product to individuals with a nontechnical background.
“It’s a harsh reality, but no investor will care about your idea if you can’t convince him or her that there’s money to be made with it,” Gargasz said.
The team is using the customer feedback and data received from the previous summer to grow as a company.
“Currently, we are working on a full redesign and upgrade of our current site to offer more useful features to users and to also improve the flow that users take through the website,” Rajgopal said.
NXTSTOR currently offers 34 hosts across the country and hopes to add more storage offerings in the upcoming year.
“Personally, for the future, I’m hoping our product gets as big as Airbnb, if not bigger,” Rajgopal said.