IT CATERS for everyone from makers of alcoholic lollipops to orchestras looking for practise space, and is now set to expand the offering, with unlimited parameters.
Occupyd, described as Airbnb for business, matches spaces with firms and is currently in talks with venture capital backers after growth of 850 per cent since lockdown and securing £1.2 million worth of bookings on the platform in a year.
The business inspired by a US model is the brainchild of Callum McPherson, who moved from working with an Edinburgh fintech start-up to setting up his own enterprises and is now in discussion for further funding after earlier raising £600,000.
The Occupyd system links firms like cafes that close their doors at 3pm each day, for example, with small businesses or entrepreneurs who operate for the evening market.
His first business, which was motorcycle storage, helped pave the way for Occypyd, he said.
“People that don’t ride bikes don’t realise how big a problem it is,” said Mr McPherson. “I saw this concept in New York where people that live in apartments started community garages. So I started one in Edinburgh in Abbeyhill.
“It was a really simple business we leased a space and sold memberships to about 30-odd motorcycle owners.
“I looked at other places to expand into and other sites and that’s what got me into the commercial property world.”
He said that “a lot of the time it is actually really hard to find and acquire suitable space, particularly small space”.
“The idea I had at the time as I was trying to expand my business was is there a kind of Airbnb type model for commercial property.”
He said: “What really interested me was spaces that had an investment attached to them. Commercial kitchens are a really good example of that. If you are starting a food business do you have £50-£100,000 to do a kitchen fit-out, probably not, but a lot of companies have already done it and are not using them to capacity.”
“We were fortunate to have chosen this kitchen market particularly as our beachhead market, the first market we want to get into, but we want to be across all small business property landscape in the future. If you are a business and you need any kind of space we want to be able to cater for that.
“However, we chose kitchens first and with the pandemic we hadn’t been around for very long but the boom in food delivery just got even stronger so there was more demand for food delivery services whilst the supply of these services, the restaurants, were shutting down en masse. So we formed a good relationship with Deliveroo and Uber Eats and we create more supply for them. We allow food businesses to start-up where otherwise they would find the barriers to entry too difficult to overcome.”
Mr McPherson said: “We were in a fortunate position, we grew by something like 850% in 2020 and we are now starting amazingly to see in the first quarter in this year other businesses like salons, beauty studios organically cropping up now that there is a bit of a route map out of lockdown.
“Right now we are in discussions with a number of venture capital firms to kid of do our first institutional round and take it to the next level.
“If you take the kitchen vertical specifically, on the supply side, so people who are actually making their space available, it is anything from a café, and most cafes close at 3pm or 4pm and shut the door and go home, and actually the café owner could make an extra £10,000 or £20,000 a year here by leasing the kitchen in the evenings and that money could be a for a refurb or more staff it could be holidays.
“There’s a lot of cafes and pubs that don’t use their own kitchen the whole time, there’s churches, there’s nursery schools, sports clubs, cricket clubs, football clubs, it is really a broad range.
“There’s also a growing trend for ‘dark kitchens’ it has not really made its way to Scotland yet but I know a few people are starting them up in Scotland, which is basically kitchens built to be used by food delivery businesses.
“The Uber founder Travis Kalanick, that’s his new company it’s called CloudKitchens and we work with these guys as well so we list their kitchens on our platform.”
The firm’s “typical user is somebody that is starting a food brand either from scratch, or they are relocating or expanding into a new market or a new area or different kind of food”.
“We see all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff, there’s the obvious burgers and chicken wings and sushi but we’ve also had alcoholic lollipop makers. Food delivery is the bread and butter but there is also a lot of companies who just need production space, like a food start-up that has a product they want to sell online.”
Earlier discussions also involved linking orchestras with practice space in London, said Mr McPherson.
“I don’t want to be in five or six verticals, for us it needs to be everything and anything.”