Interview - Coffee Break with Jeremy Hurst from SpacetoCo

28th Sep 2021 • Enrichment

Connecting space and community

We all need spaces to meet, work, celebrate and more! SpacetoCo is bringing people together and helping to fill this big need. SpacetoCo allows anyone to share and book a variety of community spaces by the hour.

SpacetoCo continues to expand with partnerships in local government, numerous small businesses benefiting and expanding community connections. We had a chat with Co-Founder Jeremy Hurst to find out a little more about this innovative and valuable concept.

For those who haven’t heard of SpacetoCo can you tell us a little about it and what originally sparked the concept?

SpacetoCo is an online marketplace for the short-term hire of spaces in the community. This means you can easily find, book, and pay for any type of space you need, be it - a community hall, a dance studio, tennis court, park, gazebo, and many more.

Wherever there are people, there is a need for space. Connecting people with people is at the heart of what SpacetoCo does. We strive to make the technology invisible when it comes to people sharing spaces with each other. We have re-engineered the user journey and ensured that space hire can be as easy as grabbing your mobile device to book accommodation, airfares, and order food delivery or an Uber ride.

Essentially there is more to SpacetoCo than just a booking tool and dashboard. It represents a pathway to growth for space owners whilst also providing a much improved and more modern customer experience. For businesses, sharing their spaces can provide much-needed income & customer growth.

The spark for the concept was hatched back in 2015 while I was working on a prototype with the u.lab project. My project was to open an eco-friendly accommodation to inspire others that it would be possible to be eco-friendly by making simple design choices. Around this time, I realised that it was super painful to find and book professional learning spaces for my clients. I also had been married in my Perth Hills backyard 10 months previous and I thought, ‘what if other people who don’t have a backyard might like to use my space for their event?’ The final thought that cemented the concept was that I was about to share accommodation - why not space as well, but do it by the hour.

What types of spaces are available to hire through SpacetoCo?

We have an abundance of different types of spaces that range from outdoor community-activated places (Town Team Spaces), cafes, community centres, beaches (you can book Cable Beach in Broome through SpacetoCo), classrooms, co-working, consulting rooms, performance spaces and so many more!

What sort of benefits (socially, economically etc.) result from the SpacetoCo concept?

Quite a lot!

When people use spaces efficiently, the local economy wins, the space owner wins, the environment wins and neighbourhoods become more vibrant.

(Above: Receiving the Merit award at the 2021 INCITE Awards for Innovating Government.

Jonas Tyle Petersen (right) - Chief Digital Officer, Office of Digital Government, Department of Premier & Cabinet of WA).

We work towards space sharing being something that encourages sustainable use of spaces - we want to see utilisation and we achieve that by growing bookings (The City of Vincent has grown the use of its civic spaces by 31% since shifting to SpacetoCo). The side effects of more utilisation are more people in towns and precincts spending in local area economies - this creates success for everyone and the result is more vibrant places. But best of all, it’s the greater community connection we see between people. In an era where society is digitally divided, it’s great to be working to get people together in spaces. We see stories of space owners becoming friends with the people who hire their spaces, where people who needed a space found something affordable, allowing them to experiment and explore with a business idea. Participants in those new ventures go on and connect with one another.

The challenges we are living through from COVID are going to affect local area economies for many years to come - especially in NSW, Victoria, and other badly impacted communities. When the era of lockdowns has passed, the solutions for communities to rebuild in a new normal will be needed. We believe that space-as-a-service is one of these things. Making it simple to find and share space(s) is going to be needed more than ever. In addition to this, we're seeing a trend towards bookings where the reasons for hire are increasingly to do with remote-work, work-from-home alternatives, and team-meetups for work.

Schools, Colleges and training centres etc. have some amazing spaces that aren’t always 100% utilised; we heard this is something you’re currently investigating further. Can you tell us more about this notion and perhaps how educational facilities can get involved?

We have been focused on local government spaces but are absolutely interested to work more with schools in 2022. We know that government schools are actually required to make their facilities available for community use… the community might not always get that impression. There is a significant opportunity to use education spaces more - they sit in the heart of the community and contain ovals, playing courts, undercover areas, classrooms, theatres, libraries and so many more. They are used 40 weeks of the year between 8 am and 5 pm but are available outside those times and every weekend. They are also mostly empty for 12 weeks of school holiday time - no space is probably wasted more than a school space.

To get involved in Space Sharing, schools can get in touch with us and start listing their spaces for free. We make it simple so there is minimal admin for the school. We do know that schools can be risk-averse, so it’s good to highlight that no space hire can occur without the school's say-so. They can even capture a bond to mitigate risk. More details can be found here.

Can you tell us something most people wouldn’t know about you?

This is my third career - I was a primary school teacher for 13 years before doing 10 years of tech consulting for education. Starting up SpacetoCo is number 3! Most people may not know we appeared on Shark Tank (it was very tough) and that I am also the Chair of Save Perth Hills - a group working on an alternate vision to some proposed urban townsites that will only add to Perth’s urban sprawl. I love downhill snow skiing and used to compete in Eventing (equestrian cross-country, show-jumping, and dressage). Oh and my wife and I run Quenda Guesthouse in the Perth Hills.