Given Airbnb is one of the world’s biggest and best-known examples of a sharing economy platform, the idea of a marketplace connecting those with extra space to those who need it isn’t exactly revolutionary.
However, despite the wealth of offerings available, Australian startup Spacenow felt there was still room – forgive the pun – to improve.
Founded by Baydr Strik, Barrett Ovens, Nick Leary, and Daniel Gunning, Spacenow is a marketplace looking to quickly connect those who need it with unused space for short-term rentals.
Where it believes it differs from the likes of Spacely, for example, which connects users to short-term office rentals, is that it is offering a variety of spaces, from retail spaces to home offices, storage spaces, event spaces, studios, car parks, meeting rooms, and more.
As Gunning explained, each of the four cofounders had experienced the “rejection, difficulties, high risks, and high costs” that go along with being a startup or early-stage business trying to find and sign a lease for their first workspace.
In particular, Strik, an accountant, and Gunning, a commercial real estate agent, kept seeing this happen to people.
“Running my commercial real estate business, I had people coming to me and asking if I have any short term space they could rent. The answer was always ‘no’. The spaces I had available required a commitment of a three, five or ten year lease, in most cases. It was a landlord’s market, and it was leaving small businesses out of pocket or at risk,” Gunning explained.
“We never understood why things were made so hard for people to rent a space short term which was either vacant or being unused, as it was just sitting, costing someone money to be unused. So many businesses looking to grow were held back due to the costly, long term lease agreements.”
As the sharing economy grew, the founders decided to pursue the opportunity in the short term office space market.
The process, Gunning said, has been “life-defining”;.
“I liken the process and challenges to that of an athlete; as you keep trying to get better and faster, it doesn’t get easier, but your threshold to training at higher intensity increases as you keep hitting new milestones. The challenges never stop,” he explained.
Beyond building out the team to take the idea from whiteboard to reality, Gunning said one of the biggest challenges he faced was simply dealing with the time it takes to bring an idea to life.
“It was a huge learning curve to develop the patience to make sure you get your product right. This also meant knowing when to pivot if you have to,” he said.
With the startup raising $1.5 million in funding from high net worth individuals and family offices, Gunning said the team has also been carefully considering their responsibility to deliver and make the best decisions with the money that has been invested.
“This entails developing trust with your product, being able to develop strategic partnerships with businesses that have the skills and intel you need by also showing them you can add value to their business,” Gunning said.
The startup is targeting a broad user base on both sides of the market, offering a range of different types of spaces.
Gunning said, “The reality is that there isn’t a specific ‘target market’ for Spacenow, rather it’s any business or any individual that’s sitting with underutilised space and looking to create new revenue streams, or it’s a business or individual looking for a space.”
Gunning believes the road would have been “far easier” for the business if it had focused on just one or two categories of spaces – but that’s not why Spacenow was born.
“We have a strong belief that if people can get access to more diverse spaces, this will inspire ideas, and this will create better social, financial, and environmental sustainability for us all.”
With 1,500 spaces already listed, the startup aims to have 5,000 listings on the platform by the end of the year.
While it has a focus on Australia and New Zealand, it has partnered with Dubai’s SEED Group to help visitors at the Expo 2020 in Dubai find space.
Image: the Spacenow team. Source: Supplied.