A very warm welcome to “Archipreneur Insights”, the interview series with the architectural, design and building community’s movers and shakers. In this series we get to grips with their opinions, thoughts and practical solutions and learn how to apply their ideas to our own creative work for success in the field of architecture and beyond.
This week’s interview is with Lihi Gerstner and Adi Biran, co-founders of Splacer, an online platform that brings together people who own unique spaces with people who are looking to book singular locations for meetings, workshops, parties, exhibitions or other special events.
Airbnb turned homes into hotels; Splacer transforms undiscovered and underutilized spaces into event venues. As architects, Lihi and Adi understand the power that space can have. With their platform, they want to improve the way that we use and share spaces, promoting a more sustainable model of urban life. They envision a world where beautiful spaces never go to waste and can be a part of a sharing community.
Keep reading to learn how these two architects founded their project starting with a test version that meant renting their own homes, and how this endeavor eventually led to a company with three offices in two continents.
I hope you enjoy the interview!
When did you two team up and what are your respective backgrounds?
We met about 20 years ago in our undergraduate studies, but only clicked when we found ourselves during our master’s studies. Since then we have been collaborating on various projects, teaching architecture, and working on several research studies related to architecture, cultural & demographic behavior, and the future development of cities.
In the 2 years since we founded Splacer we also became business partners. We both hold a B.Arch Degree from the Pratt Institute of Architecture and a Master’s in Advanced Architecture Design from Columbia University. Adi has experience as an architect, lecturer and entrepreneur in Israel and New York, while Lihi has owned and managed her own architecture practices in New York, Paris, Brussels and Tel Aviv and has also been Creative Director and Advisor for several art and fashion companies.
What made you decide to found Splacer? Was there a particular moment that sealed the decision for you?
We’ve always been interested in the ways in which space is being utilized and how it could be better designed to match different activities throughout the day/year. We first tested the idea in Israel, listing our own homes and our friends’ spaces for people to rent for events. It was such a success that we built a company around it that now offers more then 500 spaces across New York and San Francisco.
How did you finance your start-up in the beginning and how is the situation today?
We launched a very lean product and funded it by ourselves. We managed to book events and were later able to hire another person to help us with more bookings.
Last May, we raised our seed fund and with this managed to develop a great team and product, and launched our operation in the US. Today, we have offices in Tel Aviv, New York City and San Francisco, and over 500 spaces are listed on our site.
How many people do you employ and what kind of professional background do they have?
Splacer is made up of architects, curators, technical types, business-minded people, installation artists, photographers, writers, filmmakers, musicians and more. Our team members’ backgrounds are as diverse and unique as the spaces we offer on our platform. Presently we’re 18 people divided between 3 locations.
Who are your clients?
Splacer is a resource for anyone looking to host an event: creative directors looking for a photo shoot location, film directors, those in need of a cool space to host a conference or work retreat, and even individuals who want to host a dinner or birthday party in a unique space bigger than their own apartment (which is an issue in many expensive urban areas). Our spaces are so versatile that the opportunities are endless.
How do you find these great places?
We actively seek them out – and also go by word of mouth! People list their homes and commercial spaces with Splacer because we have a reputation for seeking architecturally distinct locations. You can get a sense of the aesthetics from our website, and our team is creative to the core. They’re constantly on the prowl for urban gems – and we’ve unearthed many.
Do you offer your services as architects/designers when you see a space with potential?
No, Splacer is a platform to list, discover and book event spaces, and as of today we do not offer design or architecture services.
Splacer is often called the Airbnb of event spaces. Are you planning to go global with Splacer like Airbnb?
Right now, our focus is on expanding across the US. So far, we’re in New York City and San Francisco, with Splacer opening soon in a handful of other US cities.
You started out in Tel Aviv, but I can’t find places in Tel Aviv listed on your site. Why is that?
Tel Aviv was our pilot city where we tested, developed and fine-tuned Splacer’s model for scalability. We recently decided to terminate our operation in Israel for several reasons and mainly focus on our US expansion.
Did your architectural skills set help you to become digital media entrepreneurs and do you continue to use these skills in your work?
Every day! Splacer spaces are all vetted for their architectural integrity. We want the platform to offer interesting and cool spaces that pass muster with designers, spark excitement with users, and are accessible to anyone.
Do you have any advice for archipreneurs who are interested in starting their own business?
Think of technology as a new tool for planning and building your surroundings. Be persistent and don’t give up on your dreams. Find the best team members to build your business with and, most importantly, – don’t be afraid to dare and enjoy what you do.
How do you see the future of the architectural profession? In which areas (outside of traditional practice) can you see major opportunities for up and coming developers and architects?
The architecture and construction industries are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. Architecture must be responsive to local environments and needs, and architects need to better use technology, as it opens new worlds for planning and building our surroundings and is an enabler of good design.
As with many other industries, technology is creating rapid change. With cities expanding, there has been a massive shift, and our perspective is perhaps: “Don’t keep building… but rather find a way to use existing structures and technology to meet our cities’ growing needs.”
About Lihi and Adi
Adi Biran, Founder + CEO
Adi is an accomplished architect, lecturer, and entrepreneur working in Israel and New York, where she owned her own architecture and consulting firm. She brings her creativity, business development and research skills to Splacer. Adi holds a B.Arch. Degree from the Pratt Institute of Architecture and a Master’s in Advanced Architecture Design from Columbia University, both with the highest honors.
Lihi Gerstner, Founder + CMO
Lihi is an accomplished architect with international experience who owned and managed architecture offices in NYC, Paris, Bxl & TLV. Lihi brings this international experience to Splacer, together with her own sense of style and design as a creative director in the fashion, advertising and art industry. She holds a B.Arch. Degree from the Pratt Institute of Architecture and a Master’s in Advanced Architecture Design from Columbia University, both with the highest honors.