Three startups, WeWork, ParkBee and CitizenM presented their experiences on how to build a new business based on a megatrend, which was followed by an energetic discussion with Lars Thomsen and the audience.
The oldest of the three companies was only 10 years old, while the youngest was only 18 months. Each of the companies have applied a service layer to real estate, and each have used technology and data to optimise the use of space.
Wybo Wijnbergen described how WeWork (8 years old) meets the community, urbanisation and sharing wishes of millennials, while providing the office space flexibility that startups and growing enterprise companies need.
Klaas van Lookeren Campagne outlined CitizenM (10 years old)’s strategy for riding mega trends in the hotel industry. Rather than diversifying their offering, their reaction to the global financial crisis was to focus themselves into key cities and have the discipline to stick to their brand.
Wouter de Bruijne explained how ParkBee (18 months old) solves the urban parking problem by matching drivers with under-utilised privately owned parking spots, declaring that there are in fact enough parking spots available in city centres. Their company is 1/3 developers and programmers, and they are looking into new ways of using parking spaces such as electric charging stations, package pickup, space for uber drivers near airports, bike sharing, big data and providing for the space and service needs of autonomous cars.
On the subject of risk, the audience noted that each of the companies had emerged in response to the global financial crisis, but how were they protecting themselves from the next downturn? They all pointed to the flexible nature of their businesses – in a downturn, companies and people turn to shorter leases and need more flexible uses of space.
They also agreed that brand is a weakness in the real estate industry, and that as an industry it’s very far from its users. All of their businesses took advantage of this gap.