If you’re going to disrupt a sector as big and established as the office property market, you need a great idea...
Alex Hill’s big idea came to him while researching his dissertation for a BSc in Real Estate Management. He pitched his thoughts to a room full of property bosses at Tech City London and had nine job offers by the end of the day.
Now he’s busy helping setting up helloWork for Allied London, one of the UK’s leading property developers, in London, Manchester and Leeds.
BrotherSpark interviewed the 22-year-old to find out exactly why his thinking has resonated and could have an impact on providing office space for the creative industries and start-ups.
How have you made the leap from entrepreneurial student to Property Week’s shortlist for Young Property Personality of the Year?
I wanted to work in property since I was 16 and I was entrepreneurial, trying my hand at a few tech start-ups while I was at university. This inspired my dissertation, where I decided to look at the gap between property availability for start-ups and demand.
After interviewing every relevant person I could find, I concluded that there was a huge shortage of the right environment. Nobody really catered for start-ups, even though some of these businesses could soon be high growth. The UK wants to promote a positive environment for new businesses but they really struggle for workspace.
After my talk at Tech City I had a number of offers but Michael Ingall, CEO at Allied London, a visionary himself, had a real passion to do something different and create something innovative in this sector , Allied’s idea is the provide the full range of workspace from the start up to the mature established business in the same environment, and wrapping it in a consumer brand that’s instantly recognisable and goes well beyond real estate, to a point where it becomes a service. We can’t see anyone doing that currently and this is why I think there exists a great opportunity and one that fits my own interests.
So how have you created a more agile, collaborative model for commercial property?
At one end of the scale we intend to create member space for start-ups, the helloHub, where businesses can use the facilities, collaborate, meet, and hold events. We’re building a relationship with the businesses of the future and then creating space for them to grow into via helloStudios, helloWorkspace and, at the largest end, a new class of super-buildings under helloInnovation. Totally flexible workspace for any size business using modular building techniques and tailored leases to create what we believe to be a new asset class.
What has changed in the business landscape to convince you that this model will work?
Primarily it’s about culture, but it’s also about scale, agility, the desire to collaborate. Businesses in the creative and tech industries can grow so fast – think Google or Facebook – from single digits to thousands in just a few years. But these businesses not only need flexibility, but also have a varied work force, made up of lots of different skill bases and types, for whom design environment, service and corporate ‘buy in’ is important, companies can achieve some of these requirements via their real estate infrastructure , and we will provide this at various levels of their evolution. Their needs will change and the size and scope of their workplace may also be dictated by their culture, not their headcount so built a model for the workplace of the future which can adapt to those changing needs.