“We envision a world where beautiful spaces never go to waste,” says Lihi Gerstner, cofounder of Splacer.
Splacer is an online marketplace where owners of “beautiful spaces” can be matched with people seeking out-of-the-box venues for meetings, workshops, photo and movie shoots, parties, lectures, launches, pop-up stores, exhibits or other events.
Following a pilot in Tel Aviv that proved the popularity and feasibility of renting out unusual residential and commercial spaces for events, Splacer had its official kickoff in March. By December, there were 236 listed spaces in New York and another 100 in Israel, with many more to be posted soon.
Users pay nothing to list or search for “Splaces” through the online platform. Splacer takes a 15% commission on every booking. The site also offers courtesy links to event-production services and equipment rentals.
“Mainly we’re targeting companies that become return customers for meetups and parties,” says Gerstner. “Etsy, for example, has 20 divisions, and each goes out twice a month for an offsite. They have been an interesting partner to work with.”
Some of the other regular users of Splacer are WeWork, Facebook, Outbrain, Fiverr, Wix and the pop-up supper club Dinner Lab. “We can provide the variety that people are looking for,” says Gerstner.
Here are some examples of Splaces available:
• A 12-acre working fiber farm/retreat/recording studio in upstate New York with a 30-foot geodesic dome, pond and covered outdoor dining area ($155 per hour)
• A mirrored 3,000-square-foot dance studio in Manhattan ($46 per hour)
• A Chinatown artist’s loft with performance stage ($87 per hour)
• A distillery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn ($170 per hour)
• A Jaffa villa with professional kitchen, patios and sea views ($255 per hour)
• A Tel Aviv rooftop on trendy Montefiore Street ($150 per hour)
Spaces nobody saw before
Gerstner says that Splacer is to event planners what Airbnb is to tourists. While there are online marketplaces for commercial event spaces (similar to booking.com for hotels), Splacer helps you find unusual, off-the-beaten-track venues such as rooftops, galleries, churches, garages and private homes.
Owners who live onsite can choose to make the venue available when they’re not home anyway, say during working hours. Gerstner sees it as a way of getting added value out of empty space and time.
Gerstner and cofounder Adi Biran, both Israeli natives, are US-trained architects who exhibited at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010.
While practicing and teaching their trade, they started researching the concept of urban kibbutz and the blurring of lines between residential and commercial spaces in which people live, work, exhibit, perform and entertain. These spaces are often vacant for hours each week.
At the same time, they saw that creative directors for fashion, art and film are always looking for unusual locations for shoots, fashion shows and press conferences.
“All of this research led to Splacer,” she says. “We thought, instead of researching and teaching it, why don’t we do it? There is a need. Everyone wants a new space nobody saw before.”
Jumping in with both feet and bootstrapped funds, the women quit their jobs and entered the Junction startup accelerator in Tel Aviv in the summer of 2014. Software engineer Lior Ash, previously COO of Mysupermarket.co.uk, joined the founding team.
Once they had a proof of concept from a local pilot, they completed a $1.4 million round of seed funding led by Carmel Ventures. Additional angel investors include Shlomo Kramer, one of the original cofounders of Check Point Software; Eyal Shaked of the online gambling corporation 888; Ronit and Ofer Druker, cofounders of the Matomy Media Group; and Sam Ben Avraham, CEO of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs in New York and Las Vegas. In addition, Splacer won a $250,000 Qualcomm QPrize last August.
The company is registered in Delaware and has offices in Tel Aviv and Manhattan. In 2016, the company plans to expand to two or three additional US cities.
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