Q1) So Brett I can see a lot of similarities between Lovespace as a business model and Streetcar your previous venture. Tell me about the similarities you see and how you got involved this new venture.?Q2) And in terms of getting involved in this particular market sector. That came about because the connection you had with one of the Angel investors in Streetcar. Is that right?Q3) So has it been easier the second time around for Lovespace versus Streetcar having already been successful with that first business?Q4) Have you seen Lovespace 'copycats' using your business model?video link to Q4) In terms of raising awareness of the concept, a lot of what I hear as an Angel investor is people are almost afraid to go out there and bring their ideas to market before being in a position to fully grow because they are scared of copycats and competition. Is that something you’ve seen? I know that a couple of copycats have sprung up since you launched.
Q5) For you its about execution rather than the concept?video link to Q5) For you its about execution rather than the concept?
Q6) Where do you see this business going? Are you going to be expanding internationally?Q7) You've got that capability through partnerships I take it?video link to Q7) You’ve got that capability through partnerships I take it?
Transcript: Brett Akker, 2 ) The early stages of Lovespace
Mike Bank: Hi and welcome back to Part 2) of our interview with Brett Akker. What we are going to do in this part is talk about Brett’s new business which is Lovespace.
So Brett I can see a lot of similarities between Lovespace as a business model and Streetcar your previous venture. So why don’t we talk a bit more about that. The similarities you see and how you got involved this new venture.
Brett Akker: I think you are exactly right there. They are fairly similar I think. If I describe Lovespace to people, I tend to describe it as ‘what Streetcar did to car rental is what Lovespace is going to do to traditional self storage’.
So with Streetcar versus car rental. the two key benefits were 1) you could use for half an hour or an hour rather than 24 hours. And the other aspect is that it was pretty hassle free. So you could go online, book your car, wander outside to find your nearest car 10 yards down the road. Get inside and go and use it right away rather than traipsing across town to a car rental depot and waiting in line.
Mike: Taking away the pain point basically.
Brett: Yeah, exactly so we’re looking to try and do exactly the same with Lovespace. Again the two key differences to traditional self storage is 1) we store by the box or by the large items.
So at the moment its £4.95 per box, per month rather than the very smallest unit in a traditional self storage place would be around £60 – £70 per month so there’s that key advantage.
And the other key advantage is we will come to you to pick up your stuff and give it back to you at the end as well. So it does take that hassle away of potentially having to rent a van. Lugging all your stuff out of town to the nearest self storage depot.
Mike: again similar pain points.
Brett: yeah exactly so that’s what we’re hoping to try is to expand the traditional self storage market to the way it currently stands today.
Mike: And in terms of getting involved in this particular market sector. That came about because the connection you had with one of the Angel investors in Streetcar. Is that right?
Brett: I guess the idea was borne by a conversation between myself and Carl August Ameln who was our first Angel investor into Streetcar. He’s got fantastic self storage experience across Europe.
So he launched City Self-Storage in Scandinavia I think in early 90’s and expanded into various other countries. He got experience in Spain, France etc. He knows the self storage market inside out.
He obviously got involved in Streetcar as well. He was really combining the two. The two different aspects to create this business but it was also around what’s happening generally in terms of trends in the UK as to why it makes sense.
It’s exactly the same as why Streetcar made sense at the time. More and more people living in the cities, and the cities becoming denser. A lot of flats going up with very little space.
So storage space and space generally is at a premium which is why this hopefully will work.
Mike: So has it been easier the second time around so with Lovespace versus Streetcar having already been successful with that first business?
Brett: I’m not sure its been easier. There are different challenges with starting any business up. No business however similar they may appear on the outside, no businesses are the same.
So with this new business I’ve certainly made mistakes and we made mistakes along the way as we did with Streetcar. But we were making mistakes with Streetcar up until the very end.
Its a learning process from start to finish and its the same with this business. So I feel that the business is in good shape now. We’ve got a very strong team. The product, the service is exactly what we want.
We’ve got the right partners in terms of third party suppliers where we may use them. So we are in a good place but it is very early days. We’ve only done a very soft launch so far.
For us its about getting the message out there. Raising awareness of the concept and being very specific with the market we’re willing to target with this product.
Mike: In terms of raising awareness of the concept, a lot of what I hear as an Angel investor is that people are almost afraid to go out there and bring their ideas to market before being in a position to fully grow because they are scared of copycats and competition. Is that something you’ve seen? I know that a couple of copycats have sprung up since you launched.
Brett: I’ve got quite an open mind with competition generally at this stage of the business because we are very, very early stage. The concept is very, very early stage so if the concept is going to work there is going to be massive growth over the coming years. so there is going to be plenty of room for more than one player. So if somebody comes in and they provide a good service and they raise awareness of the concept, then I see that as only as helping us.
From our perspective it always going to be trying to remain number one in the market from now until the next few years.
Mike: So for you its about execution rather than the concept?
Brett: Yeah its both, so as long as other people are raising awareness of the concept then that’s great. What we will focus on is as I said we will remain number one and also we will provide the very best service. So just as with Streetcar customer service is absolutely core to this business. It is very, very important to us. We will try and provide the best service you can possibly get in storage but also in wider industry as we tried to do with Streetcar.
Mike: Where do you see this business going? Are you going to be expanding internationally?
Brett: We’re national from day one. We can drop off and collect from your door then it means we can provide exactly the same service whether you live in Edinburgh or whether you live in London.
Mike: You’ve got that capability through partnerships I take it?
Brett: Yeah through partnerships. We all provide next day collection, next day delivery anywhere in the UK. So we’re national from day one. So the key thing for us is to raise awareness of the concept, to target the relevant segments. That might be students, that’s small businesses, that’s people moving house. That is people looking to declutter from their current flat or house.
Prove that in the UK and then we’ve got a very, very strong board with good international experience in the storage arena so the plan would be to focus on the UK to start with. To prove the concept over here then potentially look elsewhere internationally.
Mike: So for other budding entrepreneurs do you think the big part of maybe the success in the past but certainly the success I hope you’ll see with Lovespace is around the network you built around you. The advisers, the partnerships that allowed you to launch nationally from day one?
Brett: For me it’s all around preparation and you need to prepare for whatever it might be. So you’re preparing for the business with your business planning and trying to get as much as that done in a timely fashion and done well before you actually launch the business.
And then preparation for every single meeting you have. All those sort of things are so vitally important for when you are looking to grow this business or grow any business. So for me that is the key.
Mike: Well we wish you all the best for Lovespace. Maybe we can go on to talk about the other work you are doing in the Startup community.