PopUp Immo is a marketplace dedicated to short-term commercial real estate rental. The company aims at making rentals of short-term commercial spaces as easy as on Airbnb. The platform provides a flexible and global platform for brands looking for spaces to renew their customers’ experiences. Property owners reduce their vacancy rates and increase their rental yields.
The project and its founders, Mohamed Haouache (CEO) and Adrien Kerbrat (COO) were accelerated as part of NUMA seventh’s acceleration program in Paris in Q3 2015. Since their demo day, the team has been working on deploying operations in the United States whilst operating in France, the UK and Hong Kong. Earlier in September, the company announced a merger with its US Competitor Storefront. Olivier Mougenot, Investment Director at NUMA, caught up with Mohamed to discuss the transaction.
Olivier Mougenot – Mohamed, Pop Up Immo has just merged with its main US competitor. This is huge. Could you please tell us why this is such an exciting deal ?
Mohamed Haouache – The merger between PopUp Immo and Storefront is groundbreaking. It opens the possibility of frontierless physical retail. The merger brings together the two largest and most adroit marketplaces for short-term retail space. We’re the first international platform for Pop-Up Stores and the first start-up in the retail industry to provide access to commercial real estate in three continents. Brands can have seamless access to over 10,000 commercial spaces in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong.
Everyone at NUMA remembers you growing extremely rapidly during and after the program, primarily by your own means. External growth is a whole new game. What are the main challenges you’ve faced and expect for the next 12 months ?
NUMA Paris was a tremendous experience and integral to PopUp Immo’s growth. There we learned how to bootstrap product and operations and bolster our self-sufficiency. Merging with a competitor certainly wasn’t part of our plan, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Objectively speaking, we were not equipped for such a large merger, and the due diligence leading up to the incorporation required tremendous efforts. It is terribly exciting to emerge as the global leader of short-term retail, however with that comes the challenge of creating a company culture across 5 countries and 3 continents. How does one create decentralized, common goals and camaraderie across the globe? That’s our next big challenge.
What about the company’s mission and philosophy ? Was this a landmark that helped you reach an agreement?
Thankfully, we have aligned two companies offering the same service and which were both extremely customer centric. It was easy to agree to find an agreement on some basics. 94% of retail is offline and Storefront’s mission is to make physical retailing more accessible to any business. We want to provide access to premium Pop-Up Spaces on every high street, in every city, globally and to anyone. The fact that we can offer premium retail experiences and maximize revenues for both brands and landlords is appealing.
We have also seen a wonderful tertiary outcome, which is that Pop-Ups, exhibitions and the gamut of short-term events can mobilize communities and areas previously deprived of activity. Achieving that mission will require expertise to continue to meet the expectations of our clients. This means obviously recruitment as our teams work hard to know our spaces, our neighborhoods, and brands intimately to ensure adequate matching and mutually beneficial experiences.
When you talk to clients or to property owners, what makes Storefront unique?
Storefront is unique because it is the first startup with a global footprint and inventory of such size and diversity. The product and experience for brands is extremely satisfying and as a consequence, we are the first ones which can provide certainty to property owners that working with a marketplace for short-term rentals won’t be a waste of time. Storefront provides flexibility and liquidity to brands and retailers which was impossible until now. You need to understand that until this merger, the Pop-Up Store industry was considered the shabby little brother of the commercial retail industry. Pop-Up Stores are now an important option for brands in their retail mix, together with traditional brick-and-mortar and e-commerce models.
PopUp Immo is an alumni from NUMA acceleration program. In hindsight, which part of the program helped you the most in your journey ?
I think the influence of working with extraordinary business minds cannot be overestimated. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by mentors and entrepreneurs with great marketplace or retail experience at NUMA, and enjoyed meeting already successful entrepreneurs. They were generous with their time and commentaries, and validated our business model. Many mistakes were avoided thanks to their opinions and goodwill!
There has been some debate about the French ecosystem not being daring enough. What would be your advice to other entrepreneurs based in France to reach those kinds of opportunities ?
In France, we tend to limit ourselves to the domestic market which is unfortunate. Looking at comparable startups in Germany and other European countries, they have a tendency to build with external reach in mind – to reach Europe and the world. We must be more ambitious in France and throw caution to the wind with regards to scalability because the French ecosystem truly is very rich.
French startups have technological skills, savoir-faire, and more than enough to expand every start-up globally. NUMA, through its network, for example, is a fantastic tool to bypass mistakes and enhance strategy, to strengthen wings at home and leave the nest for distant lands!
Thanks Mohamed !
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