6 minute read
September 21, 2020
Flex Space for Entrepreneurs with Caleb Parker of Bold
This article originally appeared on www.buildingproptech.com, a retired blog where I interviewed proptech founders on how they were building and growing their businesses.
Hey Caleb! What’s your background and what led to you working in PropTech?
My career has straddled hospitality and commercial real estate, but I've always been an entrepreneur at my core. After spending 2 years on the management team for Regus in Washington, DC I setup my own flexspace brokerage in 2009 to help entrepreneurs, small to medium-sized businesses and corporates optimize their office footprints.
We helped a lot of companies save money by shedding their fixed office costs, going remote (long before this global pandemic!) and booking space when they needed it.
But at the time there wasn't an easy way to book and access the space. So in 2012 we raised some seed capital, developed a space booking platform and launched with 100 buildings before eventually integrating with Regus.
Later I became CEO of MeetingRooms.com, which was the largest online booking agent of on-demand space when I exited in 2016.
That is when I decided to dive deeper into PropTech.
What problem are you working to solve with Bold?
We're helping asset owners keep their customers happy and ultimately drive value across their portfolios. Put another way, we're evolving their assets to meet the demands of the new economy by bringing in hospitality and flexibility to office buildings through our Space-as-a-Service platform and brand.
This is driven by our desire to make it easier for entrepreneurs to succeed. While technology may have freed us from being chained to a desk in the office, sometimes we do need a place to come together with our team, customers, and partners.
But traditionally commercial real estate hasn’t been friendly to entrepreneurs. The industry was built around making money for real estate investors, not helping the people who use their buildings.
So we setup Bold to help buildings provide customers with everything they need in one place, paired with excellent customer service, on-demand.
Technology is a big part of our platform, as you can imagine.
How is Bold financed?
We bootstrapped the first year to develop the brand and our MVP tech stack. Then we did an angel round to operate a pilot space and release our full stack platform. Then we were acquired by NewFlex.
I'm oversimplifying this. It wasn't as easy as it sounds.
👋 Hey reader,
Colin here. If you're building or growing a real estate or hospitality tech company, you should sign up to my newsletter Proptech Growth Strategy Brief. Every week, I write a 3-point growth strategy for a real estate or hospitality startup, just like this one. Join the fun!
What is Bold's growth strategy?
Over the next couple years we will partner with asset owners on management agreements to operate 25 Bold buildings across the UK.
What tactics have you tested for growing your user base and revenue? What has been most effective?
We're fortunate to be part of NewFlex now, which is kinda like the "Marriott" for Space-as-a-Service.
NewFlex is a family of brands ranging from premium to premium-economy to economy and we have a solid track record of partnering with asset owners on management agreements. In fact, were the largest Space-as-a-Service operator in the UK to deploy the management agreement model (80 management agreements to date).
We've been successful at delivering cash to asset owners by bringing in service and flexibility into their buildings, and supporting thousands of entrepreneurial people in the process.
What has been the hardest part of building, growing or monetizing Bold?
So much money is tied up in an outdated method of valuing buildings, asset owners have not jumped at the opportunity to meet customer demand. Building valuation methodologies are the single biggest blocker for us.
Fortunately that's starting to change as the capital markets and valuer communities are starting to take a positive view on Space-as-a-Service.
What insights about real estate and technology have you came to realize whilst building Bold?
Technology can enable a very cool customer experience. But what we should really focus on is removing friction for people. That requires insight and empathy.
Both are technology enabled, but they're really human skills.