Chris Gourlay is founder of Spacehive, the world’s first crowdfunding platform for projects that improve the civic environment. Spacehive aids local fundraising efforts by matching them with funding sources from civic councils, companies and foundations. Over 45 of them.
What makes Spacehive so unique is that it can positively impact a community far larger than just those who donate on the platform. It has been used by community groups, charities, schools and local businesses, mayors, corporations and foundations – all to collaboratively improve local places, both big and small, momentary and lasting. It has the highest campaign success rate of any crowdfunding platform in the UK. And since the pandemic, the platform has seen a 300% increase in people helping to fund improvements to their local area.
Chris cut his teeth as a journalist at The Sunday Times where he led on coverage of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty and the architecture and planning brief. He also ran international investigations for the award-winning Insight unit. Chris has been interviewed by many TV and radio programmes, newspapers and magazines – Sky News, BBC’s Today programme, WIRED, The New Scientist, The Guardian and more – about the power of technology to transform communities.
Insights and Inspirations
- 10 years into building his unique civic platform, Chris is not nearly finished.
- Technology can make everyone a civic change-maker.
- With communities in the drivers seat, locals can shape their own civic environment, making everyone happy, proud and prosperous.
- What’s in the name SpaceHive? Take civic and community SPACE, add a good dose of collective effort (like a bee HIVE) enhance it with technology and you have the ability for people to shape their own environments.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:06] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Re-Think Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone. If you haven’t already, check out all of my podcasts at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co or you can find them at your favorite podcast station. You’ll find lot’s worth listening to, I’m sure.
Eve: [00:00:41] Today, I’m talking with Chris Gourlay, the founder of Spacehive. Chris launched Spacehive, a civic crowdfunding platform, almost a decade ago. It came to him through his work as a journalist where he focused on architecture and planning. He was frustrated by the lack of investment and creativity in public spaces, and so he took a very bold step and launched Spacehive, a crowdfunding platform giving communities the power to shape their own civic environment. And he has succeeded. Spacehive is a testament to Chris’s passion and his vision. The platform claims to have the highest campaign success rate of any crowdfunding platform in the U.K. Hundreds of place-based projects have been created throughout the country, including urban parks, community centers and public gathering spaces. Restorations of historic buildings, collective artist and entrepreneurial hubs. Parking space makeovers. Public WiFi and more. I love what Chris has created, and so will you. If you’d like to join me in my quest to rethink real estate, there are two simple things you can do. Share this podcast or go to Patreon.com/rethinkrealestate to learn about special opportunities for my friends and followers and subscribe if you can. Hello, Chris, I’m such a fan of yours and so happy to get a chance to talk to you today.
Chris Gourlay: [00:02:25] Hey, Eve, great to speak to you again, thank you and likewise been excited to follow what you’ve been doing with Small Change over the years.
Eve: [00:02:33] I think you might have been my inspiration. Some years ago, I remember when you launched Spacehive, how fabulous I thought it was. So, tell us a little bit about Spacehive, which I love.
Chris: [00:02:48] Well, so you know, Spacehive is a crowdfunding platform for projects that improve local places, the civic environment. So this is our streets or green spaces, the community buildings we all share, heritage, sports facilities, all the stuff that kind of makes up our public realm, if you like. And what Spacehive does is to provide a springboard for local people who’ve got ideas for improving that area, to be able to start projects and then attract the money they need to pay for them from friends and neighbors, but also local businesses, the local mayor, the municipality government, big brands, corporations, developers all through the same portal so that these things can get done. And the idea is it makes it much easier for a much wider range of people to be involved in improving that area and local places and local communities benefit as a result.
Eve: [00:03:48] So you started life as a journalist, right? So, I’m wondering how someone with a journalism degree ends up at the helm of Spacehive and I’d love you to take me on the journey.
