North Wales Business Angels back smart self-storage providers

Operations Manager
Business angels

A syndicate of nine business angels has joined the Development Bank of Wales and M-SParc in backing entrepreneur Anna Roberts as she prepares to launch Explorage, an online solution for global storage providers and users.

Worth an estimated £48 billion, the global storage market is big business. There are approximately 27,000 new storage bookings each month in the UK yet finding, comparing and reserving the right self-storage is inconsistent and long-winded as many storage facilities don’t have instant booking functionality.

Explorage will offer an easy user experience with 24/7 customer support. There will also be an e-commerce facility so that customers can buy packaging. Customer reviews of storage sites will also be available.

A qualified Chartered Surveyor, Anna Roberts first demonstrated her entrepreneurial flair and determination when organising a fundraise to persuade Flintshire County Council to invest in her village park. She was just seven years old at the time.

Anna’s inspiration for Explorage is driven by a desire to help people with problems and a focus on doing the right thing for customers. With 60% of customers who use self-storage doing so because they are experiencing a stressful life event, Anna came up with the idea for an online marketplace for self-storage and facilities, developing a using user-led software model. The investment will now be used to make key hires and begin regional rollouts throughout the UK before scaling up internationally to take advantage of opportunities with overseas partners.

Business investor Huw Bishop of Camau Nesaf is leading the syndicate who are have invested a six-figure sum in Anglesey-based Explorage. Angels Invest Wales has provided match funding from the Wales Angel Co-Investment Fund. Further recognising the company’s potential, M-Sparc’s Accelerator Programme has also committed funding to Explorage.

Anna Roberts explained: “It sounds simple, and it is. Explorage will offer a frictionless online facility for customers to review, compare and book self-storage. Our revenue model means Explorage is risk free for storage operators; they can gain greater customer exposure to a wider demographic, diversify the source of their bookings, expand with more confidence, and fill up new and vacant space quicker.

“For me, the customer is everything and I really enjoy trying to make life a little easier wherever I can for people. Self-storage isn’t the most obvious technology start-up but there’s an obvious gap in the market and I’m determined that Explorage will be the solution that both users and providers come to love”.

“The backing of the Development Bank, Huw as the lead investor and the wider syndicate means that we are now well-placed to realise our vision with the comfort of knowing that they understand the challenge of starting up and scaling a fast growth tech business. It’s a really exciting time and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.”

Huw Bishop said: “Being in the position to offer financial backing to local entrepreneurs and business start-ups is hugely rewarding and can be a very tax efficient form of investment. There is definitely a growing network of angel investors in North Wales who are keen to get involved with early-stage investment opportunities.

“Having recently moved house, I had first-hand experience of the difficulties involved with finding storage so it was front of mind when I was first introduced to Anna. Her drive, passion and energy coupled with the opportunity in the market meant that it was actually very easy to get co-investors excited about the offering. The match funding from the Development Bank means that we have effectively doubled our impact so we’ll work together to maximise our firepower and drive the growth of Explorage.”

Tom Preene of Angels Invest Wales said: “It is often the simple ideas that become the very best businesses. Anna’s determination and entrepreneurial mindset means that she is definitely one to watch so we’re delighted to be supporting Huw and the syndicate of business angels with this investment.”

The £8 million Wales Angel Co-Investment Fund provides Welsh businesses with a key source of alternative finance through the encouragement of more active Angel investment. The five year fund supports the creation of angel syndicates and networks across Wales by providing loans and equity up to £250,000 to investors looking for co-investment.