The share economy - any time any space

Published on 13 June 2019

In a West Perth cafe over coffee and juice, SpacetoCo’s founders Jeremy Hurst and Daniel McCullen explain that the clue to what they do lies in their last syllable “Co” – that’s community, connection, co-creation, collaboration and coming together.

It’s about doing business differently and efficiently through a sharing economy platform, using technology to connect community with available spaces, for short term hire.

It might be for a yoga class. It might be for a pop-up shop. It could be a venue for a workshop or presentation, it could be a birthday party, a wedding celebration, an anniversary, or a martial arts class – the list goes on.

SpacetoCo not only provides space on demand, Airbnb style, they handle all the fine details to book or host a space.

It is this ability to be flexible that explains SpacetoCo’s exponential growth and why they now have 500 venues on offer. SpacetoCo has arrived, and they are not only growing across WA, they are crossing the nation’s borders.

The brainchild of Jeremy, the business launched in mid-2017 and last year when its three co-founders, including Daniel Franco, dived into Channel Ten’s Shark Tank, they came out holding a deal with investor Steve Baxter – on their terms. Not a bad effort for a trio of Gen X-ers, who 24 months ago were still mulling over ideas for their online company.

Getting local councils on board was crucial in attracting the Shark’s attention and tapping into an important market, says Daniel McCullen, originally from Detroit. The City of Swan is one of 10 councils who agree SpacetoCo have something very valuable to offer.

“Councils are the heart of our community and have a lot of available space. Generally though, the process for making that space available to hire has often been a difficult one, with forms to fill in, phone calls to make to various departments and so on. Swan has been a key pivot for our business, we were able to offer them an opportunity to cut some of the red tape to help free up their spaces and it’s working very well."

Council’s contribution in the community space-sharing market is gathering speed. Next on the list are schools. On a rough calculation, says Jeremy, local schools stand idle for a third of the year.

“Schools are used 40 weeks a year from 8am to 4pm. From 4pm onwards there’s a window for useful booking time. It’s when businesses or community could be hiring theatres, ovals, swimming pools, classrooms, art rooms, gymnasiums . . . there’s an opportunity to work with schools and have those underused spaces used by the community.”

The ‘perfect storm’ of conditions, says Daniel, is now with us for business and life to be conducted more fluidly via technology. Jeremy agrees. Technology, he says, has been disrupting the workplace since the nineties but it is only now that its ability to transform how people operate in life and work is being fully realised. It’s a type of organic liberation, the former teacher explains - of people and places.

“When the Net became more mainstream, businesses recognised the potential but they kept on doing business as usual. Newspapers and publishing are good examples of this. But as time has gone on, technology has made business increasingly mobile.

People can start doing work from anywhere: all they need is an internet connection and a device and (he snaps his fingers) you’re away, you’ve got a start-up. You can begin a business in a day. You can register your ABN, register your domain name and you can put together a free website, jump on social media and put together a free advertising campaign and in less than a day, you can launch a business. You could not do that 10 years ago.”

“We are very interested in local area economies,” says Daniel, “and by that we mean rather than businesses relying on Google adverts to promote their function or activity, we enable small business operators like cafe owners to have meet ups in their cafes outside of business hours. Hiring out a spare back room in a cafe wouldn’t previously have been worth the owner putting advertising dollars into it, but SpacetoCo makes that viable."

Jeremy recognises there may be other platforms offering space hire, but none deliver SpacetoCo’s product. The distinct point of difference in their business model is that they deal in community.

“Other platforms typically focus on work spaces, we focus on community spaces. That’s a distinction right there. The other point is, we are very short term. Other rental sites and platforms want to tie people up in long-term rental agreements. We are not interested in that. We want to democratise that.

An example is SpacetoCo’s move to join forces with SofarSounds, an organisation that operates in 350 cities around the world holding secret venue pop-up music gigs. Another example is SpacetoCo and the City of Perth working in collaboration to create the Let’s Thursday Like We Friday campaign, designed to promote and support live musical performances held in unique and underutilised venues.

Jeremy is scribbling a diagram of a wheel on the cafe table and his drawing shows spokes becoming intricately connected to form not a wheel, but a web. That’s SpacetoCo, he says smiling. The web being spun, he says, is totally organic – it’s growing naturally. And there’s no communal down side to what they do. No harm no foul, to people or place.

“We see wonderful connections happening on our platform. We see conversations between guests and hosts who start meeting socially. We have enabled that. That’s really cool.”