Chris: [00:04:02] Yeah, sure. Well, I was a journalist, as you say, for four years before I started Spacehive. I worked at the Sunday Times newspaper in London. I covered the architecture and planning beat there and was also the London correspondent. So, I worked with the then mayor, Boris Johnson, who’s actually now prime minister, on various different stories. And that experience at that time there did help to shape my idea. I got to know how local government and civic improvement works with property developer’s eyes and planner’s eyes. But to be honest with you, the kernel of the idea came about 10, 20 years ago. On a trip to Cuba, I met a guy there in Havana, were chatting in the city about his neighborhood, sitting in a park on this little bench, and he was this amazing guy, super enthusiastic about his community and full of ideas for improving things. I mean, Cuba, as you may know, is a place where things the pace of change can be slow, shall we say. And and there’s a lot of beauty and elegance in the built environment because of that. But its civic involvement is not, if you like, the fastest paced in the world. And he was like lamenting various kind of, you know, broken benches, including the one we were sitting on and the state of the park and this ice cream parlor. He wanted to improve nearby. And I remember thinking, wow, this guy is basically a social entrepreneur. He’s full of ideas, and he talked about how difficult it was for him to change things. You know, you have to go through the centralized structure, the party, the state. And it was a pretty sclerotic system and basically not much happened as a result. And I remember thinking at the time it just sort of started sparked this idea, this image in my head of people like him and this idea that in communities all around the world, really, there are people like him, like you and me, if you care about the area and you’ve got ideas for improving things. It struck me that he and others would be willing to to give time and money to make an improvement happen if it was an easy way to do that. But here was the civic environment, which was inadvertently blocking out his ideas and actually blocking out capital because there’s just no way for people to be able to propose a project. There’s no way for people to be able to chip in to make a thing happen easily. And the result was that not much did happen. And of course, if you think about places like the U.K., the United States is not Cuba. You’ve got a thriving civil society. It’s a very different, very different system. But actually, fundamentally when it comes to the civic environment, similar. You know, there’s this system that is very top down and you really, traditionally have to be sort of a municipality or property developer to be able to change things or a seasoned community development professional. So at that time, I didn’t really do much with that thought, but I just it sort of something bothered me about this. It felt like there was this huge untapped opportunity or this creativity, all this energy and goodwill amongst people like him to be able to improve places and the system that just didn’t allow it to happen and unintentionally so. And it was years later when I was a journalist and I think got to know how all this space works better. And an opportunity came up because we had the recession off the back of the 2007 crash in the U.K. and all over the world. And at that point it became pretty clear that if you like the business model, the financial model for the civic environment was in trouble. The ways that municipalities have relied on to pay for playgrounds and high street and street markets, you know, green spaces and so on. Looked like it was going to be in long term decline budgets and people were scratching their heads as to how they’re going to make things work with the crisis. Funding crises which took years to play out and at the same time, everyone was talking about localism, the idea that you should push power down as far as possible to community level. This was a sort of fundamentally good thing for society, but they didn’t really know how a lot of the time. And then we had the rise of Kickstarter in the U.S., and that was the, sort of, first really popular modern crowdfunding platform.
Eve: [00:08:16] Um hmm.
Chris: [00:08:17] And it inspired me because, you know, here was this place where people with entrepreneurial ideas could host projects and kind of act as a springboard for their projects to get off the ground. They could attract capital across the internet, cobbled together all these little contributions to make that project happen and to get ahead. And I remember thinking, is this vehicle or something like it? What we need in the civic environment? And does that solve the Cuba problem? Because I could see how you could have local people who’ve got ideas, you know, if there was a way that they could put forward a project and we knew that that project was viable, we knew it could be delivered and local communities could show their support for it by kind of rallying behind it, pledging small amounts en masse. The sight of that, the spectacle of that of everybody getting behind this idea to start the street market or create a new community garden or whatever it is they wanted to do, that would be so powerful because you’d have these time limited campaigns. It had to happen. Otherwise, it will fall apart. And if you were a mayor or property developer or big supermarket with a bunch of customers in your community and you were looking at something like this and said, Well, here’s this amazing project. People are clearly passionate about it. They’re behind it. They’re actually voting for it with their wallets, and we’ve got an opportunity to make this thing happen. I sort of felt to me that it would be sort of politically irresistible to get behind that if it was affordable for people to do that. And if you could combine those two things channelling the kind of energy of the community behind an idea that somebody wanted was a good idea and a viable, deliverable idea. The money that was needed to actually pay for it, to go ahead. And then the sort of pressure that that created on the state and other kind of institutional players to get behind it, that you could actually make that happen. And on the surface of it, it would look like Kickstarter, you know, crowdfunding platform like any other. But underneath you’d need complex sort of machinery because the civic environment is complex and the experiences that people face are very challenging when it comes to doing projects. So that’s sort of became the exam question for me. And it took many years of working with very lucky to work with people like the mayor of London and other sort of stakeholders in this space to sort of figure out how to make that actually work, you know, how to create that spectacle and make it scalable and durable. And so that was that became our focus with Spacehive to the early years is testing and validating and iteratively building towards that vision.
