Web-based startup Splacer began with a simple idea. Urban areas are loaded with unique, attractive spaces that are both expensive to own and very often, underutilized.
The solution offered by Israeli architect-entrepreneurs Lihi Gerstner and Adi Biran is a new Internet marketplace that enables owners of these spaces to connect with event planners for short-term rentals.
The “Airbnb of Event Spaces”
Splacer is less than two years old, but it has already grown from its Tel Aviv roots to include about 500 spaces in the New York metropolitan area and another 200-plus spaces in and near Los Angeles and San Francisco. Splacer’s Miami marketplace is scheduled to open for business on Thursday Feb. 16, 2017.
Splacer aims to become the Airbnb for event spaces, though there are important distinctions. Splacer’s focus is on space rentals for several hours at a time as opposed to the days or weeks of a typical vacationing Airbnb client.
While the focus for Airbnb is exclusively residential space, Splacer’s unique approach provides small business owners with low-hassle opportunity to defray the cost of expensive real estate, said Gerstner, the chief marketing officer for Splacer.
“A restaurant or a bar can rent out space during the day and during the night they can have it for their own use,” she said. “A gallery can rent out space in the evenings while they work during the day.
“On the side of the event organizer, everybody is always looking for unique spaces. Everybody is looking for spaces that no one knows or hasn’t seen.”
A quick search of the New York listings reveals an assortment of lofts, empty warehouses, art galleries, taverns, a geodesic dome in upstate New York and a former mechanic’s garage in the West Village.
Asked to name her favorite listings, she immediately named a small midtown Manhattan apartment where Andy Warhol had his first art gallery. Very often, the story tied to the space is part of its appeal, Gerstner said.
“It could be an abandoned church or factory,” she said. “The spaces really, really vary. I think that’s what’s exciting about a platform like Splacer, that it’s not only residential spaces and it’s not only commercial spaces.”
Similarly, the cost of leasing spaces also varies, from as little as $40 or $50 an hour to as much as $5,000 an hour, Gerstner said. Much of this is dependent on the space and what kind of event the organizer is planning.
“You can compare it to any other sharing economy platform that the supplier fixes their price and the demand will decide who buys or not,” Gerstner said.
The platform has become a destination for production companies or photographers who are looking to shoot subjects in a specific type of environment — say exposed brick walls or a Parisian-style apartment. Splacer’s platform is searchable to allow clients to look for specific features and amenities that they want.
The platform is also ideal for small business owners who are looking to host clients for special events, meetings, exhibitions or a “pop-up,” Gerstner said.
Space owners can also limit how their spaces are used, for example, limiting clientele to other businesses so that events like weddings or baby showers are excluded, if they so desire.
Splacer has all the tools space owners and would-be leasers need to get in touch with their counterparts, get quotes, book an event date and even get paid. All of the tools on the platform are free to use, though Splacer does get a commission if an event is booked, Gerstner said.
The idea for Splacer began while Gerstner and Biran were teaching architecture students in Tel Aviv. They asked them to take stock of how they spent their day. The realization set in how much space in the urban environment goes unused during the course of a day.
Splacer is looking to expand to other American cities this year after its Miami marketplace opens this week. Gerstner said she and her partners are working on building their space inventory.
“We’re planning to expand in various markets, but we’re concentrating this year on the United States,” Gerstner said. “We believe that a platform such as Splacer could work anywhere in the world.”