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Entrepreneurial Business School student racks up investment in travel luggage storage start-up

Chilean student Cristobal Matte, currently completing his MSc Strategic Innovation Management at the University of Sussex Business School, is the co-founder and general director of Airkeep, an online platform that connects travellers with hosts who will store their belongings.

Earlier this year, Airkeep won third place at StartUp Sussex 2019. Cristobal received a cash price, which he is using to market Airkeep, a new business start-up in the gig economy. Basically, it’s an Airbnb for luggage.

The entrepreneurial masters’ student first developed his business idea during his travels in 2013. Cristobal explained:

“When I arrived in London I struggled to find a place to leave my luggage for longer term storage, apart from expensive left luggage depots at central train stations. I noticed that many travellers face this kind of challenge and wondered why nobody was doing something about it. There was clearly a gap in the market.”

Back in Chile, Cristobal shared his vision with his business partners, who backed his idea. In 2018, after further development and securing the required funding, Airkeep was officially launched.

Establishing Airkeep’s primary market

Doing their market research, Airkeep discovered that they have two big competitors: Stasher, a British start-up, and French business Nannybag. Both companies were growing quickly due to high levels of investment and a big European demand. However, Cristobal and his partners noticed that neither of their competitors were operating in South America, which makes Airkeep the only provider in that area. Currently, Airkeep operates primarily in South and North America (excluding the USA), although they do have luggage hosts in Brighton, London, Sevilla and Barcelona.

The Airkeep TeamKeepair hosts

Another big differential is that Airkeep also works with homeowners who have space to store luggage, such as a spare room, garage, or attic, as well as hotels and shops that have space. Working with individual Airkeep hosts can sometimes be more challenging than established businesses; however, they can usually provide safer long-term storage options for their customers. Hosts are known as ‘Keepairs’ who register on Airkeep’s website. Using the platform is free for Keepairs and they are able to earn 55% of commissions from each transaction.

Secure storage

In terms of security, Cristobal and his partners check all the Keepairs and their storage places in person, to ensure conditions are as described in the application. However, in the future, with the growth of the business, Airkeep aims to develop a technology that will automatically monitor the security of their hosts and travellers making the platform as safe as possible.

In case of potential security threats, users agree to give the host permission to inspect the content of the luggage by signing the Terms and Conditions. In the case of lost luggage, the insurance will pay the travellers US$ 200. Airkeep’s booking system also verifies travellers’ passport and credit cards and by using PayPal to receive payments, additional personal information can be accessed. This provides reassurance to hosts about who is dropping their belongings off. However, hosts can also refuse to store luggage, if for instance the customer looks different from their profile photo. If any problems occur, customers or hosts can directly contact the Airkeep team by using their helpline.

Are you inspired by Cristobal’s story? If you have a business idea, find out more about the annual StartUp Sussex competition.

Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex Business School
Last updated: Monday, 5 August 2019