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MicroTask Inc.Creating a better way to do business

July 1, 2000

4 Min Read
MicroTask Inc.Creating a better way to do business

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MicroTask Inc.

Creating a better way to do business

By Barry Morris

Virtually any industry, including self-storage, has its benefits and pitfalls. Butrather than simply taking the bad with the good, Christopher Capozzoli thought it would bebetter to take the bad and make it better.

Capozzoli, a Boston-area real-estate developer, opened his first self-storage facility12 years ago. After a few years in the business, he concluded that many self-storagesoftware products available at the time left something to be desired. The only way tochange that, he concluded, was to create a product that would fill the void. This was thegenesis of MicroTask Inc. "Being in the industry and seeing what was out there, Itook it upon myself to start this company to try to bring better technology to theindustry," he says.

Burlington, Mass.-based MicroTask was founded in 1996, and its principals--Capozzoli,the company president; Stephen Davis, vice president of sales and marketing; and ChadNale, vice president of engineering--collectively have more than 20 years' experience inthe self-storage industry. Additionally, the company's engineering team has more than 50years of experience in the development of Windows- and Internet-based applications.

MicroTask's newest solution for the industry is referred to as SOMS (Self-StorageOnline Management System), a completely Web-based facility-management application."With our new software there will be a centralized database at our facility, set upas an ASP (application service provider), and each facility will run its software over theInternet," Davis says. "This way they have a centralized database, so now anational operator or multi-facility operator can get detailed, up-to-the-minuteinformation on any particular facility or group of facilities, regional or national, fromany computer with Internet access."

Focusing on the Internet

Even with today's strong product offerings, the single-facility software needs of themulti-facility operator often go unmet. This is causing a change in MicroTask's dynamicfrom that of a software-package producer to, as Davis calls it, a "Web-centeredcompany." "Single-facility-based software really wasn't conducive to runningmultiple facilities," says Davis. "Each facility was an independent island, andthere was no integrated database. Even the major vendors have had a hard time figuring outhow to consolidate information from all their facilities."

While SOMS seems to be what large multi-facility operators have long dreamed about,Davis says that even small-facility operators can benefit in several ways. "One, they(often) have a problem with software and upgrades. With us, they don't have to worry aboutinstalling software, upgrade problems or ever paying for upgrades," Davis says."As soon as they sign on to the system through a standard Internet browser, they havethe latest version of the software--the installation issues go away. Tech support becomesmuch easier because the technician has the capability of seeing exactly what the user isdoing, almost as if looking over the user's shoulder. Also, most facilities neveradequately back up their data, so if something goes wrong, their data may be old. With us,it's backed up automatically at various times during the day."

Testing of SOMS was to begin in late May or early June, according to Davis. Oncetesting is complete and SOMS is introduced to the industry, the company will discontinueits Stor-Rite™ software package. Also contributing to MicroTask's new Web-centricapproach is eSTORIT.com, the company's self-storage industry portal. The site has anactive search engine listing more than 30,000 facilities in the United States, and offersthe capability to rent units from any listed facility directly via the Internet.

Similar search engines now on the Web don't level the playing field between small- andmid-size storage operations and their larger competitors, Davis says. "To getinformation on a particular locality, you've got to go four or five pages deep into somesites, and on each page you see banners from the national competitors. The feeling for theindependents was that 'people are going to click on one of those banners well before theyever get to see our listing.'"

Capozzoli currently operates two self-storage facilities in Massachusetts and plans toopen three others elsewhere in the Eastern United States--including one in Florida--withinthe next 12 months. These properties provide a natural proving ground for MicroTask'sproducts. "We test a lot of our ideas (in Chris's facilities) before we even approachanybody," notes Davis. "For instance, we were testing confirmed reservations andrentals online for at least four or five months with Chris's properties before weimplemented it in eSTORIT.com, with great success."

Capozzoli's continual goal with MicroTask has been to be a mover and shaker, venturinginto areas others may be hesitant to enter. "We bring a unique flavor to theindustry," he says. "We know where technology is going, where things are moving,and we can make those technological decisions as to what fits best with this industry.

"Outside this industry, everyone's talking 'B2B' (business to business). We'retrying to bring a business-to-business model into this industry through the web. By doingthat, I think we're not only opening up a great opportunity in this industry, but alsobringing a great peace of mind."

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