Human to Human

Collaborative consumption, and the rise of H2H

For the past two years, the We Are Pop Up team has been watching the rise of the sharing economy and collaborative consumption. From inception, we intended WAPU to be a sharing economy platform – bringing the power of community connections into retail property.

Hundreds of new retailers

In 2013, our team studied retail property transactions. On 17 December 2014, Online Transactions went live. For the first time, two people could transact a industrial-strength license to occupy completely online.

In 2012, it took on average eight weeks to find and negotiate a pop up contract. In February 2014, two WAPU users transacted a £10k shop in less than a week. In May, two WAPU users transacted a £10k shop in less than 12 hours.

To date, We Are Pop Up customers have created hundreds of new shops around the UK and in Berlin. About 10% of those shops turned permanent. For landlords, our customers are their new long-term retailers, and the future of malls and shopping centres.

Backed by the smartest guys in the room

Pop up retail continues to explode in popularity around the world. And the smartest guys in the room get it, having invested over £10M to date in the three leading pop up platforms.

We looked at our results in spring and were humbled by how the We Are Pop Up community used the tool. By enabling people easier access to retail property, we saw creativity explode. One of the greatest joys of running the platform is reading a digest each morning of all the ideas that came in the previous day.

Unbridled human creativity is wonderful – it is deeply renewing and restorative. Multinational brand managers contribute new campaign concepts. Recent graduates share new entrepreneurial ideas. Tricksters push the envelope with proposals for anti-retail executions. The potential of We Are Pop Up to enable all of these ideas makes this truly meaningful work.

“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions you ask.”

The team sat down for one of our famous marathon strategy sessions. Whilst the results were very powerful, we wanted to do more. The majority of the shops our customers created were whole shops. We Are Pop Up was labelled property technology – prop tech.

“We have successfully automated short-term retail transactions, and we’re building a prop tech business. But we’re not yet part of the sharing economy.

“How do we truly enable collaborative consumption in this market? How can we enable our customers to not only participate in retail, but also to start reinventing it?”

Embracing H2H

An early fundraising meeting with one of London’s most prominent venture capital funds started with a Partner looking my two Co-Founders and me up and down. “An artist, an academic, and an environmentalist walked into a room…”

We have heard iterations of that quip many times since. “The painter, the computer scientist, and the management consultant.” “The Hawaiian shirt, the cardigan, and the suit.”

Eventually, leading prop tech investor Faisal Butt wrote: “I’m not surprised to learn that the guys that set up the company are not from a property background. This is a startup borne out of disruptive thinking from a strategy consultant and a research scientist.”

We finally asked: “What is the most disruptive thing we can do?”

The answer was immediately obvious. Enable people to collaborate.


As I’ve written before, collaborative platforms are systematically reshaping billion dollar industries. In less than a decade, a handful of startups have completely changed how we think about business finance, creative production, hotels, pets, taxis, and venture capital.

They do this by directly connecting sellers and buyers, removing complex chains of middleman. The efficiencies introduced by simple direct connections enable fractional usage – the ability to seamlessly share resources to the benefit of both parties.

We Are Pop Up and the rise of collaborative retail

If collaborative retail represents the future of the industry, and the leading platforms are backed by tens of millions of Pounds Sterling in venture capital, what does collaborative retail actually look like?

It’s simple. People looking for new connections with people.

The brands:

1) Buttonbacks: We would love to get our hand made and upholstered chairs and love seats seen by the public, we have been making and selling chairs for the last few years and would love to show them off in a shop…

2) Marianna G Swimwear: Each collection draws influences from the rich Greek culture; mythical Grecian goddesses, ancient history and it’s beautiful Mediterranean landscape. We are looking for rail space in a shop share. The swimwear and clothing can be provided pre-hung on white wooden hangers.

3) The Green Sardine: We aim to select innovative, beautiful and unique work from emerging talents as well as classic products that remain firm favourites in Portugal. All our things are very beautiful and we want them to speak for themselves therefore we would like a large low shelf (possibly 2 metres long) or perhaps a table or maybe a cool shelving unit where we could display a selection of our products in a shop or gallery which shares similar values to us.

The spaces:

1) Glassworks Concession (Shoreditch): We are looking for cool concessions like coffee stalls, chocolatiers, juice bars and the like! We’re open to meeting women’s clothing, accessories and jewellery brands, as well as men’s accessories brands.

2) Three Potato Four (Stoke Newington): Retailers of all kinds are invited to rent the prime window space in Three Potato Four, a fun and quirky children’s shop.

The available lot is 70 x 70 square feet. You can make use of available shelving, or bring some of your own.

3) Nancy’s Pantry (Hackney): We have a very popular restaurant, but we close at 6.30pm every day, so there is the potential to use the space in the evening. It is licensed to serve alcohol.