17/07/2017 - 13:06

Putting community back into idle spaces

17/07/2017 - 13:06


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An online startup is bringing the sharing economy to residential and commercial property. 

Putting community back into idle spaces
Daniel McCullen (left), Daniel Franco and Jeremy Hurst are set on helping to increase the sustainability of Perth property by activating unused space, like the function facilities at Gloucester Park. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Like a lot of new fathers, SpacetoCo co-founder Jeremy Hurst said he spent many sleepless nights wondering how he was going to contribute to making the world a better place for his children.

Mr Hurst believes he is on his way to achieving this goal, and is certainly sleeping more soundly now, following the launch of SpacetoCo, a website designed to make it easier to rent or list unused space.

SpacetoCo was established in March, with the concept an application of the sharing economy, like that of the highly successful Uber or Airbnb, to help boost sustainability by activating underutilised spaces in the property market.

There are more than 100 spaces for hire listed on SpacetoCo, ranging from meeting rooms, boardrooms or learning spaces, to sporting facilities, health and wellness spaces, yoga studios, or even parks, courtyards and backyards.

The idea of sharing space has been around for a while in Perth, however, it has largely been restricted to the commercial side of the property market.

Examples in Perth include co-working facilities Spacecubed, Atomic Sky and Flux, but Mr Hurst said SpacetoCo was seeking to open up a wider range of unused facilities.

“We’re not another co-working hub, because we’re not just about work and business,” Mr Hurst told Business News.

“That’s what really excites us.

“This idea that if you want to try your hand at being a yoga teacher but you don’t want to commit to 12 months’ rent somewhere, maybe you can rent a studio when it has downtime and dip your toe in without having that element of risk.

“So whether it is a boardroom or a yoga studio or a shed with a particular kind of equipment, or even an electric car charging space – that’s what we do.

“You might not own a studio, office or tennis court, but now you can use those resources on demand.”

Mr Hurst said the lightbulb moment came through his previous job in the education sector, where his role involved finding function venues that were not only affordable, but were suitable for professional development courses for teachers.

“Running teacher PD at schools doesn’t always suit, because there are students around,” Mr Hurst said.

“I also had a newborn on the way and we’d been doing a lot of strategic planning with schools, around how to create a world that is going to be good for our kids living and working through the 2020s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.

“In looking at the problems we were trying to solve and looking at how we can make the world a better place through sustainability, we started to look at how to share space more efficiently and it all expanded from there.”

Co-founder Daniel Franco said collaborating with schools to open up unused spaces for wider use would be a key plank of SpacetoCo’s business.

“We’ve walked into some amazing facilities that sit idle from 3pm or 4pm every day or on weekends and on school holidays,” Mr Franco said.

“Schools are strategically located in the heart of communities, and the average new high school is a $100 million build, so why not share it with the community?

“Every single school strategic planning engagement that we did, at every single one, one of their key outcomes was greater community engagement.”

The third co-founder of SpacetoCo, Daniel McCullen, said the trio had done a lot of surveying prior to building the website, to determine what sort of spaces were needed, as well as what sort of spaces they could help make available to the wider community.

“We’ve been really excited about the number of people who have been prepared to put spaces up,” Mr McCullen said.

“We’re focused primarily on commercial spaces at the moment. Once we have filled the site from north to south and sufficiently hit our targets for numbers of spaces listed all around Perth, we’ll push into the other side of the marketplace and say to people looking for space ‘here we are’.”

Mr McCullen said other than providing a short-term return for a space that was otherwise unused, SpacetoCo also had the potential to provide pathways for more long-term deals.

“It’s a clever way to guerrilla market the space that you have which would otherwise sit idle,” he said.

“At the end of the day, you don’t need to formalise any arrangements as the website handles the administration side of everything for you, but what it gives people is an opportunity to fill their space for short periods of time, and to generate the excitement and interest that happens from filling your real estate’s space.

“You don’t have to crystallise a long-term lease, but what can happen is that you are able to get people through the space, potential long-term customers who may end up realising that the space is exactly what they are looking for, and convert a short-term activation into an ongoing relationship.”



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