Written by Andrew Seale
Sarah Selhi knows the success of SpaceiShare, the in-home space sharing platform she co-founded, is hinged on trusting the community will protect your belongings and the stories they hold.
“The people using the platform are just like you and me… (they have) things they really want to hold onto because it means something but they don’t necessarily have the place to put it,” she says. “We want people to have the element of trust that I think sometimes gets taken away from us.”
But it’s not just about trust, it’s about practicality. There’s no illusion real estate – and space in general – is becoming more expensive in Toronto as demand increases.
That’s the place SpaceiShare is coming from, says Selhi. It’s about making opportunities for Torontonians to open their doors and monetize their space – whether it be letting an up-and-coming chef stage a dinner in your under-used but beautiful kitchen or giving a condo dweller the opportunity to stash some of their possessions in your empty shed.
But in a lot of ways the trust is already there.
“Toronto is a very open, multicultural and accepting community,” says the SpaceiShare co-founder, who got the idea after her aunt accepted a temporary post in Edmonton and put her stuff into storage, paying an exorbitant rate.
“She was spending $500 a month to rent about 250 square feet, I calculated it and was like ‘wow, that’s $12,000 over two years and her stuff was not worth that much,’ ” she says. “She could have used my space for free or some other family would have loved to make $6,000… it would’ve helped them with the mortgage or the kids or travelling even.”
She brought the idea for SpaceiShare to Karen Wang and France Brunelle and they joined the Founder Institute accelerator in Toronto.
“Founder Institute was great because it introduced us to some really top level mentors here in the city – CEOs of startups, VCs, angel investors,” says Selhi.
They pitched weekly and received feedback with opportunity to tap into mentors further down the road.
“We went in there with an MVP (minimum viable product) and still found there was a lot of things we had not done in the first few months,” she says. SpaceiShare went live in July 2016.
Since then they’ve been working on growing listings community-by-community with France spearheading a push into markets in French-speaking Canada. They’ve partnered with like-minded Toronto startup Jiffy, an on-demand odd-job sourcing app, to offer a $50 Jiffy coupon to new users.
There’s been so many events to tap into between here and Waterloo… it’s almost dizzying how much time you could spend being a part of the Toronto’s startup community,” says Selhi.
While she suspects the company will open offices in the U.S. as operations expand, currently they’re drawing inspiration out of the openness of Toronto’s space-sharing community.
“For the most part I find Torontonians, out of most other places – even in Canada – to be some of the most open-minded people,” says Selhi. “Toronto will play a really important role in terms of us making our home base here.”