Eve: [00:10:50] So when did you launch? Was it 2010? Is that right?
Chris: [00:10:54] 2012
Eve: [00:10:55] So and how does it work? Like, tell us a little bit about, you know, who comes to the platform and how much they’re generally raise. And I mean, are you regulated? All of those questions.
Chris: [00:11:10] Yeah, it’s not a regulated space. We’re not dealing in repayable finance. So legally speaking, people are making donations, whether they’re pledging £10 or £10,000 towards a project. They didn’t get their money back. They didn’t get a share. What they get is the playground or the high street improvement or the street market or whatever it is. So it’s a different place. Equity crowdfunding, lending, lending platforms. Our typical project is £11,000. So just over $15,000. And you get a very broad range of project types. I mean, the most common category is green space, but not by a huge margin. You know, we’ve had people restoring lidos, you know, old heritage lidos that the community would love to bring them back to life. People can go out and swim and hang out at Community Café. We’ve had people painting murals and spotting opportunities to convert old disused railway lines into public gardens or turning toilet blocks into community restaurants or starting giant water slides down a steep high street. And can, you know, get their swimming costume out and slip down in front of all the shoppers. Or launching festivals, pedestrianizing streets. You know, in some cases, repainting entire high streets give them a lick of paint, a new lease of life, amazing natural nature reserve projects, you know, creating new habitats for wildlife and so on. And then economic type projects, you know, improving trading conditions so street markets can thrive. Or we have an amazing project up north. In York, there is an old medieval town where the business community got together and put snow cannon on top of the roofs and pumped fake snow into the Tudor streets below so that shoppers could pan around and have the authentic white Christmas experience.
Eve: [00:13:04] That’s lovely.
Chris: [00:13:05] All sorts of, you know, weird and wonderful and creative ideas. And I think the bottom line with all of it is, these are things. These are ideas buying for communities. They are generally distinctive to the local area and kind of reflect the character of the community. And you know, they have a wide range of benefits from environmental improvements to the place that they’re delivered in, but also these, sort of, social impacts, you know, making people healthier, happier, less lonely and sort of giving them people a stronger sense of belonging and ownership in their community.
Eve: [00:13:39] Yeah, I think that’s probably the big one, right? That people can point at something and say, I help make that happen. I think that really matters to people.
Chris: [00:13:47] It does. It does. And it’s, you know, you’re right, and it’s an unusual feeling, actually in the kind of civic or region space. Because if you think about like, you know, the traditional, shall we say, ways of the opportunities for the public to be involved in civic change, regeneration, you know, it can be it can feel pretty arm’s length. Maybe you get to respond to a consultation or come and vote on a design for a new building or whatever it happens to be. But generally, I don’t think people feel that they have a hugely powerful voice. And also, things take ages usually to change.
Eve: [00:14:24] They really do, don’t they?
Chris: [00:14:25] That was a huge thing for me was just the ages thing. The fact everyone takes super long time. It’s just not in the public interest. And, you know, Spacehive is not a panacea for that. But there’s a tier of activity that we’ve got relatively small-scale projects, you know, $15,000 up to about $750,000 worth of project where you can get stuff done much faster. And I think for communities, whether you’re creating a project or backing it, the experience is exciting because, you know, you vote for this thing with your wallet, doesn’t matter how much you put towards it. And then a few weeks later, a month later, you get the thing. You know that tangible improvement. It is a visceral experience, actually, and very, very different to your normal involvement in the region space.
