Spare Workspace puts empty meeting rooms to work

By Cole Wilkinson - January 17, 2019

It was a late cup of coffee that helped Jake Dimarco, an outdoor fitness owner, identify an idea that would become his next business. Already frustrated by the frequency with which wet weather put training sessions on hold, Dimarco was sitting in a café when inspiration struck.

“I was having coffee one afternoon when the owner of the café came past and told us they were closing at 3pm,” he says.

“I got to thinking — what if the café could rent out the space it wasn’t using between 3pm and 6pm when it opened again?”

The Airbnb of Meeting Rooms

It was the inspiration for Spare Workspace, which Dimarco describes as ‘an Airbnb for meeting rooms’, which allows people with an unused workspace to advertise it for hire. Users can then search the platform to discover and book workspaces of different sizes to fulfil different needs.

Dimarco says that as he explored the opportunity, he could see it taking off in major cities, where the office market was expensive and relied on locking customers into standard rental lease arrangements.

“I kept seeing businesses all over with wasted space and I just kept thinking there should be a platform to rent out that space when it was not being used,” Dimarco says.

“We now make it so that people can discover and book workspace to rent by the hour or by the day.”

The marketplace

The platform has seen its largest growth in short-term demand for meeting rooms, with the market driven by small to medium businesses who either need some extra room or who have space that isn’t fully utilised, but which can be rented for a flat rate.

The platform doesn’t charge the host for listing, with the site designed to be quick and simple for users.

“The platform means that any space can theoretically be rented out – meeting rooms, desks, or even a chair or a basin in a hairdressing salon,” Dimarco says.

“If someone has a space to advertise, the listing is free. They just need to have good quality photographs and a detailed description of what is on offer.”

Once a host has this detail up, Spare Workspace does a quality check within 24 hours, while the host can identify and list the space’s availability. All being well, the listing can be live within a day.

“We’ve built the platform so that the availability of meeting rooms can connect and sync with customers’ calendars as well,” he says.

With hot demand for meeting rooms in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, Dimarco says some hosts are happy to bump their own meetings to allow guests in, as it can deliver an additional revenue stream for the business. “We’ve had some amazing success stories,” he says.

“We had a training college in Melbourne that made more than $40,000 last year, a café made more than $5,000 and a creative art studio more than $12,000 just by renting out space they weren’t using.”

At the Guest-end, bookings are made not just by small companies but by big corporates and even government.

“We’ve hosted all of the Big 4 banks, government departments, energy companies, and global retail groups,” he says.

“Using Spare Workspace is evolving as a smarter way to work, both for hosts and guests. Not all technology is disruptive.”

From strength-to-strength

It took more than two years of trials, tests and refinement for Dimarco to launch Spare Workspace, and while in the flexible office market there is some competition from big coworking players like WeWork, there are few other short-term, easy-in, easy-out options available.

“We have a few competitors who operate in similar spaces to us – for example LiquidSpace, who are primarily focussed on the North American market, but our offering is niche, focusing on on-demand workspace by the hour or day,” Dimarco says.

“It’s a cost-effective and efficient way of working.” The lessons from leasing to businesses of all sizes and shapes are also being fed back into design, informing a better understanding of how people work and utilise technology.

“We are looking at how people operate in workspaces – how can we optimise efficiencies and technology?” Dimarco says.

“What is the ultimate temperature, air quality and what technology can we harness or devise to get the best outcomes?”

The next stage for Spare Workspace is to develop partnerships with the global real estate agencies that drive most of the leasing market.

Discussions with estate agents have already proved fruitful and Spare Workspace is looking at a push into Asia, starting with Singapore.

“You would think they would be threatened by this kind of short-term commercial arrangement, but instead, they are aware that the businessas- usual model is going to be disrupted,” he says.

“They want to be a part of it. They like the concept of Spare Workspace and it’s the kind of platform that shows such rapid growth, that these big guys want to be along for the ride and in some cases, partner with us.”

Visit Spare Workspace to find out more.


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