As it turns out, the much-hyped “sharing economy” might be not so much about sharing labor as sharing real estate.
So here comes the coworking of retail space, Bulletin, a Brooklyn-based and Brooklyn-funded startup. Bulletin rents out square footage in its two storefronts, one in Williamsburg and one in SoHo, to high-end ecommerce brands that are ostensibly online-only. The companies can rent anything from a shelf of space to a corner of the store.
“We want to make it as easy to book space in a store as it is to book an Airbnb or a hotel,” Bulletin cofounder Ali Kriegsman said by phone recently. “You should be able to see an active space and book shelf space or square footage in the store instantly.”
What makes Bulletin particularly appealing is that its model is working so well in other industries. The coworking market has absolutely exploded, with industry leader WeWork now valued in the billions, and with more than 70 separate coworking companies having sprouted up in the city in recent years. Coliving, though much younger and smaller an industry, is booming, with leaders, the Brooklyn-based Common, having opened nine houses in the last year and a half.
So why shouldn’t retail space be the next to go?
In 2016, Kriegsman and her cofounder Alana Branston ran weekend pop-up markets which included products from online-only manufacturers. They found that the markets were big successes for the companies. Other options the companies had for selling their wares IRL had their drawbacks: booths at trade shows are expensive, and boutiques take a huge percentage of the sale price. At one of their pop-up markets at the ritzy new Williamsburg hotel the William Vale, Kriegsman and Branston met an online brand that would become one of their first customers at Bulletin, Keap, a handmade luxury candle company that works out of Industry City (and is a Technical.ly favorite).
“I loved their fresh approach to retail, designed for modern brands,” explained Keap’s cofounder Stephen Tracy, in an email. “We’re all after retail space that’s flexible and feels like ours, without huge investment; Bulletin allows for just that.”
Kriegsman and Branston met as coworkers at Contently, a content marketing startup based in SoHo. The company started out as an online, shoppable magazine and moved into the weekend pop-up markets. Their current investors, Notation Capital, passed on them when they were an online catalogue, but with the move to physical locations, became the lead investor in Bulletin’s seed round last month. With the opening of storefronts and a change of model, Notation had a change of heart.
“In opening up a new distribution channel that was previously prohibitively complicated and expensive, we believe Bulletin has the opportunity to transform the way designers, makers, and sellers of all shapes and sizes sell IRL and reach their customers,” the investors wrote in a post on Medium.
In addition to distribution, Bulletin’s model allows for discovery IRL. We asked Williamsburg’s Helene Heath, a digital marketing expert, what she thought of Bulletin.
“This sort of retail aggregator model has the added benefit of attracting a broader audience — some people might be in for one brand and end up discovering a new one,” Heath said by email. “If we look at the buzzy success of a place like Canal Street Market, then Bulletin has the potential to create something that’s really cool and beloved. The high foot traffic volume in their densely touristic chosen areas like Williamsburg and SoHo is also bang on.”
Bulletin was accepted to Y Combinator’s winter 2017 cohort, and Kriegsman and Branston have been shuttling back and forth between Silicon Valley and Williamsburg for the last several weeks. Springtime, and all its foot traffic, is right around the corner.