Eve: [00:15:09] Well, I think you’ve been pretty ahead of the time because, you know, top-down planning has been the way we’ve been doing it. And so over the last over the last year or two, I’ve been hearing more and more people talking about sort of bottom up community planning and in fact, platforms like Spacehive have been encouraging that to happen for a long time, so it’s interesting to watch. Yeah, yeah, but how does it actually work? Like so they raised 15,000. You are not for profit or for profit?
Chris: [00:15:44] Yeah, well, a for profit company. We are in social business. But yeah, the journey is that… So, the usual route is somebody in a community will generally spot an offer of funding from one of our partners. So we have integrated into the platform lots of different funds, matching funds from different municipalities, foundations and companies. And so say, you say you live in Leicester, where we have the mayor of Leicester offering money to support local crowdfunding campaigns and space from time to time. You would probably hear about a call for new ideas from the mayor, and the mayor would say, Look, I’m offering cash to help people be successful with their local crowdfunding campaigns in Spacehive, and I’d love you to create a project and I think it’s going to help to make the city better. I’m going to back it alongside the crowd. And so people would often come to a kind of online workshop, then to find out a bit more about what the fund is looking for, but also how civic crowdfunding works. And then they come to the platform. They create a project page, which obviously explains what their idea is. They want to spruce up a local playground or paint a mural, or maybe create a statue to somebody that they admire. And what we then do is we match that project based on data like its geography, its projected impact and so on to relevant funds. So you’re likely to get matched to the mayor’s fund, which you heard about, but also others. And then you have an opportunity to pitch your project ideas simultaneously to your community through the platform, but also through to these institutional funds. And sometimes these institutional funds want to know a bit more about your project. They want to know about your financial records or a bit more detail about the impact you think it will have, so you can answer those questions and provide documentation through the platform. We have technology that prevents you having to repeat yourself and shares impact data across different funders. This sort of thing, the various ways in which we try and streamline the experience for people to make it easier.
Eve: [00:17:46] Wow.
Chris: [00:17:47] And when you’re in need of help, you can put out a wish list of things you want to help with, perhaps skills from people who might want to join your team or in-kind contributions. And that helps you to shape your project plan. And at some point they’re going to. People are going to feel ready, and they will then submit their project for verification. We’ve got some experts to look over the project, make sure that it feels deliverable. And of course, that check is crucial because depending on what you’re trying to do, turn a railway line into a park or improve a playground or paint a mural, the kind of permissions you might need to do something like this vary considerably, as you know. So that’s a key check. And once you get the stamp of approval on the back of that check, you’re good to fundraise. And because you then pitched to the community and the institutional funds as you raise, this is how it plays out. Basically, your community back you first, so your friends, your neighbors, etc. get behind your idea, and that kind of creates this visible mandate for the idea. So you have hundreds of people endorsing it effectively and that then triggers the kind of support from the bigger funds. And it’s that handshake, if you like, that takes the project to the finishing line typically and delivers very high success rates. So it’s the combination of the streamlined processes. I think the verification and then this mixture of crowd and institutional money, which gives the platform the highest campaign success rate of any crowdfunding platform in the U.K. And means that people are more likely to succeed when they use Spacehive than fail. And so, you then hit your target and you’re going to deliver your project. And then the final step is you share the impact of what you done as a tool, which allows you to do that. And we then pump out the metrics and the stats and all the lovely press coverage and your pics and videos and so on to everyone who supported your project. And if you’re the community, of course, you’re going to enjoy the mural or the playground.
Eve: [00:19:42] So tell us, like, how much have you raised and how many projects have been on your site and you know…
Chris: [00:19:48] Yeah. So we’ve raised so far 22 million pounds and delivered 1,750 projects.
Eve: [00:19:59] Oh, that’s a lot of projects.
Chris: [00:20:01] Yeah, well. So, in the first years, we had a big focus on the model and we were just testing a handful of projects. We didn’t really have many delivered at all. And then about three years ago, once all the different elements of the model sort of fell into place it really started to scale. And last year, I think partly because of the pandemic, actually, you know, it really started to accelerate. So we had a fourfold increase in projects and we expect to have the same again this year.
Eve: [00:20:27] So wow, that’s fabulous. So finally, success, it takes a while, right?
