MeetingRooms.com: Caleb Parker

The founder talks about the importance of finding the right business partner and how his start-up will target the ever expanding flexible-working market

Name: Caleb Parker
Company name: MeetingRooms.com
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 09/03/2015 
Website: www.meetingrooms.com

Tell us what your business does:

We’re an on-demand global marketplace that brings people and meeting spaces together. Users can instantly find, compare and book meeting spaces no matter where they are in the world.

In addition, it allows venues – from hotels to serviced office centres – to attract a wider pool of new customers, increasing occupancy and booking revenues.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The idea started back in 2011 when I was consulting small and medium-sized businesses and corporates on how to optimise their office footprints. Then at an industry conference I met my business partner, Richard Smith, as we were both speaking on the same panel.

After the panel discussion was over, he leaned over to me and said, “we need to talk.” Then five months later, I moved across the pond to join forces with Smith to build MeetingRooms.com.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Walk into any Starbucks and look around at all the laptops and people having meetings. Technology has given us the freedom to work anywhere, anytime and and there is no longer a need for an expensive permanent office because today’s work is in the cloud and on-demand.

But while it’s great that technology gives business owners and workers so much flexibility of when, how and where we work; sometimes we do need a physical space (for team catch-ups, client meetings etc.) and that’s where we step in.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was partner in a firm that consulted small and medium-sized enterprises and corporates on how to optimise their office footprints. Prior to joining forces with Richard Smith, I co-founded a small tech start-up to make offices and meeting rooms bookable online.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

No, I used to want to play professional football in the NFL. But I left UNI to start a small business after learning first-hand from a friend who had his own distribution company. He introduced me to some books on entrepreneurship and I was hooked. Now I want to own an NFL team one day.

How did you raise the money?

While we’re a start-up, we’re in the unique and very fortunate position, of being spun out of an established company, Search Office Space (SOS) and I’m very fortunate to have Richard Smith, (founder of SOS) as my business partner. He is well known and liked in our industry.

Having said that, we are still a start-up and had to build our technology from scratch and grow our team. That of course requires capital. So the founding team has self-funded the business to date.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

From the customer’s point of view, it’s like going online to book a hotel room, flat on Airbnb, or pulling out your phone to request an Uber.

For the venue partners, it’s like eBay. They sell their product (meeting rooms) through our marketplace and we facilitate the transaction. They control the price and contract directly with the customer, then each month we send their revenue to them after applying our transaction fees.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge has been getting other people aligned with my vision.
I started talking about my vision way back in 2011. I’ve written blog posts, spoke at conferences, participated on panels and collaborated with others on the topic that my vision touches.

When you believe that you’re right about something big, you have to plant a lot seeds and fertilise them – then eventually others start believing in your vision too.

What was your first big breakthrough?

I didn’t know it at the time, but meeting Richard was my biggest breakthrough as it eventually led to us joining forces.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

I’ve learned that there is no single piece of advice for success. I could talk all day on things to do and not to do but mainly don’t expect it to be easy, have patience, and prepare your mind.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

My vision for MeetingRooms.com is to stay at the forefront of innovation and push the category forward. I believe the future of our category is dependent upon innovation that makes life easier for people.

I strongly believe that starts with real-time meeting room bookings, but I’m thinking much bigger than that and we’re developing a series of products that we believe will grow our category significantly.

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