No more boring meetings – Interview with Julian Jost, co-founder and CEO of Spacebase

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Julian-Jost-Spacebase

Founded in 2014 in Berlin, Spacebase is a global booking platform for workshop spaces, meeting rooms and event locations. Using the concept of the sharing economy, the startup gives renters access to over 2500 unique venues all over the world. The platform is available in German, English and French and already lists venues for more than 30 cities in over 13 different countries. So far spacebase raised about €1 million in venture capital and today employs a team of more than 20 people. Enjoy the interview.

What is Spacebase and how did you come up with the idea?

Spacebase is the leading platform for searching and booking meeting rooms in Europe and the states. Besides the room booking service Spacebase also offers additional conferencing equipment to rent and catering solutions that are just one click away. So, everybody is able to organize professional meetings in inspiring unique locations with just a few mouse clicks.

After my studies I worked as a strategy consultant for several years, an industry with probably the most meeting events. After a while we started to organize our travels with private homes through Airbnb and not with the standard hotels and their anonymous flair anymore. So, the idea came to our minds, that our business meetings would properly work better in such kinds of private loft apartments as well. The standard business centers were not interesting to us anymore and the effect the location had on our meetings was an incredibly big one. The change that happened after switching to a more unique location was really remarkable, the mostly boring and uncreative meetings turned to be inspiring and a lot more productive.

What were the main stumbling blocks in the first 3 years after founding Spacebase and how did you overcome them?

We started Spacebase as a venue booking platform for all types of clients. Making our venues available also for private events soon proved to be difficult because there were always some special wishes involved that were very complicated to fulfill. Therefore, we decided to become a purely B2B platform, since the meeting industry is a very straightforward business and you can anticipate quite well, what kinds of equipment is needed for meetings.

In the first year we had already big brands as clients, but still then it took a lot in rearranging our business model and focusing on the technically part of our platform, to optimize processes to make them as smoothly as possible.

We are still struggling with the fact, that most of our customers do not know what they really want. That means we have to give them the opportunity to figure that out before we present them with locations that we believe would fit their needs. Our self-learning AI-like algorithm is doing a great job in this regard but nevertheless we have many customers that prefer to talk to a person before they book their venue.

How much funding did you raise so far and how did you meet your investors?

Spacebase firstly was started as a bootstrapping project, then our investor Stephan Ekbergh, who is a serial entrepreneur in the travel industry, provided us with our initial funding of about €1 million. I met Stephan through a common friend and he was immediately captivated by the vision of Spacebase.

What are the next milestones for Spacebase and where do you see the company in 3 years from now?

Right now, we work on a customized API booking access for a big client. More and more big brands see the process conveniences in implementing our services directly into their infrastructure. This client also requires us to expand our portfolio, so we are currently recruiting new spaces and expanding to more cities all over the world. This project is the most important milestone right now. In terms of marketing we developed our experiMENTAL web series that will have a brand-new episode with the world’s biggest food delivery provider published in the coming months. More of these strategic partnerships with big players will be an important milestone this year. So, and the future is open an unwritten, perhaps we’ll have some franchise partners or we will go public in the upcoming years – time will tell!

Which are your biggest learnings as the CEO and co-founder of Spacebase so far?

As an entrepreneur of course, I am quite data driven, but I’ve experienced already several times, that it isn’t always possible to get accurate data forecasts. So, I always recommend testing, testing, testing and adopting the product to the market fitness.

The second big learning during my work as a CEO is to keep the ratio between revenue and liquidity massively under control. It can be quite impressive to make big steps in terms of growth right from the beginning, but exactly this can be extremely dangerous, if you pay this growing with a weak level of liquidity. Sadly, I saw already startups closing their business because of a lack of liquidity after a strong growth phase.

How do you see Berlin as a location to start a tech company? Which advantages does this location offer?

Germany and specially Berlin did big steps forward to currently be the most interesting area in Europe to start a business. Politics discovered the startup scene as an important topic and provide diverse financial and legal opportunities. The biggest advantage of location is the vital startup network in Berlin. Here you find everything, well trained employees, especially good developers from all over the world, a lot of startup founders for strategic partnerships and mutual help, investor money and good clients of course.

Could you recommend our readers one or two books that helped you during your entrepreneurial endeavors?

This is a good question, but hard to answer. Reading to me is more like entertainment and a way to relax. Of course, it is interesting to read success stories about Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos or all the other great founders, but real business is quite different to what you can catch from literature. As a good business approach, I would rather recommend books about strategy e.g. books from Daniel Kahneman or Nassim Nicholas Taleb and to get a real life feeling for the industry you are about to dive into.