A personal experience is often the genesis of founding a startup.
For Bill MacEwen, the early spark came from having an interest for starting a co-working space in Vancouver.
“I walked all of downtown Vancouver like a grid ... making note of every 'for lease' sign I saw," MacEwen explained to Techvibes. "Meeting with brokers and landowners was quite an adventure too. It took me forever to find something suitable but I eventually came across a 5,000-square-foot loft in Gastown. I had no experience leasing anything more than my modest apartment and was a bit shocked when the 40-page lease agreement landed on my desk. There was clearly more to this commercial leasing thing than I knew at the time.”
A few years have passed and a few more commercial real estate leasing experiences have unfolded for MacEwen since that time.
There’s nothing sexy about SpaceList. And it’s easy to ask “isn’t that being done already?” But MacEwen co-founded SpaceList not caring about sexy, focusing instead on making it easy for people to find the perfect office, retail, or warehouse space. He is doing it by bringing all of Canada's commercial real estate listings together in one place.
SpaceList has a business model and team that’s garnering some very positive attention and support as one of five new startups in Vancouver accelerator GrowLab's most recent cohort.
There’s a significant opportunity and they’ve set out to create a more efficient way of both finding and marketing office space. If you’re looking for books or computers, and even bigger purchases like cars or yachts, there are some very well-established online marketplaces. There’s no shortage of online marketplaces showing you options, comparing features, and allowing you to take action and fill your shopping cart. Even residential real estate has well established MLS systems in most areas improving your ability to find a suitable home.
But there’s no such marketplace for commercial real estate listings in Canada. MacEwen started SpaceList believing they can improve the liquidity of commercial real estate and make everyone better off by building an open, public marketplace.
The SpaceList team makes the process simple. Anyone can add listings to the site by sending an email. The early results are impressive and the inventory levels have really taken off. They have grown from less than seven million square feet of space in August to over 15 million today.
Vancouver is a small city by most standards, with less than 9% of the country's urban commercial real estate. In 2013 the SpaceList team has aggressive plans to roll out the platform across the country. MacEwen admits he’s not enamored with being a sales guy at times, but recognizes much of the success so far is about building relationships, selling his vision, and delivering value.