Chris: [00:20:33] It does.
Eve: [00:20:35] Can you share an example of a notable project that you love that found success on Spacehive? Just a couple of examples.
Chris: [00:20:45] I mean, I’ll give you a couple. There was one we had the other day, actually in London, and there was a big focus coming out of the pandemic at the time on just reimagining local areas. I mean, in the U.K., like countries all over the world, people spend a lot more time in their neighborhood and we’re starting to look at the local high street and just the amenities they might have on their doorstep in a slightly different way. And there was this particular project that felt very, sort of, that moment. And it was an idea that a local group of kind of artists had had. They go around painting murals. They are a collective in East London and they teamed up with this French artist, Camille Walala, and came up with this idea to repaint this entire high street in East London. It was one of these sort of famously drab shopping parades, and it kind of shattered concrete and just not something that lifts the spirit, shall we say, and kind of pretty typical mix of shops, retail units in that area. You know, a little restaurant, Kwik Fit, Engineer’s Workshop and so on. There’s a fairly ordinary high street, but what they saw was the opportunity to give it this really bold lick of paint and just lift the spirits of the neighborhood, really. And it has become probably London’s or certainly one of London’s largest public artworks. I mean, it’s an enormous piece of art which stretches this entire kind of block and is sort of bright cubist kind of colors. And it’s just an amazing thing to look at. And, you know, obviously attracts people to the area, supports local businesses with footfall. But it’s the kind of, I think for a lot of people who saw it, it is sort of a bit of a light bulb moment because, you know, it’s the sort of thing that you can do a lot of places. This is a lick of paint, really. It doesn’t cost you much, about 40,000 pounds that project and you had local people getting behind it businesses, but also the mayor of London and bigger companies and people were very excited about it because they felt like that was an optimistic and simple and effective piece of kind of regeneration that could be replicated in other places.
Eve: [00:23:02] That’s a great project.
Chris: [00:23:05] Yeah. And then I think so thinking about sort of other areas as well. I mean, we’ve had this lovely idea in a little town called Frome, which is in Somerset, and actually there’ve been a few like this. Converting municipal toilet blocks. And in this particular case, they turned it into a community café, and it was about 11,000 pounds and it was obviously comprehensively fitted out, given a proper clean, but became this amazing hub for the community and it was brightly painted. They filled the square outside with tables. They have this tiny little art galleries, you know, you’d sort of peek through the doors, and you could go and look a bit. They would take from the local community, and they had a bar where you could get served, your cappuccino or whatever, and it just became a really, really, well-loved and well visited hub for the community. And again, you’re talking really small amounts of money…
Eve: [00:24:02] 11,000 pounds is not a lot of money.
Chris: [00:24:04] It’s not a lot of money, and that thing has gone from strength to strength, the community as a community business, and it’s just a real asset for the community.
Eve: [00:24:11] That’s fabulous.
Chris: [00:24:11] And it attracted again local people, local businesses. The parish council there put some money and then there was the local celebrity as well. So a nice, nice kind of mix of backers to make it happen.
Eve: [00:24:25] So are there other platforms like Spacehive in the U.K. or anywhere?
Chris: [00:24:30] There were other civic crowdfunding platforms in the world. Yeah, so and since we started, the platforms have popped up in France, in Germany, in Italy, in Spain, in Brazil and in the U.S. as well, Patronicity up in the northwest.
Eve: [00:24:48] Ah, yes.
Chris: [00:24:49] So, I think the idea is definitely moving around in different places. I mean, the fundamental proposition is civic crowdfunding is that there’s an opportunity for people to have more power to start projects. It makes sense to collaboratively fund stuff. And that is an opportunity that’s obviously not just present in the U.K. A lot of places. In Britain where the only dedicated civic crowdfunding platform, but there are other platforms that of course do projects which are community, nature and so on. But yeah, it’s this specific focus on, how do you, at scale, create a way for people to improve the civic environment with all the complexity and the political and cultural sensitivity that goes with that. And how do you integrate all the different sources of funding that are available for these sorts of projects so that you can have these quite short, focused and successful campaigns? And that’s our particular focus. But other people have different spaces and obviously they overlap.
