$35M-funded Omni pivots from storage to rentals via retailers

Omni simply couldn’t scale storing stuff in giant warehouses while dropping it and off picking it up from people on demand. Storage was designed to bootstrap Omni into peer-to-peer rentals of the goods in its care. But now it’s found a better way by partnering with retailers which will host and rent out goods for Omni that users will pick up themselves.

With that strategy, Omni is now formally pivoting from storage alongside its expansion from San Francisco and Portland into Los Angeles and New York. In SF and its new markets starting today, users can rent GoPros, strollers, drills, guitars, and more for pick up and drop off at local storefronts which will receive 80 percent of the revenue while Omni keeps 20 percent.

“Storage was always meant to supply a rentals marketplace. We launched storage in an Uber-for everything era and now it’s no secret that physical operations are tough to scale” Omni’s COO Ryan Delk telss me. “This new model gives our users more supply, local entrepreneurs a new revenue stream, and us the ability to launch new markets much more quickly than the old model of building rentals on top of the storage business.”

LA Omni users will be able to rent surf equipment for pickup and dropoff from local surf shop Jay’s

To that end, storage won’t come to any more markets, though storage services with delivery will continue in San Francisco. Users there and in Portland will also be able to pick up and drop off rental items from a few Omni-owned locations including its SF headquarter office. Omni will add retailer pickups in Portland and more in San Francisco soon.

“Ownership has a bit of a burden associated with it” Delk tells me, referencing the shifting attitudes highlighted by Marie Kondo and the tidyness movement. Ownership requires you to pay up front for tons of use down the line that may never happen. “Paying for access when you need it unlocks all these amazing experiences.”

Omni discovered the potential for the model when it ran an experiment. “What if we could pick up items directly from Omni?” Delk explains. Omni learned that many people “can’t afford to pay for transit both ways. It was pricing out a lot of people.” But pick-ups unlocked a new price demographic.

Meanwhile, Omni noticed some semi-pro renters had cropped up on its platform whowere buying tons of a popular item like chairs on Amazon, shipping them to its warehouse, then renting them out and quickly recouping their costs. It saw an opportunity to partner with local retailers who could give it instant supplies of items in new markets while handling all the pick up and drop off logistics. Those  businesses can choose black-out dates, pause for vacations, and sell items like normal and let Omni know to restock them so rentals don’t cannibalize their sales.

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