Delaplace.pro: agile storage solutions for professionals02/02/2017
Created by two ENGIE employees through the Group's intrapreneurship process, Delaplace.pro is a completely new solution for professionals who need storage on an ad hoc basis.
Marie-Aude Didry, co-founder of the startup with Laura Ricaud, tells us the story of the project, which will be presented at the ENGIE booth at the Entrepreneurs fair on February 1st and 2nd, 2017.
Q- Hello Marie-Aude. What is Delaplace.pro?
People often say that we are the Airbnb of storage space for professionals. Delaplace.pro is a collaborative web platform that connects companies that have storage space available and those that need them on a temporary basis. We also offer storage areas with or without logistical services.
We currently create the announcements for available space ourselves. Then we choose the replies that fit the bill and send the relevant links to the customer by email. In the long term, the transactions will be entirely through the platform, space owners will create their pages directly on the platform and the algorithm will help them select the best offers automatically.
For reasons having to due with professional confidentiality, users don’t actually directly access the announcements on the platform.
Instead, they go through an webform which is very easy to fill out and which we then use to push the announcements that match the expressed need. We only push the announcements that closely match the request in order to save people time. Based on that small selection, the client can use an interactive map to find out where the spaces being offered are.
If they are is interested, we make the connection. If the proposed ads don’t meet their needs, the client can reformulate their request by changing or adding information.
Q- How did you come up with this idea?
While working at Ineo Systrans with Maxence Dufermont, we realized how difficult it was to find storage facilities for equipment in areas where we didn’t have facilities. Real estate agents usually only handle longer durations or larger spaces. There were no solutions on the market to meet this kind of professional need.
We quickly realized that other entities both inside and outside the Group had some of the same problems. We also realized that many companies had some or a lot of storage space that was wasn’t being used.
This is obviously a fairly widespread problem in the workplace. It is often dealt with through "arrangements" among a given professional network, with little or no contractual formalization and a lack of legal guarantees and insurance.
The platform is intended to help users capitalize on otherwise unused space while providing formal guarantees. The professional user maintains control over the space and has a certain amount of flexibility to choose the how long it is available (1 month, 6 months, 1 year, etc.), which lets them use the unused spaces both profitably and safely.
We are currently working on a partnership with an insurance company to offer additional insurance products and guarantee optimal coverage.
The goal of all of this is to remove the barriers to providing a guaranteed, turn-key service.
Q- Were you able to interest potential clients right away?
We were initially looking for professional users who needed storage space, but we quickly realized that they usually needed it urgently, and that the time it took to find the space was too long.
So we changed our approach an started by identifying space that was available in the Lille area. We currently have 30,000 m2 of space available on the platform. We then started canvassing potential clients again. Now we’ve already responded to requests from 3 customers in Lille.
The first year, we were really focused on a highly qualitative customer support model to fully understand their needs. In the end, our customer acquisition strategy will be much more focused on web-marketing, which will allow us to get customers on line and automatically link them with support services through various tools and options that will be available directly on the platform.
Now we’ve started developing our business in the Paris region. The goal is to do further market testing in these two regions prior to developing at the national and international levels.
We will focus on large cities where there is growing demand for local storage space, especially given that city centers are undergoing significant change, particularly in the areas of transportation and the supply.
Initially we thought we would only offer storage space, but we quickly integrated logistics into the solution since there was real demand for it from our customers. Today, we offer free-access and appointment-based storage spaces from 50 to 3000 m² as well as logistical services like receiving shipments, preparing orders, shipping products to customers, etc.
An additional brick will be added at some point in the near future. We realized that some of the buildings involved needed adjustments, whether for safety, fire protection or even maintenance. So we want to be able to give customers access to this kind of service via partners, particularly those related to the Group's activities like fire protection, spatial planning, security and multi-system technical maintenance.
Our business model is based on bringing services to the customer with a commission for transactions that take place.
Q- Was ENGIE’s incubation process a decisive factor in your decision to start this adventure?
I’ve always wanted to set up a company, and I did entrepreneurship training at the ITEEM, a department of the Ecole Centrale of Lille that works with Skema Business School. I started my career as a business manager at INEO Systrans, where I dealt with things like business management, business development, and technical project management.
Thanks to Group’s Innovation program and being sponsored by Engie INEO, I was able to get my project off the ground, which I might not have been able to do right away without them. Their support really did push the project forward.
Outsourcing incubation is also a major plus for this program. Rather than stay in ENGIE’s offices, employees in incubation join incubators in their local area and in doing so get support from innovative, highly dynamic ecosystems which are crucial when developing a project like this.
For us, being incubated at Euratechnologies in Lille let us meet startups and entrepreneurs, discuss problems we shared, meet experts from various fields and develop the project by being agile and learning along the way.
Learn more about Delaplace.Pro