RALEIGH – Planning an off-site meeting or social event can involve weeks of phone calls and property visits. Now, Peerspace, a California-based company with a burgeoning national presence and a growing footprint in North Carolina, is ventilating the process, making a wide variety of meeting spaces available to book online.
“We are making the process transparent,” Eric Shoup, Peerspace’s CEO said. “Our goal is to make booking meetings and events easy.” Shoup, a 20-year veteran of eBay, Ancestry, and Scribd, came onboard as CEO in early 2018, allowing company founder Rony Chammas to step into the roles of Chief Product Officer and Chairman of the Board.
Peerspace adapts the familiar – and successful – Airbnb peer-to-peer model to meeting spaces. Hosts who are seeking additional revenue from their real estate during times when it isn’t being used can list their spaces on the Peerspace website for rental by the hour. Potential customers can browse a wide variety of venues, then book with a click of the mouse. Peerspace handles payments, taking a 15 percent commission on each booking, and provides $1 million in liability insurance as well as support if things get off track.
Begun in San Francisco in 2014, Peerspace now lists more than 17,000 venues across the country that have hosted nearly 4 million event attendees. Companies that have booked spaces through Peerspace include Tesla, Airbnb, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, LinkedIn, Target, Wells Fargo, Buzzfeed, AT&T, Apple, WeWork corporate, NYU and Uber. Filmmakers looking for the right location and professional photographers in search of studio space are also frequent Peerspace users.
“Our hosts offer all sorts of venues,” Shoup said. “Homes, offices, art galleries, rooftops, lofts, vineyards, museums, restaurants, bars, warehouses, you name it. Companies come to Peerspace looking for something outside of the norm. Nothing is worse than holding a meeting in a windowless conference room. You have to change the energy if you want to get inspiration and more innovative results. With Peerspace, it’s easy to find the right esthetic.”
In North Carolina, Peerspace listings include historic chapels and farmhouses, garden atriums, warehouse lofts, natural light studios, demonstration kitchens, and high-tech meeting rooms in downtown Charlotte and Raleigh skyscrapers. Shoup believes that the Raleigh/Durham region is a natural for Peerspace due to the large amount of photography and film being produced in the area, as well as the size and depth of the medical, manufacturing, financial and technical industries, all of which are looking for unique settings for meetings, social events and film and photo shoots.
“Our hosts in North Carolina have accommodated everything from rappers making music videos to workout videos filmed in a home,” he said. “Plus we’ve seen a lot of executive planning sessions and regional meetings.”
Architect John Reese operates The Store, formerly a historic grocery, now restored as an inn and meeting space in Raleigh’s Glenwood neighborhood. He began listing on Peerspace a few months ago.
Reese found that setting up the Peerspace listing was simple. “While most booking engines are frustratingly complex to set up, the Peerspace process was just the opposite–very clear and straightforward,” he said. “In addition, we have the ability to call and speak with an actual human being when we have questions.”
His listing has generated four bookings to date, three still upcoming. “Our clientele are business professionals seeking a non-corporate ‘creative climate’ think-tank with the option to accommodate overnight VIPs or out-of-town guests,” Reese said. “Our most recent booking is from a Facebook Research Manager who needs to set up camp for a 5-day workshop.”
Peerspace maintains offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin and Philadelphia in addition to its headquarters in San Francisco, but is growing organically in many other cities including the Charlotte and Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), as people with venues discover the service and sign up.
Recently, Peerspace launched Add-Ons, a service that provides the furniture and equipment rentals, security guards, catering, staffing, even baristas and casino dealers, needed to make an event a success. “People don’t want to deal with these details and increasingly have been asking us to help with these things,” Shoup said. “Our vision is to become the one-stop-shop for all event and production needs globally, and Add-Ons are a big leap towards that. Hosts can create and manage Add-Ons from their listing’s inventory page and make them available for purchase during the checkout process.”
Shoup said Peerspace is definitely in expansion mode. “We went from 10 markets to 25 last year, and plan to add six more MSAs this year in the U.S and Canada, where we’re looking at Toronto and Vancouver. We’re trying to keep pace with our organic growth.”
Although the majority of Peerspace’s 75 employees work in San Francisco, the company also hires people around the country. “Their job is to find and sign up unique, interesting spaces, then consult with the hosts on how to be successful. Are we hiring? Yes, we are always hiring!”
Peerspace has enjoyed phenomenal growth during its early years, outstripping similar services such as Tel Aviv-based Splacer, Thisopenspace based in Vancouver, and Breather, founded in Montreal, none of which has achieved the number and variety of listings Peerspace offers. Shoup does not believe that peer-to-peer giant Airbnb will try to enter the event and meeting marketplace, as it is currently focusing on travel destination marketing. And, Shoup says, “we have a big head start.”
Several funding rounds have netted Peerspace a total of $38 million, including a Series A $11 million round in 2017 led by Foundation Capital, with participation from Carthona Capital, Red Bridge Partners, and Mitsui Fudosan, a Japanese real estate developer. “Our Series B round in mid-2018 was led by Google Ventures [now GV],” Shoup said. “They’ve been great partners. Joe Kraus, one of their partners, sits on our board. He’s giving us great advice on how to scale up.”
With $100 billion spent on meetings each year in the United States alone, Shoup said the sky’s the limit on Peerspace’s growth. “I’d say an IPO is definitely in our future,” he said. “I’m a believer.”