As the world becomes increasingly tech-savvy, many consumers are shrinking their digital footprints by taking advantage of the sharing economy.
For some people, this means sharing their homes via Airbnb, while others use RelayRides to borrow a neighbor’s car. Dozens of other startups help people share things like bikes, office spaces, physicians and even 3D printers.
But every time one more startup enters the sharing space, organizations are forced to make a new platform for their service.
Boston startup Oomf saw an opening — and is taking advantage of this space with its cloud-based software platform.
“Oomf is trying to eliminate all of the different companies building software for similar things by making a software platform that’s available to any manufacturer with a product that can be shared,” said Gavin Gray, CEO of Oomf. “If they can integrate with our platform, the manufacturer doesn’t have to build a platform themselves.”
Through partnerships with various products and services, Oomf’s platform works to sync current and future shareable devices (like phone and computer chargers, but eventually larger things like bikes and cars) through its proprietary app, pushing the boundaries of what the sharing economy is and what it could grow to be.
But before they got the ball rolling, Oomf wanted to test its platform prior to partnering with big manufacturers.
That’s why the company also created its very own shareables: The Omnicharge 20, a universal charger for all devices; and the Oomf Mini, a compact charger for smartphones.
Little did Oomf know, their “test” products would end up taking off at local universities.
The idea behind the chargers was that they would be free to the consumer, while a restaurant, bar, business or institution covers the cost of the products and Oomf’s services, Gray said.
When Oomf first brought its products to market last fall, they tested them in bars, Logan Airport, Lawn on D, stadiums, conferences, hotels and more than 100 restaurants around Boston, Gray said.
“We found the best market for us was the higher education market,” Gray said.
Universities like Northeastern, Vanderbilt and Carnegie Mellon have since partnered with Oomf so that students can borrow the company’s shareables for free and return the chargers when they’re finished using them.
“Since then, we’ve charged over 125,000 devices,” Gray said.
So, in addition to building the cloud-based platform, the company is also focused on scaling up its presence for more university partnerships, but Gray said he’d ultimately like to tap into new markets, or, “any place with a power outlet,” Gray said.
Oomf was recently accepted into MassChallenge Boston’s 2017 cohort, along with 128 “high impact” startups. The accelerator program will culminate in November 2017 at the MassChallenge Boston Awards, where the most-promising startups compete for shares of more than $1.5 million in equity-free awards.
“The vision is beyond the portable power charging space,” Gray said. “We want to continue to build a platform where product manufacturers making innovative stuff can easily plug into us so we can facilitate the sharing capability of those products and accelerate the new markets they expand to.”
Photos via company