Feb 25 2014, 5:41pm CST | by Forbes
Thanks to the sharing economy, you can easily rent out your car, your apartment, your bike, even your wifi network when you don’t need it. So why can’t you rent out your office?
The creators of a new service called PeerSpace think you should be able to. Launching today, PeerSpace is a peer-to-peer marketplace for “productive spaces” — ie. offices, studios, restaurants, theaters and so on. Its founders, Rony Chammas and Matt Bendett, hope it can be the B2B equivalent of Airbnb — and believe it might even be a palliative for the real estate crunch that the tech boom has inflicted on San Francisco, where they’re based.
CEO Rony Chammas says the seeds of the idea came to him when he was a student at NYU’s Stern School of Business trying to find meeting places for the various groups and clubs he helped organize. “At the same time, I would walk around the city and notice how much open and underutilized space there was,” he says. ”Eventually, it turned into a lot of thinking about the sharing economy and how property is sitting underutilized a majority of the the time.”
Right now — or before today, anyway — a freelance caterer in need of a commercial kitchen (for instance) doesn’t have an easy way of finding one. Meanwhile, a restaurant that only serves breakfast and lunch is only bringing in revenues perhaps 10 hours a day.
The mutually-beneficial space-sharing arrangements that happen now usually come about through word of mouth or Craigslist, neither of which is very efficient, says Bendett. ”There’s not an easy marketplace that allows the two parties to meet,” says Chammas.
PeerSpace is launching around six such marketplaces: for culinary, office, fitness, studio, performance, event and class spaces. The app uses login through LinkedIn or Facebook to allow the parties to vet each other. PeerSpace, which for now is backed by $500,000 in seed money from private investors, charges the host a service fee and also takes a transaction fee from the guest to cover the cost of credit card transactions.
While Airbnb has encountered a certain amount of legal trouble — particularly in New York, where the attorney general accuses the company of helping its users operate illegal hotels — the PeerSpace guys say they don’t expect to meet similar complications. “Most of our spaces are owned by the hosts,” says Chammas. “They have the right to use their space for a designated function. We don’t really see that becoming an issue.”
What they do see is the potential to help small business owners find a way to cope with the rising cost of doing business in cities like San Francisco and New York, where the massive wealth being generated by the tech and financial industries is transforming the real estate landscape in a way that makes it hard for anyone not participating in those economies to keep up.
“You see the rent situation in the Bay Area, not just in housing but also in commercial spaces,” says Bendett. “A lot of these amazing, unique, one-of-a-kind businesses are being forced out. We want everyone to be able to take part.”
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