Bright Spaces is a Romanian start-up, founded in 2019. The company developed an innovative digital solution that makes it easier to virtually visit and lease commercial spaces worldwide: through visual showcasing (3D online tours that resemble live visits, exterior and interior points of interest, technical specifications etc.) and streamlining of the end-to-end leasing process (CRM integration).
Although very young, you already have several business ventures under your belt. What triggered this attraction towards entrepreneurship in your case?
Hard to say what triggered it but it came naturally and at a very early age. My first entrepreneurial initiative, a hip-hop fashion project, dates back to when I was in highschool, together with some friends. Although it didn’t last for long, it was a great experience that helped me discover my passion for finding solutions to various existing problems.
I did continue on this path and after that I started a few different companies. Bright Spaces is the most exciting challenge I’ve taken and it is truly a project where I can create a lot of value but still doing what I love most, entrepreneurship and technology.
The basis for Bright Spaces was set in 2019 after winning a local hackathon. What set you apart from other competing startups?
One thing that set us apart was the fact that startups typically select a very small, niched problem and solve it proficiently - we chose a riskier road, less traveled, by creating a multi-feature product, easily customizable for different types of potential clients. The solution itself does something that is relatively simple but incredibly useful. Namely, it digitizes day to day processes of the commercial real estate market, helping landlords lease their spaces faster and easier.
Today, owners keep their data about vacant spaces in a basic excel and this is how they send information to their brokers (alongside some pdf presentations, maybe a website and at most, a basic virtual tour). By contrast, we make it possible to send all this information via a simple link, where information is quick to access and permanently up to date.
Our idea is to develop a market standard about how to present such information (from office spaces, parking, storage, and even retail) and allow brokers the time to handle what is truly important for their business, the creative side of the process, sales, client service etc. instead of handling manual work.
Do you already have studies to show how much time brokers save by using your solution instead of classic methods?
Our first project was launched last October for Skanska's Equilibrium building in Bucharest. Since then we launched 13 buildings and the results are encouraging. There are tens or even hundreds of views on every virtual building and also we saw closed deals on spaces that were showcased and managed through Bright Spaces.
Regarding the time optimised by our solution, we are seeing that at least 25% of the time allocated in the leasing process on manual or repetitive tasks is now saved and we believe in time we can get to more than 50%.
How did real estate companies in Romania react to this innovative instrument? Were they open to changing their way of doing things?
Our experience was one of openness, in less than 10 months we signed with eight customers (a total of 14 buildings) and have several other discussions ongoing. But the pandemic was a paradox in a way. On one side it accelerated the need for digital tools and everyone became more aware of their importance. On the other hand, it froze budgets or at least added more prudence in the way decisions are made. The irony is that in situations like these is when fast decisions make most sense. All in all, I would say the interest is tremendous and adoption happens at a steady pace.
What about the attitude towards modern technology in general? Romania is often praised for its bright IT minds, but seems slower on the adoption side.
I actually don't agree with this perception. We are indeed excellent when it comes to outsourcing but the number of Romanian startups is very low compared to that of programmers or IT companies. In other words, as a country we took the route of executing the ideas of others rather than coming up with our own. It is understandable in a way, money has been an issue and if you don't finance ideas or let people struggle for a long time they will eventually give up. This is what happened with our "I want a doctor" platform in 2010, it died because we lacked financial support and weren't able to scale it up.
But things are changing. For a few years now Romania has welcomed relevant VCs, accelerators, incubators etc. Also, two of the founding partners of Sparking Capital (our VC from the pre-seed round in 2019) teach entrepreneurship & investment at the Academy for Economic Studies. This is what pushes people to first of all imagine that it is possible to do amazing things here. We feel the trend, a wave seems to be approaching, but we must move to a place where we also see relevant exits happening. With a few notable exceptions, no deals have surpassed EUR 15 million which is relatively low in the European market.
You are just gearing up for a new round of financing. What ambitions did you set forth?
I can't discuss numbers yet, but it will be a multiplier of our previous round. The objective now is to reach the stable version of our solution, grow the team and bring in international talent while implementing Bright Spaces all across Europe.
Turning our attention to the future for a moment, how far ahead do you expect Bright Spaces to be in 2-3 years time?
We should close a B Series round in order to enter new markets. We are looking at the US and Asia but right now it makes more sense to start with Central and Eastern Europe, followed by Western Europe. Another opportunity we keep in mind here is that we focus on large, global players so after local pilot projects we can scale within their portfolio.
Do you have a final message for investors that are eyeing Romania?
I was just thinking about this the other day. Not long ago the idea was that if you want to do great global things you shouldn’t start from Romania. What we are now seeing is that Romania is growing fast and making a statement with global companies like the new RPA king and a bunch of great startups following the same path.
We see more educational programs helping entrepreneurs grow sustainably, more acceleration and incubation programs and some really good international events based here. All of this suggests that maybe this is the perfect time to be here.
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