Eve: [00:25:43] So has Spacehive met your expectations, so far?
Chris: [00:25:47] Not yet. I think it’s met my expectations in the sense of the validation for the idea is stronger than I expected in the sense of in the areas where we’ve deployed it. Communities and actually in particular municipalities and bigger companies of sort of really got behind it with a level of excitement that I didn’t expect to see so quickly. And I don’t know the willingness of government in particular, I suppose, to really quite fundamentally change the way that it works to support this different dynamic, community led, collaboratively funded. That requires sort of fundamental changes to everything from comms to process to governance. And this is why it takes time, of course. But people have been willing to do it, and it’s been amazing working with pioneers in this space, like the mayor of London, mayor of Liverpool, as well as smaller kind of parish councils, developers, foundations and so on to get all this right. So, their willingness to step up and try different things and make changes early on has been an amazing surprise. And I think the other thing that surprised me is just the diversity of projects that people come up with and the diversity of communities that do it. I mean, if you if I’m honest, you know, you harbor a bit of a fear when you launch something like this, you’re just going to get a particular sector of society.
Eve: [00:27:11] Yes.
Chris: [00:27:11] Perhaps a part of society that likes technology.
Eve: [00:27:14] Yes.
Chris: [00:27:14] You know, and the tools. But we haven’t had that at all. And it’s been most successful in communities where there’s just a strong sense of community and whether by coincidence or otherwise, that tends to be in more deprived areas. So it’s been popular everywhere. We know we’ve had it in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in London, places like Mayfair, and also some of the most deprived wards in the country. But it tends to gravitate towards slightly more deprived communities where the strong social capital, where the strong sense of neighborliness.
Eve: [00:27:46] Right, right, right.
Chris: [00:27:47] And that has been hugely exciting for me because it shows the long-term potential of it. And obviously, you know, the social mission of this has been crucial for me. I want this to be an inclusive way of doing things that genuinely gives the widest possible audience of people a chance to feel that they can change the area. So it’s got to be for everyone. And so seeing that diversity has been really exciting to me.
Eve: [00:28:17] So what do you think, I can hear you’re not bored with this business yet, which is amazing. So, what do you think could be better?
Chris: [00:28:26] Well, I think the next milestones on our journey are going to be, so we’ve built these very strong regional hubs, where crowdfunding works well. Places like Liverpool, London, Leicester in the U.K. and so on. And we’ve done that by teaming up with the powers that be, if you like the key stakeholders in that space and then helping them to move over to this model. And chief amongst them are the municipality, but also others, universities, local businesses and so on. And where we’ve done that, we’ve managed to produce this positive experience for change makers. You know, people find it very rewarding. They’re able to get projects done. As I mentioned earlier, you’re more likely to succeed if you get involved in this stuff than fail, and that’s just a huge paradigm shift vs the experience people have before. And then if you’re the municipality, you know, it’s just a very financially efficient and sort of politically attractive way of doing civic improvement. So, I think we’ve shown the potential at regional level and the opportunity now is to kind of replicate those powerful ecosystems of support for local projects at a national level. And so, I think we’re going to get to a point where we start to have national government, where we start to have major national companies, foundations, the big beast funders, if you like. Recognizing the opportunity to move to this collaborative way of funding people powered ideas. Ideas that communities demonstrably want and are getting behind. And I just think that’s a matter of time, and we’ve had amazing conversations with all of these people already, and I think things are moving in that direction. But when we get to that point, it will be exciting because we’ll be able to replicate, if you like, the power of the offer to be able to say to communities, if you’ve got a good, viable, deliverable idea which your community supports, it’s probably going to be successful. We’re probably going to be able to get you the money you need, and it’s probably going to happen. To replicate that offer around the U.K. will be really exciting. And we’re in about 10 percent of communities, at the moment. So, there’s a huge scale up opportunity still ahead of us in that sense. And I think the national ecosystem will be a big milestone. And then the other one is just going to be really pushing on accessibility because although the model is much more inclusive than I think the traditional ways of doing this stuff, that’s always going to be a focus and always going to be a concern and making sure there’s no part of the community, part society that doesn’t feel for whatever reason, that these tools are for them. And so, we’ll want to continue innovating to make sure that everyone feels engaged and involved. And that’s going to be a long, long tail of activity that I’m sure we’ll continue over time.
