Elson Ee, Co-Founder of GetSpaces Lets Us In On His Entrepreneurial Journey

No office? No problem!
By: Farah Khan
February 5, 2022

GetSpaces is an online leasing space platform that assists consumers in finding a location that meets their specific demands!

Do you have an emergency meeting or event? Or maybe you’re sick of looking out the window at work every day. Getspaces provides a wide range of venues accessible on demand, from co-working spaces to enormous conference rooms.
With Getspaces, you may enjoy the kaleidoscopic possibilities of working at a new location each time. There’s no need to worry about needless commitments with no lock-ins and a pay-per-use model.
Users may make hassle-free appointments thanks to Getspaces’ improved user-friendly settings. Search for a listing, select a day and time, and start the booking process right away. Your ideal place for any activity is just a click away with speedy confirmations!

This sounded so exciting to us. Hence, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to speak with Elson Ee, the co-founder of GetSpaces. Keep reading to get as inspired as we were when we spoke to him!

Elson Ee’s Entrepreneurial Journey

1.What inspired you to begin your own business? Have you had other ventures prior to GetSpaces?

I’ve always been the kind to get really excited when I think I have found a better way to do certain things. Be it finding a trick that’s out of the textbook to solving a math question, automating away certain painful manual tasks when I was at work or just being able to see a unique solution to a problem.
To me, starting a business is pretty much akin to finding a better way to solve existing problems. You try to create value for customers in a way current players might have overlooked or are not able to meet. GetSpaces was my 1st venture and I never did anything else before.

2. What sparked the idea to create GetSpaces?

It was really about optimizing something that we thought never was used efficiently, space. Even in Singapore, where we have always been taught about how little land we have and that space is our biggest constraint, we still think that there are many ways space can be more effectively utilized.
We spoke to a few friends in the creative sector, people who own craft spaces, dance or creative studios and we found that these spaces have huge blocks of time where they are underutilized and left bare empty. By right, these spaces should be rented out to people who can find a better use for them during these “downtimes”.

However, discoverability is a huge issue. It is not easy for a user to find the right space at the right timings with existing solutions at that time. Moreover, many of us have this standard notion that you can only rent a space on a long-term basis, and might have never considered starting their business or pursuing their passions with an on-demand space.

We wanted to bridge that gap, and create this whole new category of on-demand spaces not just for co-working, but also for creative endeavors such as videography, live streaming, dance as well as for the ever growing freelance/gig economy where fitness or craft instructors can find spaces to conduct their workshops or classes.

3. How long did it take to get GetSpaces up and running?

It took us an initial 3-6 month period to build out the minimum viable product (MVP). As a team of 3 self-taught developers, we chose the path of building the whole website and app on our own. We wanted to undertake and build a truly unique and customized product that could solve the core issues of discoverability in this relatively new market and we could not really find any existing solutions that could meet our vision.

Once we got the MVP up, it was about finding our property owners who were willing to share their space(s) on a new platform. As we were just starting out, it took us a while to grow our supply as we needed time to convince them. It was a period of cold calling non-stop for a few months. After those initial few months, we were able to acquire some momentum and build up to having over 100 different listings on our platform.

4. What would you say is your biggest challenge when building GetSpaces?

Probably the greatest setback or challenge that we have faced in our journey so far has been the impact of COVID-19 on our business. As we’re a platform that relies on activities and gatherings, those 2-3 months of lockdown at the initial circuit break caused a total stop in our business. After the initial Circuit Break, the subsequent heightened alerts and intermittent restrictions have affected our growth rate.

However, we’ve also found that with every set of setbacks comes a silver lining (several for us in fact). The pandemic has accelerated several trends that have been beneficial for us. Namely the hybrid remote work culture, the gig/freelance economy, and the whole content creator economy.

5. What is the main purpose of GetSpaces and how would it help the current trends in the working environment?

The broad underlying trend is that the pandemic has really gotten many businesses to rethink whether paying for long-term commercial leases is necessary to their operations. Some businesses might no longer want to rent as large an office if half their workforce is working remotely. With the growth of e-commerce, many businesses might want to consider working with short-term pop-ups retail stores to have that physical presence instead of renting a much more expensive retail space in an upscale area.

As we move to a hybrid remote work culture, we found that we have had increasing demand for people who rent our on-demand workspaces or meeting rooms for a few hours. This group of users are likely looking out for a conducive space to work or have a zoom call. As personal space might tend to be quite limited in somewhere like Singapore where HDB flats or apartments can be quite small, some users might prefer to still work at an on-demand workspace somewhere nearer their house. The fact that some businesses have also embraced a remote working culture meant that our meeting rooms began to have more demand. These businesses let go of their long-term leases and instead, rely on meeting rooms.

