How a nomad lifestyle inspired me to build a new startup — Cubbo

Brian York
5 min readJan 23, 2021


Post pandemic, this will become the new office space for many people

When I was 17, I moved out of my mother’s house on the south shore of Massachusetts to go to college. Since then, I haven’t lived under any roof for more than a year.

I’m constantly moving because I enjoy exploring, and I like the challenges that come with always being on the move.

Since relocating to Colombia in 2017, I’ve become even worse — I’ve been living in Airbnb’s for ~1 month while (pre-pandemic) frequently changing countries as well.

While I am probably in the <0.1% of the population that lives this way, I believe that, over time, there will be a massive shift in other people adopting this lifestyle as well.

Having been an entrepreneur for most of my career, my big ideas around the nomad movement have been:

  1. City space will be transformed. Traditional office space will die and people will start moving out of the city to live in rural areas and travel more frequently. As a result, these same city spaces (office, strip malls, parking lots) will be turned into spaces suited for new industries.
  2. I believe some day people will travel without luggage. You’ll be able to get on a plane from Bogotá to São Paulo with no luggage, and all the things you need (from your shoes, to a baby crib) will be waiting for you at each destination. This will be made possible by a combination of a sharing economy for large-ticket items like a car or a bed, and a monthly subscription service for stuff like toiletries and clothes.
  3. Self-storage will be disrupted. People will significantly downsize, but will want to hold on to items that have sentimental value and will expect to be able to access and manage their stuff through technology. Additionally, people will want an easy way to sell, rent, or donate their belongings that are sitting idle in the storage facilities.


I spent most of 2020 in Bogotá, Colombia, following the city’s strict 24/7 quarantine rules. From mid-March to July, it was barely possible to leave the apartment I was living in. However, sitting on the balcony, I had a front row seat to see the city, which has a population of 11 million people, change in front of my eyes.

I witnessed the WeWork building across the street shutting down, handfuls of For Rent signs hanging up across the apartment landscape, and strip malls being deserted.

When the quarantine was lifted in September, many of my friends started to move out of the city. My family did the same — moving two hours’ drive outside of Bogotá, into a small town with a population of only 2,000 people.

The pandemic fast-forwarded many new movements — remote working, rural living, and nomad living. City space is forever changed, and so are the opportunities.

Starting the new business

I’ve been interested in creating a tech startup in self-storage for a long time. Today, I have my items in multiple self-storage facilities across the U.S., and I pay about $500 a month. It’s frustrating. I have a strong sentimental attachment to these things but no logistically sound way to manage my items.

The combination of my self-storage frustration with the flood of distressed real estate assets in city sparked my idea for a startup: a 5-star-hotel for people’s items! I wanted to create a door-to-door valet self-storage technology solution and to build mini-storage warehouses throughout Bogotá.

The original front page of Cubbo’s business plan — a picture of Bogotá from my apartment with a Cubbo urban warehouse.

In December 2020, I developed a simple website to receive orders (still alive today at, but no longer taking new customers), launched a Facebook ad, and launched self-storage services in Bogotá. As I was still in the testing phase of this new business idea, I kept the storage part simple — I partnered with local storage facilities.

Never keep your idea secret

When I start a new business, I always like launching as quickly as I can and talking to as many people (potential customers, competition, investors) as possible.

Initial ideas never stay the same. Typically, you change the niche you want to focus on, and often the direction of the company, multiple times, especially in the first year.

Gaining insights from the key stakeholders leads to strategic business adjustments, and all of this value gets lost if you try to be stealthy with your idea.

I learned some valuable lessons from doing self-storage services for the month of December in Bogotá. I learned that the value of a customer lies in converting them into a long-term customer, after you’ve developed a brand and have heavily invested in the real estate infrastructure, but in the beginning the unit economics are turbulent and not that encouraging.

There was a strong demand for these small warehouses in the city from small to large businesses who wanted to handle their booming e-commerce sales more efficiently at a time sales in their brick-and-mortar outlets were decreasing.

Not only was I hearing this firsthand from businesses, but the self-storage facilities that I partnered with also confirmed that their B2B customers now account for up to 35 percent of their monthly sales, compared to 4 percent three years ago.

In fact, when I mentioned to these facilities that I was thinking of just focusing on B2B e-commerce sales and not pursuing the B2C self-storage angle, the owners and member of the boards of directors of these self-storage companies started to angel invest in the pre-seed financing round I had open because they were so bullish on the space.

Today, Cubbo focuses on repurposing distressed real estate assets (e.g., unused brick-and-mortar outlets or abandoned strip malls) and turning them into spaces suited for new industries, such as micro-fulfillment (dark store) spaces for online retail. We’re operating in Bogotá and Mexico City.

Endless Opportunity

Today is an amazing time to be an entrepreneur, especially if you’re focused on Latin America.

I spent over 10 years building startups in San Francisco, and while that experience was positive and fundamental to where I am today, there’s just something magical about innovating in this region.

Many markets remain untouched, and you can find a ton of niches, apply technology, and efficiently scale a business.

The pandemic has opened up opportunities and many traditional markets (real estate, retail) are forever changed.

While I still think we’re 10+ years away from traveling without luggage, right now is the time to be part of the transformation of city space.



Brian York