We caught up with Lihi Gerstner, co-founder of Splacer to find out how this innovative idea came to birth.Read her interview to learn how her business has expanded into multiple markets across the US. You may just have a space that can fill a demand and gain useful insights from her business strategies.
What did you eat for breakfast?
What’s your workout?
Pilates, running, yoga, and playing basketball with my son.
What picture is on your phone’s home screen? Share it with us.
It’s a picture of me with my two kids.
Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?
I was inspired to start my business while working as an architect. I had a eureka moment when I noticed that there were so many beautiful spaces that were going unused and thought, “Why not find a purpose for them?” At the same time, my business partner, Adi Biran and I, began observing that more and more people were becoming accustomed to the idea of sharing their beds and cars with strangers, so we thought, “Why not share our living rooms, roof decks, kitchen tables, and commercial spaces for brands and individuals to utilize?” We also saw many people in search of unique space for parties and fashion shows. There was a definite need from both sides so we thought, let’s jump into it! We started in Tel Aviv from zero, just Adi and myself, and we were able to persuade 100 locals to list their spaces. Now we’re in five major cities across the US with a team of 23 employees.
What do you see for your future?
Our aim is to continue to support the industry of short term rentals to grow. We recently launched SpacePro, a management tool for space owners to manage their short-term rental businesses across multiple platforms. This tool will ultimately help space owners maximize their spaces and drive revenue forward from their spaces.
How large is your business? How many employees do you have?
We are currently operating in five cities across the US – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. Our headquarters are in New York with R&D offices in Israel with 23 employees .
Tell us a success story about funding your business.
The first time we tried to raise money, after finishing an accelerator program and launching our website, we didn’t succeed. The timing was not ideal- there was a war going on here in Israel that summer. We began searching for every opportunity we could. We were lucky enough to have a friend who wrote an article about us in Globes, the largest financial newspaper in Israel, giving us an aura of an established company. We wrote to all the investors in Israel- without any success. And, we went to countless meetings but were turned down because we hadn’t developed any technology or marketing presence. Everyone had a different excuse as to why they weren’t able to fund us.
Finally, one investor, who had read the Globes article invited us to a meeting but by that point we were sure that we would fail; I simply wanted to cancel. But Adi said, “We went to so many, let’s go to this one as well.” So, I reluctantly agreed to go. It took us 3 months to persuade him but we finally secured him as an investor. The funny thing was that he had read the article and thought we were a huge company, but when he saw the books he realized we were much smaller. By then, it didn’t matter, he believed in us.
What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?
The start-up life is very unstable, it’s like a rollercoaster. Because our company is international, my work day often gets busiest in the afternoon when I am with my children. Because of them it has become a much larger and trickier roller coaster than it used to be. It’s definitely challenging to balance work and personal life.
Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame.
We started Splacer in Israel. Which was ideal because we were able to test the concept in a smaller and friendlier market in order to prove to the world that we could build something. After we managed to build up our marketplace of spaces and raise money to open in New York, we had to make a very tough decision that resulted in the closing of the Israel marketplace. We did it because we need our focus to be the US. The product was in English, the payment processes were in English, so it just made the most sense to close the Tel Aviv locations. Because of that decision, we’ve been able to steadily expand across the US over the past year and are very happy we dove into the US market.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love that I get to turn something I believe in and dreamed up into reality. It’s rewarding to be able to do good for other people- whether it’s helping the space owners generate more revenue or bringing new life to idle spaces, neighborhoods and communities.
What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?
It’s very important to me that what I do will make a difference in people’s lives and help others.
I believe in what I do and choose to work with people who share the same beliefs and goals.
What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
I would say my superpower is my ability to forge ahead fearlessly. When you have the right partner, who backs you up and a support system you can count on, it’s a lot easier to take risks.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?
Adi Biran my partner, best friend and my inspiration. Her power of collaboration and ability to balance work and family amazes me. I am inspired by her belief in what she does and the strength and depth she puts into everything. I couldn’t do it without her!
What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?
As women, we have four jobs – we have family, work, our relationships, and ourselves. Wearing each of these hats and balancing the responsibilities that come along with each role is tough but it’s a must. I truly believe that if you’re not happy, no one around you will be happy. You have to give the right attention to the right things at the right time. Balance is more important than ever. The plus side is that as an entrepreneur, I have more freedom and control over my day. I know I have to be done at the office by 4 o’clock, pick up the kids, get them to bed by 9 pm, and then start working again.
Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?
Yes, I think that women are faster and more to the point than men. As mothers, there’s more pressure to get things done in time to be there for the kids. We have to adapt to a faster pace. I worked with mostly men in my previous career as an architect and they take their time.
What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?
One of our advisors once told me that the journey of an entrepreneur is like a road trip. Every time you open the door to let someone in you have to decide if you’re ready to go on a road trip with that person. If not, then don’t open the door.
Connect with Lihi through LinkedIn