Walk into any medium or large office and you are likely to find at least a few people struggling to find a free meeting room, or several meeting rooms simply not being used regularly enough.
MeetingRooms.com aims to solve such problems with an online service that allows people to book meeting rooms anywhere around the world, effectively creating meeting rooms on-demand and workspace-as-a-service.
MeetingRooms.com was founded by former real estate broker Richard Smith, and is based in Stanmore in London and Boca Raton in Florida cumulatively employing 20 people.
Smith was joined by American entrepreneur and business partner Caleb Parker (pictured), who is chief executive and goes under our spotlight to reveal more about the company.
Tell us more about MeetingRooms.com.
MeetingRooms.com is the global marketplace that brings people and meeting spaces together, on demand. It allows users to instantly find, compare and book a meeting space.
The idea started in 2011 when I was consulting small and medium-sized businesses and corporates on how to optimise their office footprints.
Then at an industry conference I met my business partner, Richard Smith, as we were both speaking on the same panel.
After the panel discussion was over, he leaned over to me and said: "We need to talk." Five months later I moved across the pond to join forces with Smith to build MeetingRooms.com.
From the customer's point of view, it's like going online to book a hotel room, a flat on Airbnb, or pulling out your phone to request an Uber. For the venue partners, it's like eBay. They sell their product - meeting rooms - through our marketplace and we facilitate the transaction.
They control the price and contract directly with the customer, and each month we send their revenue to them after applying our transaction fees.
Why did you develop this service?
Walk into any coffee shop and look around at all the laptops and people having meetings. Technology has given us the freedom to work anywhere, anytime and there is no longer a need for an expensive permanent office because today's work is in the cloud and on-demand.
But while it's great that technology gives business owners and workers so much flexibility about when, how and where we work, sometimes we do need a physical space for things like team catch-ups and client meetings, and that's where we step in.
Tell us how you got MeetingRooms.com off the ground?
We created MeetingRooms.com as an entity that can handle larger scale corporate bookings and smaller meeting space requirements by the hour or by the day.
The last 10 months has been at full speed and I don't expect that to slow down anytime soon. We've grown from two to 20-plus people since last August and have already outgrown our own workspace twice.
We've set some aggressive milestones for the next 12 months. We're expecting to grow our global inventory by 24,000 meeting rooms. We are laser focused on a couple of key industry sectors and expect to grow our booking revenue to £10m.
To accomplish these we are continuing to innovate our technology and have some exciting releasing in the pipeline.
Finally, attracting the right talent is very important to support this growth. We expect to grow our team in London and the US, putting us near 30 team members in 12 months.
What technology do you use?
For mobile I'm an Apple guy. I have an iPhone and iPad which I can do most of my business on when outside the office. But I'm still a PC guy in the office.
I also use Citrix's GoToMeeting to stay connected with my team, partners and clients. The tool is critical to my business and works across all my devices.
Whenever I'm not able to meet in person because of geographic barriers, meeting online is a great alternative and saves a lot of time and costs for me.
Are you based in an incubator or startup centre?
Neither. Our London office is an open plan with a break room and, of course, a meeting room. Our Florida office is in one of our serviced office venue partner locations in Boca Raton.
What level of funding have you received so far?
While we're a startup, we're in the unique and very fortunate position of being spun out of an established company, Search Office Space, and I'm very fortunate to have Smith, founder of SOS, as my business partner. He is well known and liked in our industry.
Having said that, we are still a startup and had to build our technology from scratch and grow our team. That, of course, requires capital. So the founding team has self-funded the business to date.
What challenges have you encountered so far?
One of the biggest challenges was getting other people aligned with our initial vision. We started talking about our vision way back in 2011, writing blog posts, speaking at conferences, participating on panels and collaborating with others on the topic that our vision touches.
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
In a startup where every day is progress, the list of highlights can get quite long, from launching in private beta to public beta to our global launch, our first team member to our 20th, our first booking to our month-over-month revenue growth.
For me the latest highlight I'm proud of is a large customer partnership we just secured, which we're projecting will generate thousands of bookings each month in our marketplace.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
We all have families at home so we typically plan our after-work fun ahead of time versus randomly doing something after a busy day.
Usually one or two Fridays each month we'll grab drinks near the office after work, but we're planning a team karaoke night soon that should be fun (or scary).
What did you do before starting MeetingRooms.com?
Prior to joining MeetingRooms.com, I co-founded a tech startup in 2012 to enable customers to book office and meeting spaces online.
At the time I was a licensed commercial estate agent in Washington, DC and was partner in a flexible workspace consulting firm. I entered the flexible workspace industry in 2007 with Regus, a large operator of flexible workspaces.
Prior to that I spent over a decade in hospitality, where I started my career and started my first company.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
Definitely Airbnb. I've been an Airbnb member for five years and have experienced their evolution from a cool idea to a multi-billion pound company.
They learned early on that providing a great customer service experience was crucial and have delivered well. Our goal is to have success in this area so our community becomes champions for MeetingRooms.com like Airbnb members have for their marketplace.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
Most days I work in a shared environment with my team, but I have the technology to work remotely. I worked remotely in NYC last year for six months while I was waiting for my UK visa to be approved.
Not to sound clichéd, but it's hard not to want to be successful like Steve Jobs and study what he did right. I'm also impressed with how Dan Berger is growing Social Tables, a Washington DC-based hospitality tech startup that's making life easier for people in the meeting and events industry.
Beverage of choice?
It depends on the atmosphere. I like a smooth red wine with a hint of oak barrel or a peat smoke flavour scotch.
Gotta give a shout out to McDonough's back in my hometown of Savannah in the US, where I had a lot of karaoke practice.
I love social media, so the big three - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - is my answer for now.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Yes, but you have to be smart about what events you attend. For that matter, you have to really think about the advice that's out there.
There's a lot of noise and fluff around the #startup keyword. Everyone has advice. But not everyone has the right advice for you. I've met some really cool people at networking events, and it's the relationships with these people that I've benefited from.
Could the government and technology industry do more to support UK startups?
This may sound political, but it's not intended that way. Governments should create business-friendly environments. Technology has a track record of reducing barriers and costs, and has made it possible for nearly anyone to start a business today.
The government should do the same by reducing regulations and taxes, or making them easier for those of us without a law degree to comprehend.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cleaner-seeking iOS and Android app Hassle.com and social networking app 6Tribes, to IT management firm Essensys and cloud services provider Cube52.
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