“Our store was in the wrong place”

Serial entrepreneur Yaron Kopel has learned the value of a good location and applies it to his international off-site meeting-room company.

Accomplished Israeli businessman Yaron Kopel has worked in the shoe business, the drinks business and, today, the meeting-room business. He’s currently steering the rapid global expansion of his Meet in Place brand and this time he has a plan to make sure he picks the right locations for the venues…

I guess you could call me a serial entrepreneur. One of the ideas I had a few years ago was for a sports-based startup. So I emailed Howard Schultz, the amazing founder of Starbucks – whom I worked with in the past when I was chief product, innovation and design officer at SodaStream International – and set up a meeting to sound him out about my plans. My business partner and I needed about an hour to go through our presentation and answer any questions he might have, but we found it extremely difficult to find somewhere suitable.

Eventually we found a meeting room in a hotel that cost $350 [about €320] for an hour – after bargaining – and the whole booking process was very painful and convoluted. By the time we actually got to sit down with Mr Schultz, my focus had started to shift from the sporting idea. Even Howard thought the room hire was too expensive, but none of us knew anywhere better. Centrally located, nice places, where you could have meetings in private without paying a fortune were extremely few and far between.

I know from bitter experience that it’s all about location. I used to own a fashion shoe store and it was loved by the press. We were in Vogue, on the TV morning shows, all over the papers… It was incredible. In 2008, it was voted the number one women’s shoe store in New York, but five months later the economic crisis hit, the market collapsed and the business folded. Why? The location wasn’t great and it didn’t have passing traffic. The awards and coverage weren’t enough.

Directly because of this experience, we always open more than one Meet in Place in a city. This testing allows us to see what’s working and what needs to be improved.

Although we were already at an advanced stage with the sporting startup when we got the idea for Meet in Place, we changed tack. We did our homework into the world of meeting rooms and spotted a definite opportunity. The working world was changing: there were more freelancers and business travellers than ever before, and even established businesses need meeting spaces. Soon after, my business partner and I opened our pilot Meet in Room in Tel Aviv. Today, we have three more in New York, two in London and another 20 on the way.

I used to travel like crazy, sometimes three continents in one week. Many times, the offices I visited were far from the airport and by the time I would get back to my hotel in the city centre, I’d be like the walking dead. If I could have done my meetings near my hotel it would have saved so much time and energy.

Ours are not shared spaces – there aren’t people around you with laptops out. They’re private rooms for two to 70 people that you book via an app or mobile in less than 30 seconds for 30 minutes from now.

Being an entrepreneur is an emotional rollercoaster. In the morning you’re down and in the evening you’re up. It’s the way it goes, but I’ve been through a few phases in my life and feel a bit more relaxed about things nowadays.

Ultimately, I’m having fun. I think it’s easy to focus on the mistakes, but the collapse of the shoe brand was my only failure in four successes. Treat your team with an open, fair heart and you’ll be on the right lines.

This interview was carried out by SIM7’s Simeon de la Torre and first appeared in easyJet Traveller magazine. To read the latest issue (and the entire back catalogue of magazines), visit: https://ink-global.com/our-clients/portfolio/easyjet-traveller/