MillionSpaces: Causing a global disruption
We have Airbnb for vacation bookings, Yamu for restaurant reviews and Club Soirté for all things fashion. But when it comes to booking spaces, we still prefer to use the age-old method of scouting for options by visiting locations and asking 101 questions. But things are about to change. Enter MillionSpaces.
With the aim of reaching, quite literally, a million spaces, this new platform will transform how you make venue bookings. Gone are the days when you drove from location to location to find the perfect venue for an event, or were on the phone for countless hours ensuring the venue had adequate amenities to meet all your requirements. MillionSpaces is a disruption that will change your life.
MillionSpaces is a venture by software engineering company Auxenta, a firm founded and funded in Silicon Valley, with one aim in mind: To cause a global disruption.
Founder/Chief Executive Prasath Nanayakkara revealed to Echelon plans to disrupt the booking space domain and create a global firm.
What is the void in the market place Auxenta is trying to fill with the launch of MillionSpaces?
Auxenta was founded in Silicon Valley with a mission to come up with disruptive technology. We were not going to be limited to a market; we wanted to come up with technologies that would have a global impact.
Auxenta is an established business in Sri Lanka, and was rated the best startup in the country in 2016. Being backed by a company with solid credibility helps the MillionSpaces brand. Auxenta is also supported by a board of talented and experienced people from around the world.
Some of them include the former worldwide head of marketing from Google. Taking this leadership team into consideration, we are ready to disrupt the market. This is how MillionSpaces came about.
We saw a need in this market that had not been addressed by any existing competitors, nor a global player. We first tested the product in Sri Lanka, and were successful within a short period of four to six weeks since the launch in December 2017. We got an average of 2,000 visitors to the site (www.millionspaces.com), and 12,000 Facebook followers. We also got live bookings within the first week. This clearly proved the model and concept, and the need in the market. Based on this success, we are making plans to roll this out in the US as well.
Are you following an international model? Has it been done anywhere else?
Some companies have attempted to come into this market, but I would argue that our unique concept is offering instantaneous bookings and instant gratification. You find a venue, shortlist it and pick criteria according to your requirements and book it – It’s as simple as that! Our calendar also shows real time availability of the spaces, with the backend being managed by the venues themselves, making MillionSpaces the de facto platform for booking spaces for suppliers and customers.
What does your team here do?
First of all, we built the system, and support it. It’s evolving and going into the next generation with artificial intelligence and machine learning concepts, 3D-type visualization, etc. For instance, when we take it to the US or other parts of the world, we will have language and currency support. Right now, it’s just in rupees, but the moment you go to US, it has to be in US dollars. This entire roadmap of meeting international requirements will be met by the team in Sri Lanka.
How do payments work?
It’s essentially a marketplace, so anyone can list a venue for free. So you get free marketing through the platform. It’s only when a customer makes a booking that we take a booking fee commission. The customer does not get charged for anything additional and the supplier does not get charged for being hosted, except the bookings commission.
How does a venue partner get listed on MillionSpaces? Do you have any criteria?
Anyone can go on the platform and list their space. Registration is a couple of steps, and we are always there to help. For example, we have photographers to help with images of the venue.
The beauty of the platform is that you can even define the category where your venue is listed. For instance, if you want a space to learn an instrument, you can define it with the help of the MillionSpaces admin team. Right now, the platform hosts a lot of established venues, but we want people to know it’s not limited to these locations. As long as there is a market for it, anyone can list their venue.
At this stage, all spaces are curated by our team members. So if someone lists a venue, we make at least one visit to check if this place is as it is claimed to be. We do this to maintain quality.
At the same time, we will try to get the new global hotel chains to sign up with us as well. We have reached out to them, and based on increased visibility, we are hoping they would see the value and worth in it. There are some hotel chains that have reached out to us as well.
Are you looking at expanding to other countries?
We are looking at Singapore, Spain, Germany or China, etc. Our professional network extends to countries like Germany, Russia, Singapore, China and the US. We have got potential investors from these geographies who are keen to invest and explore MillionSpaces in local markets.
We believe this is an untapped need. The very fact that we got live bookings in our first week proves this. It was only a matter of coming up with a viable business model and capturing the market in a credible way. That is what we are trying to do.
In terms of spaces, how do you ensure customers are getting what they want?
We have many criteria for filtering spaces, based on budget, proximity, seats required, etc. If you are looking for meeting spaces, you get around 120 options, some of which are unconventional. Some properties are good for multiple things, so you have a variety of choices.
We also provide other support services, like in case something goes wrong. Suppose you book a space and encounter an issue, you can give us a call and we will sort it out. The local customer service is a huge add-on.
What are future plans for MillionSpaces?
We plan to add a virtual reality aspect so you can visualize the spaces in 3D, and get 24/7 support via chat bots/AI. Our system will be able to provide recommendations depending on the locality using a machine learning capacity, which will evolve as it goes. The idea is to leverage technology to offer a better user experience.
From day one, we have also been mobile first and most of our queries have come from mobile. So we want to continue this convenience.
Right now, there are over 200 plus spaces, and we are adding 50 plus spaces every month. Hopefully, we will see 1,000 spaces in Sri Lanka alone this year, but the goal is a million spaces. Where the business model is concerned, it’s an idea we can scale to the world. And this is already happening.
Our plan has always been to eventually transform the process and become a global player; and we are very confident of getting there very soon.
How to get listed on www.millionspaces.com
MillionSpaces is essentially a marketplace, and anyone can list a venue for free. At the time of listing your space, no payment is required. It is only when a customer makes a booking that they take a booking fee commission.
STEP 1: Listing criteria
The following details should be listed for accurate results/hits: Description of the venue, event type (whether party, conference or wedding, or create your own category!), price range, seating arrangement, available amenities, location, rules and cancellation policy.
STEP 2: How we can help
Uploading high-quality images alongside the venue will ensure additional interest. If you do not have attractive images, we will send one of our photographers to capture your venue in its best possible angles.
STEP 3: Curation process
Once submitted online, the MillionSpaces team will visit the property to vet its status and accuracy of details provided, following which the venue will be available for guest bookings online.
STEP 4: Start managing bookings
Visitors to the site can filter the spaces based on several criteria, like space type, location, date and time, capacity, budget, amenities and rules. They can even search for your venue by typing your space name. The booking backend will be managed by each venue, so availability is updated in real time.