A tale of some storage Sxuirrels

Team Sxuirrel, the people who connect those with space with those who seek space. Pictured, at back, from left, are Arlon Mukeba, senior Android developer; Michael-John (MJ) Dippenaar, co-founder and chief executive officer; Henri Bam, co-founder and chief operations officer; and Kyle Gani, senior software developer. In front, are Sasha-Lee Pienaar, customer experience and communications manager; and Michael Louis, co-founder and chief technology officer.

Ever wondered what you do if you need a small amount of storage space for a limited period of time?

Well, it’s a conundrum faced by many university students who move digs between years and semesters, and need somewhere to store their stuff while on holiday.

Pondering this very matter in late 2015, Michael-John (MJ) Dippenaar hit upon the idea of not using traditional – and expensive – facilities, so he called on a few friends in Stellenbosch for help.

“They had some spare space they were prepared to lend me, in return for a few cold brewskis and a dinner or two,” MJ says, and the idea which became Sxuirrel was born: the AirB&B of storage and parking space.

“I realised there are people out there who have extra space and there are students who need that storage space and parking,” says MJ, “so I decided to create a market place to connect the two.”

MJ teamed up with fellow students, Henri Bam and Michael Louis, and the Scurry – the collective noun for a group of squirrels – was born.

“In early 2016 we first explored the idea as a disruptive mobile application,” says MJ, “and by mid-2016, the company was registered with little more than a logo, a few wireframes and some designs.”

“By June/July of that year we started developing what is referred to as the MVP, or most viable product, to test the platform within the market, which we launched to a few closed group studies.”

The study groups liked what they saw, so development continued.

“We launched the iOS version of Sxuirrel in its most basic form in April 2017, the public platform, Sxuirrel in its most basic form as we know it, at least without all the improvements,” says MJ.

Development continued apace, and a website followed in August, and in April 2018, the Android version of Sxuirrel was launched.

In typical collaborative fashion, the Scurry is seen to include the community which it serves, the loyal users – 1 500 strong – who have signed up on the platform, and the over 200 hosts who have space to rent, and are listed on Sxuirrel.

“All software is developed by our internal team and owned by Sxuirrel. We use a wide range of different technology stacks because we function across all three platforms: iOS, Android and the website,” MJ says.

Meanwhile, the Scurry grew to include Sasha-Lee Pienaar, customer experience and communications manager; Arlon Mukeba, senior Android developer; and Kyle Gani, senior software developer, to support the three co-founders in their roles. MJ handles marketing, finance, human resources and execution, Henri looks after client relations and operations, and tech guru, Michael, in true developer style, spends most of his time behind his computer screen making sure the app runs “as smooth as a double thick chocolate shake,” quips MJ.

The business model is typical of disruptive applications like AirB&B and Uber which own no assets and employ very few people while leveraging assets which are owned by other people.

“There is no sign-up or listing fee on Sxuirrel.

“Hosts set their own fee for the listings, and Sxuirrel takes a small commission and platform fee, of between 10 and 15 percent, but only upon a successful transaction,” says MJ.

Testament to the success which Sxuirrel has achieved is user feedback, and MJ shared this feedback from a host. “I have some free space at my house in the garage, so I made a listing on Sxuirrel to see if someone might want to store some stuff.

Well, I have made about R5 000 over a period of six months.

“My garage is already full, but I still get requests for storage space, so with December holidays, there will be people looking for storage.”