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What’s mine is yours: Spacer CEO Mike Rosenbaum talks storage, startups and the sharing economy

Techly's Business Success Series

First, you take a problem. In this case, it’s that there was no easy way to connect everyone who HAS space with all those who NEED space.

Then, you take a savvy and seasoned tech entrepreneur who knows how to solve it. In this case, it’s Mike Rosenbaum.

Combine the two and you get Spacer, a peer-to-peer (PSP) marketplace for storage space and parking founded by Mike in 2015.

Need to somewhere to put your spare furniture? Spacer is where you find a place to put it. Got enough unused space in your garage to fit an entire boat? Advertise it on Spacer and someone will pay you to keep their weekender in there.

It simply links hosts (those with extra space) with renters (those who need more space) through a simple P2P marketplace. For hosts, it’s a bit of extra cash. For renters, it’s convenient and often significantly cheaper than regular storage solutions.

But Spacer is not just for small residential listings. It’s also used by commercial property owners who don’t mind the prospect of leasing large amounts of unused space for a tidy profit.

Mike and his team have also expanded into the realm of car parking, allowing users to rent and lease spaces cheaply and conveniently. Given Australia’s problems with parking in dense urban areas under the pressure of a growing population, Spacer presents itself as an elegant solution for all.

It’s even free to post a listing as a host – Spacer simply takes a 15 per cent cut when you connect with a renter.

The concept follows the success of brands the likes of Airbnb and Uber by capitalising on what is often referred to as the “sharing economy”.

Not long after founding Spacer, Mike told the Huffington Post that part of the inspiration for the business came after seeing a similar model being used to help college students rent and lease indoor spaces in San Francisco.

“Students were renting a shelf or even a cupboard in neighbouring apartments — which makes sense in San Francisco — but we’ve localised the model for Australian conditions where people are wanting to store bigger things, like furniture while they go travelling or sporting equipment like kayaks and ski gear,” he said.

Spacer CEO and employee

For some background on Mike, he co-founded Deals Direct in October 2004 and watched it grow from an eBay operation into Australia’s largest online-only retailer with 100-odd employees – and helped the business pick up a few awards along the way.

We spoke with Mike to discover how Spacer works, why the sharing economy is growing and what we can expect to see in the near future.

Can you tell us about your personal journey from founding Deals Direct to where you are today? What inspired your choice to launch Spacer?

“After my business was sold into Graysonline, I managed a smooth transition but felt the itch to build a new business from scratch again.

“I spent a few months exploring concepts and came back from Silicon Valley with Spacer, a simple concept which solves an immediate and real problem as well as better utilise otherwise untapped assets.”

In your own words, what is Spacer and how does it work?

“Spacer is an online platform where users can find, pay for and rent out storage or parking space from individuals or businesses who have spare capacity.

“The value proposition for a renter is that we have tens of rental options for every user, conveniently located, competitively priced and flexible in length (ranging from weekly to long-term).

“For hosts (those leasing out space) it provides free listing and marketing, real income and guaranteed payments with little or no hassle. It’s easy, convenient and safe, so all members of the site benefit from the service.”

What challenges did you face when you launched? Are these new or different to the challenges you face today?

“Building a two-sided marketplace is difficult, particularly in getting the right mix of investment to build supply and demand.

“Maintaining early adopters is challenging when liquidity is being built, and scale is critical to building the right product and ensuring a quality user experience.”

Looking to the future, how do you see the sharing economy evolving? In what contexts or applications would you like to see it make an impact?

“We are one of the founding members of the Sharing Hub, Australia’s first accelerator for sharing economy businesses.

“This network allows us to share ideas, networks, technical and marketing tactics and build the subsector, which grew at 65% year-on-year in NSW alone last year to $2.6b (Deloitte).

“Better use of assets and labour is changing the way we work and we continue to see this growing over the next 12 months.”

What’s next for Spacer, and what’s next for you?

“Growth, growth, growth. We have grown 20% month-over-month in the past 12 months and are focused on consolidating our position as the premier place for storage and parking space across all metropolitan cities of Australia.

“We will be growing our B2B and traditional operator inventory this year, as well as launching our warehousing and pallet share platform. My personal focus as CEO is to take Spacer from startup to big business and we are well on track to achieve that over the next 12 months.”

Check out Spacer’s website for more information.

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