2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Spaciously, INSEAD



Industry: Retail

Founding Student Name(s): Hanna Kanabiajeuskaja, Laurent Baillot

Brief Description of Solution: Spaciously is the Airbnb of retail. We connect local creators with established stores like Kiehl’s or Lululemon for pop-ups and shop-in-shop experiences.

We’re currently operating in New York and San Francisco.

Funding Dollars: We are preparing for a seed round to scale our operations to more stores and drive more shopper traffic. We are a part of two incubators: INSEAD Launchpad at Station F and Galvanizer.

What led you to launch this venture? On her travels, Hanna noticed that local makers were front and center in cities like Oaxaca, Naples, and Singapore. Yet, they were nowhere to be found in San Francisco. Laurent had friends who started their own small brands during COVD. They struggled to get their products to customers at physical stores. Laurent and Hanna decided to find a way to put local makers back on the main street.

We also chose this field because it is so human-centric: we love seeing the events that were organized through our platform. We are building partnerships between local makers and stores that share the same values. And by promoting local shopping, we are building a cleaner and more meaningful retail.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We launched our U.S. operations in August. As of October, our platform is hosting 15 pop-ups per month. We have partnered with stores from international brands like Kiehl’s and Lululemon who trust us to bring new experiences to their stores. We have onboarded more than 100 local creators in San Francisco and New York, with 20 new brands joining every week.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? INSEAD is a wonderful place to experiment with new career paths, build confidence, and get support.

Laurent didn’t think of entrepreneurship as an option when he started the program. It’s only thanks to the individual coaching that the MBA offers, paired with introspective classes like “Making Authentic Decisions,” that it became apparent starting his own business was the most fulfilling option.

Hanna joined INSEAD determined to start a business and find a co-founder. INSEAD’s numerous tournaments and group projects (including INSEAD Venture Competition) brought Hanna and Laurent together and helped them test their compatibility as business partners.

Our professors and peers supported us in virtually everything we did. For example, Professor Frederic Godart helped us get oriented in fashion and luxury over a casual coffee chat. Our classmate Kathia, who runs her own business, helped us build our first financial forecast. When we ran our first pop-up in Paris, dozens of our fellow INSEADers showed up to support us. (We even borrowed hangers from some of them!) Even after graduation, our INSEAD community keeps cheering us on.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Growing up, Laurent had no direct example of people starting their own business. The quality that was most valued in his family was being analytical, not entrepreneurial. Then he crossed paths with Alex Dalyac, a high school friend who was a few years into a venture in AI. Something sparked when Laurent heard his friend describe what he was building, and the team he was assembling, and the hurdles he was overcoming. It was not just a job – he was throwing his entire soul into this project. Laurent was fascinated by how demanding being a founder looked, yet how his friend grew into it and learnt on the job. It sounded like a truly transformational journey – though it took some time for Laurent to believe that he also had what it took to try this path.

Hanna’s inspiration comes from her close family. They have always made their living from their own microbusinesses—from dealing in machinery parts to starting a small nursery of possibly the rarest daylilies in Belarus. At INSEAD, Chaitanya Kalipatnapu’s approach to entrepreneurship resonated most with Hanna: “Measure success by your positive impact and the quality of your relationships.”

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The best part of our MBA was that it let us experiment with entrepreneurship before actually taking the big jump. Our team was born in “New Business Ventures,” a two-month class where groups of students come up with a startup idea and test it as much as possible before presenting it to actual VCs. We still remember the excitement of running our first interviews with people who later became Spaciously’s first customers!

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Stephen Chick taught “New Business Models,” which required each student to come up with 20 different business model ideas, to gradually vote for the best ones and to refine them. It was during that class that we realized that the idea behind Spaciously was worth developing. The whole class was a brilliantly designed incentive to be creative and to iterate on imperfect ideas. Professor Chick’s energy was contagious, and he pushed us to dream bigger.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? We are part of the INSEAD Launchpad at Station F in Paris. Station F is the world’s largest startup incubator, and INSEAD has a presence for its alumni there. It’s a tremendous support to work alongside entrepreneurs with a similar background, yet tackling very different problems. Station F also helps us get exposure to potential investors.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We want to become the marketplace for experiential retail. In the future, anyone can turn their venue into an experience. Today, store managers go to spaciouslyretail.com to find local makers who want to sell their products. Tomorrow, cafés will be hosting pottery classes, hotels will host jewelry making workshops, AND gyms will host juice bar pop-ups. Spaciously will help make retail more local and sustainable—and city life more fun!


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