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Is There Room in the Sharing Economy for Splacer, a Creative Space Rental Service?

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If you feel like you're working harder these days, you're not alone; in this economy, even some of our homes, apartments and offices are doing double-duty thanks to the proliferation of room-sharing sites such as Airbnb. Splacer, a startup founded last year in Tel Aviv that had its soft launch in New York a few months ago, has jumped into the sharing economy with a slightly different pitch. The online service offers a curated list of creative spaces for rent, providing a less expensive option for events, offsite meetings and photo shoots. Now boasting 160 spaces in New York and a new version of the site set to launch in weeks, Splacer is primed to exploit this niche in the rental market, according to one of its co-founders, especially after becoming the beneficiary of a $1.4 million round of funding earlier this year.

"If you share your home, why wouldn't you share your workspace?" says CEO Adi Biran. "We looked around and couldn't believe nobody else was doing it."

Splacer video from VeedMe on Vimeo.

Biran founded the firm last year with Lihi Gerstner, a fellow architect and Columbia University grad from Israel (they've since added Chief Technology Officer Lior Ash as another co-founder). Splacer grew out of Biran and Gerstner's work and research, which examined the under-utilization of space in dense urban areas, as well as the Israeli concept of a kibbutz, a type of communal settlement. After launching with a few dozen properties in Tel Aviv last fall, Splacer won the national Qualcomm QPrize last spring before expanding and setting up shop in New York.

Biran says Splacer's pitch to owners is simple: add a revenue stream by utilizing space that normally sits vacant. The service even sends in a professional photographer to take photos of the site, and only asks for a 15 percent commission whenever its rented. While other sharing economy startups such as Breather, which works with commercial properties, operate a somewhat similar network of spaces for rent, Splacer hopes their strategy of drawing from a wider range of owners and buildings, while curating what's included on the site, helps them offer a unique range of options for entrepreneurs, their target market.

"Breather is a great service but it's different," says Biran. "They're like WeWork, they own the space and rent it out. We don't own or create new spaces."

Splacer bills itself, in part, as a partner in creating special events, but it can also help with the everyday needs of creatives. Filmmaker Lihu Roter recently used Splacer when he was struggling to book space for a commercial photo shoot. Owner of the Particle3 production company and a co-executive producer of Bob Dylan's interactive "Like a Rolling Stone Video," Roter was searching for a space for social media shoot for Coke and 7-Eleven, but a small budget meant he was priced out of most filming sites in New York.

"I was looking for a space for two days that was big, since I needed to use four sets, and had a brick wall and a big window," he says. "That's a lot of specifics. The only thing I could find within budget was in Jersey and didn't have AC."

Roher says that New York is an endless resource of locations, but most are established. A limited budget means many doors are closed. Roher spent weeks scouting himself and couldn't' find anything, and decided to try Splacer after seeing an article in TechCrunch. He initially wasn't too hopeful, but the company quickly connected him with The Green Building, a wedding venue in Brooklyn, and he was able to finish on budget.

Roher says that the service was helpful, and that it can open up more possibilities for creatives looking for space. These spaces may eventually charge the same marker rates as everyone else, he says, but at this point, it may be adding more spaces and lowering costs for others like himself.

Biran says that Splacer is working to expand their footprint for the re-launch; she says many spaces are being processed to add to the site. She's focusing on refining the business model and supply and demand, adding more venues for users. Right now, it's all about finding more room.

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