Property and the sharing economy

Nicholas Russell
Oct 4, 2014 · 11 min read
Breakfast @ a pop up restaurant in London, May 2013.


On 1 October 2014, the We Are Pop Up team discussed customer behaviour. Specifically, how over 80% of our sales come from customers in their first month on the website. That may sound like a meaningless startup metric, until taken in context of how the property industry traditionally operates.

The old world of property, MIPIM 2014, Cannes, 2014.
The new world of commercial property. Online transactions, at the Crooked Billet in Clapton, London, 2014

The Philosophy of We Are Pop Up

Internally, I use a well-known framework for categorising operations:
1. Raw materials > 2. Inputs > 3. Outputs > 4. Outcomes

The We Are Pop Up homepage

Outcomes: The true outputs of a business

The genesis of We Are Pop Up came in 2011, from realising contracts are AirBNB’s outputs. At its core, AirBNB creates an agreement between guests (buyers) and hosts (sellers):

The We Are Pop Up team, respectfully behaving in an AirBNB. Palo Alto, December, 2012
Wander Pride

The Tao of We Are Pop Up: Data-Driven Property

Beyond those direct We Are Pop Up’s outcomes are indirect outcomes. It is these outcomes that truly drive the success of any business, from AirBNB, British Airways, to Louis Vuitton and We Are Pop Up.

Untitled Pop Up Shop, New York City, December 2012
Property enquires exchanged on We Are Pop Up in August 2014.

1: The traditional shop.

Landlords find they can charge a premium for short-term use over long-term use. Further, the process we’ve created is not only efficient, it is also “fun”. One of our landlords routinely fills a shop in less than 24 hours using We Are Pop Up. He doesn’t have to deal with the back-and-forth frictions and negotiations of traditional leasing. To date, he has received £22k in rent, and has another £51k in the pipeline.

2: Micro-department stores.

Even with fractional use, full shops are often too great an investment for start-up retailers to undertake. Similar to co-working spaces, micro-department stores allow these start-ups to pool resources and test concepts in the market.

3: Shared Spaces.

If 159 Camden High Street was a purpose-built micro-department store, what if we brought that concept to existing retailers? What if we launched a feature on the platform where, rather than empty shops being the raw materials, we created micro-department stores within existing retail units?

4: P2P Urban Regeneration

The most exciting outcomes happen when our customers use the platform in ways we didn’t imagine ourselves.

5: The shopping centre.

In the 1940s, Kelly Johnson set up Lockheed’s ‘skunk works’ in the California desert. The skunk works detached traditional R&D from the core of Lockheed to allow esoteric ideas to come to the surface. Lockheed’s programme created the most advanced aircraft the world had ever seen. Xerox’s PARC laboratory would give rise to the Macintosh, and the user interface used by the majority of the world’s computer and mobile phone owners.

A New Asset Class

Clara and I bookended our presentation on Monday with the idea that “We Are Pop Up puts the city in the hands of the people.”

The New Property Lexicon: “Hi, please… thanks”

In reviewing how customers used We Are Pop Up in 2013/2014, we left no stone unturned. One of the greatest discoveries was the new lexicon our customers are creating as they trade property.

London, from a property lawyer’s point of view. May 2014.
How landlords talk about spaces…
How brands talk about retail…
How they talk to each other…
The Allies x We Are Pop Up, New York City, May 2014

A Final Word, by CTO Greg Hinch

Renting out your home as a vacation rental existed before Airbnb, but now it’s replacing other forms of accommodation. Giving people a ride for some extra cash was available before Uber and Lyft, but now it’s replacing the transportation industry. Running your own business in a shop existed before We Are Pop Up, but now it’s a huge new sector of employment.”

“Running your own business in a shop existed before We Are Pop Up, but now it’s a huge new sector of employment” – Greg Hinch, October 2014

    Nicholas Russell

    Written by

    Founder / Speaker / Advisor. Currently, Project X NYC. Previously, @WeArePopUp, @Oxford

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