Eve: [00:31:03] So this is your baby. And recently you stepped down as CEO. And I’m wondering why and what your role is now?
Chris: [00:31:13] Well, I’ve been running the company for 10 years, and I think for me, the main focus of what I wanted to do was prove that this model worked, and I feel like I got to a natural moment where we had demonstrated the viability of this model. We had a really strong case studies, the kind of core metrics of the company as performance metrics, including that kind of that success rate that I mentioned to you, were tracking along really nicely. And there was a lot of goodwill and a lot of feel-good factor towards what was going on in Spacehive, like the kinds of projects that people are doing and the impact it was having. And I think this is a complex space. The civic environment is not something you can change overnight. And I think like most CEOs, you look at what’s the right moment to hand over its more normal for founding CEOs to do that than to stick the whole hall. And I think for me, I felt there were other people out there who would be better placed than me to lead this second phase of our journey, and we found somebody really fantastic, Misha Dhanak, who’s going to be taking the company forwards and who I’m really excited to work alongside. I think for me, it gives me the opportunity to sort of come back to if you like some of that sort of strategic thinking that kind of fed into getting the business going in the first place. And whilst knowing that I’ve got somebody who’s absolutely focused and really brilliant at the challenges that you’re going to face us as we turn are still relatively small company into a big one and really increase our impact.
Eve: [00:32:53] So then what keeps you up at night, Chris?
Chris: [00:32:58] Well, like every company, you have growing pains and challenges that relate to becoming big. I think though in our space, the thing that I think about a lot is that for Spacehive to be really successful, we’re going to have to remain super thoughtful about the kind of incredibly sensitive and privileged position that we’re in here, as a platform. Sitting at the intersection between what communities want to change in their community and the area, the capital that’s needed to actually make those projects happen, you know, in the range of stakeholders that come together through Spacehive to get behind these projects. It’s a very exciting place to be. But we also have a lot of responsibility to act in a way that promotes the public interest and delivers genuine impact. And I think, you know, we’ve seen in many cases in recent years how technology companies can start with the best of intentions and some sometimes end up causing, shall we say, unwanted side effects, social side effects. So I am very mindful of that, and I want to make sure that that we remain mindful of that as a company. I think Spacehive is overwhelmingly a force for good and has good answers to some of the challenges that people rightly raise about this model, about any new model. And we need to we need to continue to be mindful of those and address them. But you know, as you get big, as you scale and as this becomes a new normal way of doing things. Of course, the sense of responsibility you have to get this right and to act in a proper way that promotes the public good is key.
Eve: [00:34:42] Well, Chris, I can’t wait to see what’s next and I want to say this, the door is always open for a Spacehive Pittsburgh hub. If you get to that point.
Chris: [00:34:54] I would be very delighted.
Eve: [00:34:54] Because it’s a fabulous model, and I think you need to find partners who kind of know the local, I suppose, movers and shakers, right?
Chris: [00:35:06] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, I mean, honestly, that it’s something that I’ve always been obviously really excited about doing, expanding space in the U.K. and just, and bringing that kind of model to other communities across the world. We’ve had some amazing conversations and you’ve been part of some of them. We connected at different international conferences and so on with different mayors in different cities and so on. So I think the opportunity is obviously there. But don’t underestimate the importance of really understanding and being sensitive to what is distinctive about these different cultures and countries and making sure that you, that you’re able to adapt and get it right. I want to make sure that as and when we do that, that it’s done right. And so, it may be a little while yet, but ….
Eve: [00:35:58] That’s okay.
Chris: [00:35:59] It would be a wonderful thing.
Eve: [00:36:01] Yes, it would be. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, and I hope we can do it again sometime.
Chris: [00:36:06] It was lovely to chat. Thanks, Eve.Eve: [00:36:19] That was Chris Gourlay. Spacehive is a testament to Chris’s passion. And it took just 10 years of his life. He has lots more to do. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years holds. You can find out more about this episode, or others you might have missed, on the show notes page at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music. And thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon, but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Chris Gourlay and Spacehive