New Startup Splacer Is Like an Airbnb for Event Spaces
You probably don’t own a townhouse in New York City’s West Village. It’s cool, I don’t either. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend like you own it. In a city where quality real estate (read: an apartment bigger than a glorified walk-in closet) is hard to come by, its denizens have developed a taste for voyeuristic experience: We love to look at other people’s spaces. Even more than that, we love to be in them.
Splacer is a new startup out of Tel Aviv that wants to be the “Airbnb of event spaces.” Its pitch is simple and familiar: You can rent a space—be it a West Village townhouse, a financial district loft, a storage space in Chinatown—for hours (not days), and do it with efficiency and ease and no location scout.The flipside of that? You can make money off your space, too, and for less commitment than letting a stranger sleep in your bed.
Architects Adi Biran and Lihi Gertsner started Splacer a few years ago after realizing that so much of the architectural space in urban areas goes unused. At the time, they were both teaching architecture in Tel Aviv, so during an informal exercise, they asked their students to take stock of how they spent their day. “It was 10 hours in school, four hours working and the rest of the night they were sleeping,” says Gertsner. “So we thought why don’t we find a way to utilize these underutilized spaces?”
The truth is, Splacer isn’t a new idea. Startups like Eventup, eVenues, and Venuetastic have all aimed to connect event throwers with venue owners. It falls in line with the WeWork model, which champions the access model of real estate. In theory, this is a great idea! Especially for a city like New York where most people don’t have enough room to host an event or meeting in their own home. If you have extra space and want some extra money, why not rent it out to someone who needs that space? Classic supply and demand. And yet, all of those companies failed to make a huge dent in the marketplace (besides WeWork, of course). Despite travelers embracing other people’s spaces as temporary homes (like Airbnb), it still feels more natural to lean on traditional venues (bars, restaurants, warehouses) for events, and those you can book without the help of a platform.
To help set Splacer apart, the venue supply is vetted and curated by architects. Its demographic is also centered squarely on the “creative set.” Instead of focusing on commercial event venues, Splacer has devoted most of its attention to finding private residences that can be rented out (right now there are more than 180 spaces available in NYC and more than 200 in Tel Aviv, with plans to launch in San Francisco soon). The spaces are all about ambiance and design. By the hour you can rent a multi-story townhouse in Alphabet City for a dinner party, put on a show in a Chelsea gallery, or host a soiree in the garage of a famous fashion designer. “Yes, it’s voyeurism,” says Gertsner. “But now it’s voyeurism you can experience.” Smartly, the website also offers a “friends of Splacer” tab which directs you to musicians, caterers, and artists you can hire if you’re looking for entertainment.
If Airbnb’s aim was to revolutionized travel and lodging, Splacer’s more modest ambition is to open up cities for locals. As the founders see it, our cities aren’t getting any cheaper. More and more people are beginning to live together, and the boundaries between where we work, live, and entertain are being blurred as well. For a certain sect of the urban population, investing in a piece of real estate isn’t just impossible, it’s actually unnecessary once you consider what happens when people start to share resources. Sure, in a certain light, a platform like Splacer is just a way for people to play pretend for an hour or two. But then, if the success of numerous recent startups has taught us anything, it’s that access and sharing can make ownership a lot less attractive—especially when it means you can afford that West Village townhouse, if only for a few hours.
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