Business ideas for 2016: Venue booking platform

As start-ups launch solutions to maximise the availability of space for work and sleep, is it time to start your own “Airbnb for x” service?

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Way back in 2008 when Airbnb first launched, the concept of renting a room in a stranger’s house for your holiday was still fairly alien, and the ‘collaborative consumption’ or sharing economy market was just beginning to take off. Fast forward to 2016 and this concept of renting out other people’s property for a trip is a well-established, although still fast-growing, market – Airbnb has a massive six million users and counting.

But while the Airbnb model has been well and truly done, in the UK we’re now seeing a cluster of rental booking platforms exploring other ways to optimise unused space. Take for instance Headbox, the three month-old London start-up which claims to be the “Airbnb for creative off-site meeting spaces”, which has already secured £1.2m investment and has ambitious plans for expansion.

Fast-growth start-up Appear Here – which enables entrepreneurs to book retail sites – calls itself the “Airbnb for short-term retail space”, while newcomer Vrumi calls itself the “Airbnb for workspace”.

Over the coming months, we estimate that growth of this “Airbnb for x” market will only continue to gain pace. And, with the culture of ‘non-ownership’ becoming normality, 2016 is an optimal time to launch your own sharing booking site where users can rent out spare rooms and venues for meeting rooms, an alternative workspace, quirky event spaces and much more…

Starting a venue booking platform: Why it’s a good business idea

In its European Consumer Trends 2016 report, Mintel noted that a rising number of millennial entrepreneurs are creating sharing economy solutions that seek to “maximise the usage and availability of temporary, transient space for storage, parking, working and sleeping.”

While businesses like Airnnb, “unhotel” Onefinestay, and home exchange club LoveHomeSwap found success in targeting travellers and holiday makers, new offerings which target companies and business owners are now entering the market in response to the dwindling supply of UK office space. Vrumi has already secured major press coverage and almost £1m in crowdfunding with its service which enables users to rent out unused space – such as a lounge or dining room – for a few hours per day.

Launched in December 2014, Vrumi’s proposition is ideal for entrepreneurs looking for workspace and companies looking for alternative meeting rooms. The company has also pointed out that there are far more opportunities than just booking office space such as booking a room to run a yoga service, or even hosting an alternative lunch session with friends.

The fact that there is now a UK government trade body to represent the sharing economy and collaborative consumption start-ups also indicates the rising popularity of “Airnb for x” services. Launched in March of last year, SEUK intends to encourage consumers and businesses to share and utilise their assets and has called for the launch of a shared economy start-up accelerator to help new businesses in the industry.

Venue booking platform business opportunities

There are a variety of different and still fairly unsaturated areas you can focus on when starting a venue booking platform. While a number of start-ups are already exploring meeting rooms and workspaces, there’s still a massive opportunity as business owners become more aware of the potential to hire alternative, low-cost space.

Moreover, most of the existing start-ups are London-centric – so regionally there is plenty of potential still. In October 2015, SEUK reported that “London is increasingly a real hub for these [sharing economy] businesses and if you live there, it’s pretty likely that you will have used one”. But it’s a different story outside of the capital.

Flatshare and houseshare services are another way in which budding sharing economy entrepreneurs can get in on the trend. UK company SpareRoom has already made-inroads in this space but the market is still ripe for further disruption.

Sharing platforms for event venues also appears to be a relatively untapped market and could be a potentially lucrative business opportunity if you’re able to get enough venue owners on board and attract enough custom to scale.

The wedding market could be a great target audience for this. While Airbnb does offer some wedding venues, a dedicated marketplace could capitalise on the UK’s huge wedding industry.

Insider opinion

Andrew Needham, founder and CEO of HeadBox, commented:

“PwC has calculated that on a global basis, the sharing economy is set to rise to a massive £230bn by 2025. The same piece of research details how five sub-sectors of the sharing economy in the UK are worth around £500m now, and could be worth up to £9bn a year by 2025.

“We found an opportunity in a disaggregated industry that was waiting to be dis-intermediated. We are unlocking thousands of under-utilised spaces that are currently not available to rent creating an enormous online marketplace where one did not exist before.

“This will in time create a range of new price points for guests with much more choice available that in turn will drive growth not just in the events industry but across HR and the creative industries too.”

Published Jan 2016

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