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A Charter Hall team with a bright idea on how to make life easier for tenants has proven to be the perfect candidate to join the Proptech Accelerator program.
They began the program armed with nothing more than “a concept and a set of PowerPoint slides”, and came out 13 weeks later with Flexi-spaces, a next-generation on-demand logistics solution that has met with instant approval from our customers.
Sarah Willcox (Industrial Property Manager), Nic Lumsden (NSW Industrial Asset Manager) and Tracy Wilson (Industrial Strategic Marketing Manager) first put their heads together after realising tenants were repeatedly raising the same issues with them.
From left to right: Tracy Wilson, Sara Wilcox and Nic Lumsden
Nic Says, “The concept of Flexi-spaces came out of our conversations about the pain points and business pressures our tenant customers face, and looking for solutions to give them more flexibility in the spaces they occupy".
Tenants were experiencing surge periods in their business where they required additional space — but only for a short period of time, which was very difficult to accommodate . As one explained:
“I want the ability to breathe within my lease. Sometimes we need to grow, sometimes we have excess space.’’
The team hit upon the idea of a digital marketplace that would allow all Charter Hall tenants across office, retail and industrial to advertise spare space within their tenancy to any other customer of Charter Hall nationwide. They could set the period it was available, the rent they wanted and any conditions around the tenancy.
“So for example we might have an industrial warehouse tenant in Western Australia who needs a presence in the Sydney CBD for a month. Utilising this platform, they could find a space in a prime office building like 1 Martin Place,’’ says Nic.
“It is all about increasing customer satisfaction and retention. If we can offer our tenants innovative solutions to their problems, that's one less reason why they would choose to go with somebody else.’’
The three-strong team had a wealth of business experience between them, but not in start-ups.
“We realised very quickly that we were not going to be able to do this by learning everything ourselves,’’ says Tracy. “We needed to get help to get it over the line.’’
Flexi-spaces was selected to participate alongside four start-ups in Charter Hall’s 2018 Accelerator program for proptechs which was jointly run by corporate innovation accelerator Collective Campus.
“We came into the Accelerator program with just a concept and a set of PowerPoint slides,’’ says Tracy.
“Collective Campus helped us to really hone in on the shortfalls in our plan, and refine it. With assistance from them and from a designer, we built a beta test environment and sent it out to all our NSW industrial portfolio.
“We got great feedback on it straight away. Within three days, we had nine opportunities created on the website. Around 80 percent of the tenants we contacted said they really liked the idea, and 60 percent said they would utilise it as soon as they had an opportunity available.’’
Steve Glaveski, CEO of Collective Campus, said the Accelerator program had helped Flexi-spaces to think like a start-up.
“It is often easy for teams operating in a corporate environment to suffer from paralysis by analysis, to call too many meetings,’’ says Steve. “Before you know it, it’s nine months later and nothing’s really been done.
“The program opened their eyes to a whole new way of doing things. It demonstrated what is possible with the right environment, the right tools and the right guidance.’’
Sarah, Nic and Tracy are full of new ideas to incorporate into Flexi-spaces.
They hope to eventually automate much of the sub-leasing process and to eliminate most of the paperwork involved, for example by accepting electronic signatures online.
They are also investigating the feasibility of opening the platform up to lessees outside the Charter Hall ecosystem, and of using it to manage a future portfolio of coworking office and industrial spaces.
“There are so many opportunities, but there is still lot of investigation and research that needs to be done. Matching our learnings with the desirability of Flexi-Spaces persists a winning formula to allow our tenant’s the opportunity to manage their own value chain and become completely flexible in the way they use, share and maximise their leased spaces".