A little over a year ago, when we took our first look at LiquidSpace it was just a few months old, and mainly focused on helping individuals like freelance consultants book short-term office space while they were out and on the go.
So, very much a collaborative consumption startup, which it remains today.
But the company has taken some major steps to expand its service to the point where major companies like AT&T and Accenture are using it internally, and Marriott is testing a “workspace on demand” program using the LiquidSpace platform.
What the SF-based company has built essentially is a technology platform that matches unoccupied office space (supply) with workers who need an office or a desk for a few hours or a day at a time (demand).
“On the user side, the demand side, we've made a big effort to validate our hypothesis that LiquidSpace is a compelling service well-aligned with large companies, not just individual business people,” explains founder and CEO Mark Gilbreath.
“We are proving it with large companies now. ‘Real estate on demand’ means companies are able to utilize existing buildings rather than build new ones. They are able to lower costs and reduce inefficiencies. The existing built workplace is under-utilized. So we offer new workspace strategies inside companies. They are moving away from assigned offices and desks toward sharing space like a hotel room or a desk.”
The partnership with Marriott represents another twist on the model.
“The 'workspace on demand' program is especially exciting to us,” says Gilbreath. “Marriott is testing it in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. They are experimenting with broadening what their brand represents from a place where you sleep to a place where you work.
“They've had a sense of a use case for a long time where a professional has a work activity that is of a relatively short duration, minutes or hours as opposed to days, and that this happens on relatively short notice. Now, with our platform, they can validate that use case.”
What’s going on at Accenture, the global consulting firm with 450 offices around the world and 212,000 employees, is an experiment with even larger implications for the long-term evolution of work-styles inside large enterprises.
“One hundred percent of Accenture’s employees all over the world are now working in a ‘hoteling’ model inside their 450 offices,” says Gilbreath. “No one has a permanent workstation any longer. Employees sign up for new desks and offices every day.”
Gilbreath says this model increases a large company’s productivity and efficiency, while flat-lining or reducing its carbon footprint and eliminating the need to erect new office buildings.
“Their ambition over time is to squeeze down their fixed footprint and switch over to the on-demand model. It increases productivity of workers when they get to choose where they work–they are more engaged employees."
The environmental component has attracted the attention of some government officials, including SF Mayor Ed Lee, who has been vocal in his support for collaborative consumption companies and their potential to help the city meet its ambitious carbon footprint reduction goals.
“The built landscape of offices accounts for is a massive portion–62 percent–of the overall carbon footprint,” says Gilbreath. “The number two source, of course, is transportation. We impact both.”
So far, the only government agencies actually using the LiquidSpace platform are several public library systems, including those in Santa Cruz and Palo Alto, but Gilbreath indicates he expects that to change later this year.
Meanwhile, earlier this week the company announced that it has just raised $6 million in a Series B round of venture financing, led by The GPT Group, Australia's oldest REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust), bringing the company's total financing to north of $11 million.
This is also a strategic investment that deepens the startup’s access to insights into the commercial real estate market that it appears to be poised to disrupt globally.