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Upsuite partners with Colliers on co-working platform

Colliers International is expanding its relationship with Upsuite, a Denver-based startup caterin...

IMAGE: Ben Wright, CEO of Upsuite. (Courtesy Upsuite)

Ben Wright, CEO of Upsuite. (Courtesy Upsuite)

Colliers International is expanding its relationship with Upsuite, a Denver-based startup catering to the rapidly expanding shared and flexible workspace office sector.

With some pundits forecasting co-working and shared office space will comprise up to 30 per cent of the office sector by the year 2030, it seems a timely investment. Upsuite is a free online marketplace allowing users to easily find, compare, share and select co-working spaces.

“Co-working spaces are just like hotels,” said Scott Addison, president of Colliers’ brokerage services for Canada. “You can stay at the Four Seasons or you can stay at the Comfort Inn, and there are different amenities and different prices.

“One’s not better than the other. They’re just different. Four Seasons is much more luxurious, but it comes at a price.”

Discovered at Colliers Proptech Accelerator

Upsuite was one of 10 companies taking part in last year’s Colliers Proptech Accelerator program, which was powered by Techstars and based in Toronto. The two companies have now formed a non-exclusive partnership, whereby Colliers professionals can quickly and easily secure the best and most appropriate flexible workspaces in their respective markets, at competitive prices, for clients.

“We get leading-edge technology which helps drive efficiencies and gathers information,” said Addison, who acted as a mentor for Upsuite and introduced its team to influential people during the accelerator program. “It really helps us serve some of our clients at a higher level.”

Upsuite founder and chief executive officer Ben Wright and two team members relocated to Toronto for the 13-week accelerator program in September.

“Going through the Techstars accelerator program gave us access to the largest office building operators in North America as well as nine other companies that are striving to innovate in proptech,” said Wright.

“Toronto is three times the size of Denver and has more tech jobs than Silicon Valley, and a lot of corporate headquarters. Those unique experiences in Toronto were really valuable.”

Benefits for Colliers and Upsuite

While Addison said Colliers has worked closely with co-working space provider Regus and its sister companies, the deal with Upsuite will enable it to show clients all of the co-working space opportunities available in a market.

Many co-working operators have yet to find an efficient way to attract qualified teams to their locations. Some firms are reporting vacancy rates of greater than 40 per cent and an average tenant turnover rate of 18 months.

Upsuite’s technology platform drives speed, access and value for occupier clients prior to them taking longer-term or larger workspaces.

Upsuite signs up co-working operators, which can list their spaces on the Upsuite website for free as long as they agree to update their information at least once every 30 days. Upsuite earns its money by taking a percentage of the transaction value when an operator and space user come to an agreement.

Upsuite’s expansion plans

Colliers has a relationship with Techstars, and Wright said Upsuite received US$120,000 up front in exchange for participating in the accelerator program and relinquishing a six per cent ownership stake in the company. Upsuite received further funds through a US$450,000 round of financing last fall, and it’s about to close on another round of financing for US$850,000.

That money will enable Upsuite to expand.

Its site currently lists approximately 1,500 spaces in 138 buildings in Toronto, 119 in Denver and 29 in nearby Boulder, Colo. Approximately 8,000 spaces in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. will be added by the end of the year, according to Wright.

Upsuite now has seven full-time employees, including Toronto client relationship manager Cole MacKinnon, and expects to have 13 staff by year’s end.

Having shorter leases at co-working spaces can drive economic value for some companies, while building owners can improve capitalization rates and per-square-foot rents by hosting co-working space, according to Wright.

“As much as 50 per cent of office square footage, even if it’s being leased, is under-utilized,” he said.

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