Splacer in the Media: URBAN ACTIVISM AND THE POWER OF SPACE
We recently had the pleasure of being featured in EventTechBrief, in an insightful post by Michelle Bruno, reflecting central issues to our practice, such as sharing economy, experiential spaces and social responsibility. We are super delighted to share it with you:
Many software developers are in it for the money. They lie awake nights thinking about how to capture the attention of venture capitalists and become instant billionaires. There are a few, however, who are bound by an ideology or a yearning to serve a higher purpose. One such software startup has found itself crossing paths with event planners and it’s a really beautiful idea.
The Big Squeeze
Lihi Gerstner and Adi Biran have been colleagues and friends for more than 17 years. As trained architects and teachers who have educated students and documented the trajectory of urban planning and the utilization of space, they began to see an emerging problem. The cost to live in an urban area—especially for artists and young professionals—was becoming untenable.
They also began to see a solution. While witnessing “people living in smaller spaces and cities becoming more dense and expensive,” they noticed that there was a demand from companies and other professionals for the temporary use of atypical spaces. Gerstner, for example, worked as an art director for a fashion designer. Four times a year she was tasked with finding a unique place in which her firm could entertain the press and publicists as they launched their new line of clothing.
So, rather than just talk about space, Gerstner and Biran decided to act. They launched Splacer, a software platform to make extraordinary spaces—rooftops, garages, or private libraries, for instance—available to event planners, companies, photographers, moviemakers and others. In doing so, they scratched their own passionate itch. “Splacer represents an ideology, a political issue, an economics issue, and it’s a way of dreaming about the future of space,” Biran explains.
Proof of Concept
The peer-to-peer or sharing economy helped the team (Lior Ash, Chief Technology Officer, joined Gerstner and Biran as a cofounder this year) validate their concept. “Airbnb demonstrated without a doubt that people are willing to share their intimate spaces with strangers,” Gerstner says. Splacer takes the concept of space sharing a step further. “You don’t have to leave for two weeks in order to make use of your space. You can do it for two hours a day, two times a week, or as much as you want,” she adds.
The so-called “experiential” economy has helped Splacer grow its user base. “[Event planners] want the unknown, the new and interesting places. They are constantly in search of ways to create an experience for their clients,” Biran says. For that reason, the two have gone after the unusual: a distillery, rooftop farm, vacant church, geodesic dome, and a dining room located on a Kibbutz, for starters.
A Sampling of Unusual Spaces
Rather than displace traditional event space inventory—restaurants and hotel meeting rooms—the founders of Splacer believe they’re delivering options that never existed before. “You can invite your company to a private space instead of a loud dinner at a restaurant. Splacer works for a Thanksgiving toast, public relations event, product launch, pop-up store, temporary exhibit, or a dinner with chefs,” they say.
The Anatomy of Splacer
There are, of course, additional considerations for an owner willing to offer her space to a group (live music or drinking alcohol, for example) as opposed to someone renting out his apartment as a sleeping room. Splacer gives property owners the ability to restrict certain activities and filters properties out of searches based on those restrictions. “We provide tools so that space owners can become entrepreneurs. They can define what they want to do with their space and who the users are,” Biran says.
Listing a space on Splacer begins with the click of a button. To be considered, space owners (or anyone that is allowed to use a space) submit photos and complete a questionnaire. If the space is a good fit, the company will send a photographer to take professional photos. “We believe you buy with your eyes. With beautiful photos, clients will book a space online without having to see the space in person,” Gerstner explains.
For those looking to rent, a search tool on the Splacer website delivers results based on specific criteria such as the city, number of guests, budget, and activity. Clients can contact the owner directly or reserve the space online. The platform calculates the rental fee and manages the payment—a percentage of which is paid to Splacer. Splacer also contains a directory of caterers, musicians, and other event professionals as part of its community of “friends.”
Tools of Change
Gerstner and Biran are learning as they go. Not only have they quickly grown their portfolio of spaces and customers (the company currently lists spaces in Tel Aviv and New York City), they have expanded their own understanding about the power of space as well. Their solution is, in fact, helping to address the high cost of urban dwelling by leveraging underutilized space in creative ways. In addition, hosts are exposed to new opportunities and people, and guests are inspired to think differently through their surroundings.
Despite their new roles as software developers, Gerstner and Biran still think and act like architects and activists. Rather than using the traditional implements of academia, they’ve harnessed technology and the concept of peer-to-peer sharing to advance their research and their cause. “We’re simply planning with different tools,” they say. Becoming billionaires isn’t on their radar yet.
See the original post right here.