Zipcube triumphs in Thinking Digital 2014 startup contest

A startup that connects remote workers with empty meeting spaces stormed to victory in the Thinking Digital 2014 annual pitching contest

David Helland of speaks at the Thinking Digital conference at the Sage in Gateshead

A fledgling firm that aims to unlock the value of empty space for meetings stormed to victory in the 2014 Thinking Digital Startup conference.

For the third year running, the Thinking Digital conference hosted a start-up competition to giving bright startups the opportunity to deliver three-minute pitches to innovative thinkers, creative entrepreneurs, financiers, potential partners and journalists.

In association with accelerator programme Ignite and Betarocket, the North East’s source for start-ups and tech, the contest got underway on Tuesday at a pre-conference event in which 10 firms on the shortlist went up against each other before being whittled down to two finalists, who joined the line-up of speakers to pitch their ideas at Sage.

Finalists Reframedtv went head-to-head with Newcastle and London-based, with the latter triumphing in an audience vote after an enthusiastic pitch delivered by marketing director David Helland.

The Thinking Digital conference at the Sage in Gateshead

He said: “It’s estimated within three years 40% of people will be working remotely and within two years seven million will become mobile. That’s creating challenges for business and redundant space is very costly.

“Workers work from home but trying to have a professional meeting at home isn’t as good as being in a professional location because where we are determines how we work.

“Most businesses use Google to try and book available meeting space, but a lot are only suitable for 60 people or more, or only have forms on which you enquire and have to wait several hours for a response. Even Regus, the biggest booking site in the world, has an enquiry website.

“You can book a holiday, a plane, even plastic surgery but you can’t book a meeting space!

“So, welcome to Zipcube. You put in the city, date, type you require and search for live availability – and you can book! We’re living the dream!

“You can save time and unlock the value of redundant space.”

The firm began when founder Guillaume Santacruz, a former investment banker from Paris, quit his job to come to the UK with the seedling of an idea for turning companies’ redundant spaces into bookable meeting spaces.

Santacruz realised he was wasting time contacting each venue individually, but also knew that a lot of companies had extra space they could rent.

Soon after Hekla Goodman and David Helland came on board, and the trio have been working on the startup at the Google campus in London with £36,000 of support via the Serious accelerator programme.

The result is a website that combines a booking system for those needing space, with an interface for venue owners and individuals to share their unused spaces, with Zipcube taking a cut.

With empty office space to be found in all cities, despite a pick up in accommodation take-up, Zipcube hands an opportunity for firms across the North East to earn money from redundant space.

With the Thinking Digital prize money to help them, the startup team now intend to take on another intern and more jobs will follow as they target expansion.

The team will be split between Newcastle and London, with the site expanding from its current coverage of London to encompass all major UK and overseas cities.

Santacruz said: “We’ll find a way to stay here in the North East. The IT will be based here because it’s more affordable here.”

Goodman added: “This win is fantastic and we’ve had great support through the Serious accelerator programme who have been brilliant.

“We are going to pick up initially the Newcastle area and then expand to Manchester, and all the other big cities around the world like Paris and New York.”


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