By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Tommy Nguyen’s latest start-up is StoragePug, a company devoted to the individuals who own one or just a few self-storage facilities.
“These facilities are low tech,” Nguyen explains. “We provide web services for them. We help the mom and pop operators have the same services as the big companies.”
The name comes from the target customer – parking units and garages or PUGs.
“No one does exactly what we do,” Nguyen says. “We found that owners wanted what we could offer.”
To be competitive, he says these independent operators need to offer a robust, attractive website at a minimum. The more forward thinking operators want to allow prospective customers to check on available space, sign a lease, and even make payments – all online. Add to that the fact that move-in and move-out dates can be scheduled without even visiting the office.
“We’re trying to create distinction for them,” Nguyen says. “StoragePug is a suite of software tools and services to help storage facilities get more customers and serve them better. We’re making the onboarding process much easier.”
As any entrepreneur knows, a key success factor is understanding the demographics of the target market and its customer base. In the case of StoragePug, we learned a key data point.
“Eighty percent of self-storage renters live within five minutes of their storage facility,” Nguyen says. That reality is a key factor in how StoragePug helps its customers better market themselves.
Like so many of Nguyen’s activities, there’s a University of Tennessee (UT) connection.
“This all started because of Kirk Huddleston and Rocky Hill Self Storage,” he said. Matt Huddleston, Kirk’s son, was a UT classmate of Nguyen’s as well as a software developer at Right Click Design, another Nguyen start-up. Rocky Hill Self Storage served as StoragePug’s beta site. Today, the younger Huddleston and Richard Jeffords are partners in the new venture that launched earlier this summer.
For now, the company is targeting the local market which has more than 180 storage facilities, although Nguyen says his team is now attending national and state-level trade shows of the storage association.
StoragePug is privately funded and has six full-time employees including new hires in San Antonio – another UT alum – and Dublin, Ireland.
Nguyen acknowledges that other sectors could benefit from the software platform, something he will consider at a later date. For now, he and his team have a good deal on their plate, speaking of which, there’s another start-up that embraces that word.
Plate.work is a productivity tool that combines Slack messaging and Gmail. Co-founded with UT classmate Zack Hicks, its focus is on small teams who want to assign, share, and organize tasks, no matter their origin.
“It enables you to get things off your plate,” Nguyen says. “For now, we have turned it into more of a side project.”
A just 27 years of age, you can clearly see that the Vietnam born entrepreneur is driven as are his colleagues in his various start-ups. “We’re a bunch of young, hungry guys . . . all in our 20s,” Nguyen says. Their drive is what will further propel the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.