Shquared: Airbnb and Tinder for Commercial Space

The Munich startup Shquared has developed a platform to use commercial space more efficiently. By sharing the space, operators should be able to reduce costs and risk while simultaneously making cities more diverse. An update interview with Daniela Weinhold, one of the startup’s co-founders.

Munich Startup: Daniela, the last time we spoke was two years ago. You were in the middle of your crowdfunding campaign back then, which you successfully raised 30,000 euros with. What have been your most important milestones since then?

Daniela Weinhold: We call our achievements “prosecco moments” – and we had quite a few in the last two years. For example, we now have eleven people on our team who are working to increase space productivity. We’ve made the first successful matches and have other exciting projects and plans involved with space utilization.

We’re located at Impact Hub Munich. With Startrampe, we’ve found an accelerator program that is an incredibly good match for us and that closely guides and supports us when it comes to growth.

Utilization with shared costs – and shared risk

Munich Startup: Your platform is live now. For those who don’t know you yet, what added value do you offer?

Daniela Weinhold: We’re a combination of Airbnb and Tinder for commercial space. Shquared “matches up” people who want to share their space with others who are looking for space for their project. This means existing commercial space, such as restaurants, flower shops, workshops or nightclubs.

All of these spaces are only partially used and are often empty for periods of time. It’s a matter of coordinating these idle periods with other operators. This allows us to increase space productivity and at the same time, users share the costs and risks. We can also bring more diversity to our city, increase the residents’ quality of life, make innovative ideas reality and create opportunities that had been unimaginable before. For example, running a breakfast café just two days a week, hosting a bar on special dates or selling homemade goods in a bar in the morning.

Especially in a city like Munich, where space is rare and expensive, we need to be creative! We’re creating new opportunities to circumvent the lack of space and to simply make double or triple use of our space. It’s that simple.

Here at Shquared, we provide support during the entire matching process in form of legal expertise and create a safe framework for finding good space partnerships. These partnerships can be both short and long-term.

Shquared: “People want to get started”

Munich Startup: On the one hand, the corona crisis has had an impact on your business model, but on the other hand, your concept offers fantastic opportunities for the time to come. How did you deal with the crisis? What immediate potential do you see?

Daniela Weinhold: We’ve noticed that lots of people had ideas in the back of their minds. And now they found time to dig them out again and think about them in concrete terms. Someone’s plans to have their own café are becoming more concrete, because the job that seemed so secure has turned out to be not so crisis-proof after all.

That being said, matches aren’t being made at the moment, because in uncertain times, very few people dare to try something new. So we’ve shifted to investing our energy in technological development, moved research down the list a few spots and have digitized as much as possible.

We’ve noticed that people are tired of waiting and really want to get started. It’s true that the timescale has changed and that it’s more about short and medium-term parallel use instead of more long-term commitments. But we’ve adapted our model and are now also the right platform for endeavors like pop-ups.

The crisis has done an excellent job showing us that we’re in a better position when costs and risks are shouldered by numerous people. If one business model ends up not working out, then perhaps the other one will, which means crises can be overcome together. Solidarity is always the best method of choice in crises. So we see considerable potential in collaborating more for the future. Stick together, tuck those elbows in and create synergies!

“We don’t fit into any conventional financing processes”

Munich Startup: What is the most challenging issue for Shquared at the moment?

Daniela Weinhold: Financing remains the most challenging issue for us. As a purpose-driven company that is focused on the long term and not a quick exit, it’s doubly difficult to find the right kind of financing. We’re very alternative in our approach and simply don’t fit into any conventional financing processes. So we scrape by going from one small bit of financing to the next and are growing sustainably using our own turnover. That keeps Shquared independent and we have the freedom to develop how we want. But it’s also hard work and every euro we spend has been hard-earned.

In the future, we hope to find simpler financing instruments that are based more on trust and insight into human nature than cold calculations. But we obviously aren’t just going to wait until something like that happens. Instead, we’re actively working on these kinds of structures and are creating a mechanism together with Impact Hub and Startrampe for impact startups that are jointly responsible for each other.

Munich Startup: You decided to found a purpose-driven company. What differentiates it from a standard startup?

Daniela Weinhold: Shquared is actually a GmbH that has given 1% of its voting rights to the Purpose Foundation. That means we have the Purpose Foundation as a control shareholder taking part in our shareholder meetings. They are exclusively responsible for making sure our decisions are made to maximize our purpose and not our profit. To ensure that, we are

  1. not allowed to privatize profit – meaning to distribute it among the shareholders – or
  2. to give voting rights to people who are not actively involved in the company.

This means we give our customers, investors and employees a promise that what we are doing here in our company is ensuring that space is used more efficiently. And that it’s not about earning as much money as possible that will then end up in the shareholders’ pockets. Everyone involved can count on that and can trust us. Because we have committed ourselves to the Purpose Foundation in our shareholder agreement forever. If you’re interested in learning more about why we did that, you can read our blog article about it.

Alternating use of space as a new urban development tool

Munich Startup: Where do you want to be in one year, and where in five?

Daniela Weinhold: Oh my, you can plan all sorts of things. But no one knows what will actually happen. Our plan is to be active beyond the boundaries of Munich in one year and to have made some great matches for the parallel use of space. In five years, we’d like to be doing the exact same thing and to offer consulting services for new construction projects! Then space will be designed for parallel use from the very beginning.

We would like to have established parallel use and alternating use as new urban development tools. And we want to support cities and communities in using urban space more efficiently. We need to be more clever about how we use space as a resource, because we all need it to live and work. Shquared will continue to champion the efficient use of space for more diversity in the city, because we know that personal fulfilment and independent living and working is only possible with the right space. We’re going to take care of that. And we’ll see how fast Shquared grows. But as long as we’re working on using space more efficiently, then we’re on the right path.

Munich Startup: What do you think is the key factor for sustainable and successful business development?

Daniela Weinhold: Identifying with the purpose of the company. Every member of the team has to be able to identify with the purpose of the company so good ideas can develop, and so you can also endure the stressful times. I personally believe that your own motivation absolutely has to be in line with the purpose of the company and that you need to free yourself from monetary goals. I truly do not question for one second whether our business can support itself or not, because I am completely convinced that we’re doing the right thing. There’s always a market for quality. Which is why it’s important to ensure quality. And quality is no coincidence, but is rather know-how, unbridled interest and, not to mention, the ability to improvise. If you want something, there’s always a way.