The ever increasing e-commerce market has also necessitated the importance of being able to deliver beautiful visuals and videos that help your brand stand out. This has driven the demand for content creation services, which in return has caused many more businesses to look towards renting well furnished photography or videography studios on our platform.

6. What do you envision the future of GetSpaces would look like?

We want GetSpaces be the single platform anyone would use to find an on-demand space to create, collaborate and celebrate.
Create – Pursue your passion. Whether it be a music space, fitness or art, you can rent one of our spaces for your rehearsals. Create content at any of our locations whether it be a professional production or a simple tik tok dance video in a nice dance studio. Rent any of our larger venues for performances to display your talent.
Collaborate – We hope to have a full island network of spaces where anyone can rent a space to either work or to collaborate with others. Teachers can rent meeting rooms on-demand to do classes, students can rent spaces for project meetings near their homes and companies can always find conference rooms or creative spaces for team offsite.
Celebrate – Whether it be needing a vintage venue for that surprise proposal or looking for something unique for your wedding or anniversary celebrations, we want GetSpaces to help our users find beautiful spaces to create everlasting memories.

7. What is the biggest lesson you learned while growing GetSpaces?

To always keep an open mind and look out for new opportunities. When we first started GetSpaces, we had some specific ideas about what the various use cases would be. However, the sheer variety of what people can use our spaces for has been a pleasant surprise for us.We’ve noticed people booking spaces for intimate proposals, some for just self-practice of playing a piano or some who just want a kitchen to do some baking with their close friends. These were all activities and verticals that we had never considered when we first started. In light of the pandemic which has severely restricted group sizes and larger events, we had to be flexible and nimble in reaching out to users across the end of the long tail with our marketing efforts.

8. Who would you say is your biggest inspiration when it comes to building a business?

I don’t really have any one specific inspiration I would say. However, I think it’s beneficial to look at different companies or people and admire what they have brought to the table. For instance, we have been inspired by Airbnb’s ability to create a community around their well-crafted product. We have tried to study some of their efforts and take it into our own product.

Similarly, we always learn from international or local businesses, even in industries that might not be related to us. To me, what is important is to figure out the characteristics of other people or businesses that are relevant to your field and emulate them. However, we try not to duplicate or have any 1 sole inspiration as our platform is about breaking new ground and introducing a rather novel concept to people.

9. What is your advice to those who are looking to build their own business venture?

We’re still always looking to grow GetSpaces and gain more mass-market awareness with it. Theres still plenty for us to figure out in terms of scaling and building awareness in the market.

However, what I found worked for us at the initial period was testing and just finding the shortest path to getting started. We started out with a minimum viable product, MVP, that was pretty bare-bones in terms of features because we just wanted to test our assumptions in terms of digital marketing and market readiness. Try to figure out the fastest way to get started and iterate from there, as you’ll gain a lot more insights while actually trying to onboard potential partners and customers. That would be a lot more beneficial than typical consumer surveys or trying to get everything in place before you begin.

10. What makes GetSpaces unique?

What makes GetSpaces unique is how we put in a lot of focus on enabling the cross utilization of spaces. A dance studio owner can share his/her studio not just with other dancers, but also for engagements or filming. A retail space can also easily turn into a meeting or filming place during their off-days. We believe that in cities where real estate tends to be rather limited and expensive, we need to constantly find new ways to optimize how we use it, creating a whole new class of “smarter” cities. By doing so, we’ll also help reap the benefit of helping small businesses manage their ever rising rental costs.

We’ve helped some of our hosts improve the utilization of their own spaces by over 50%. Over time, we plan to help businesses who have rented real estate make their property more cost efficient and possibly even profit generating. By doing so, we get to make property costs a little more bearable for new startups as demand for commercial spaces continue to rise, leading to increase in property rental costs.

On the flip side, many entrepreneurs or freelance instructors can also consider using GetSpaces to “test the market” like we have suggested. Instead of having to commit thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in upfront rental or renovation costs, we always recommend building your clientele and starting with renting on-demand spaces with us. Whether it be a fitness studio, a room for your classes or a pop-up retail space, we aim to eventually have an extensive network of multi-purpose spaces that aspiring entrepreneurs can rely on to kickstart their business.