By Arthur Tam
Swire Properties supports innovation through the accelerator programme at Taikoo Place’s hip co-working space, Blueprint. Entrepreneurs who can show they have an innovative idea and viable business model may apply for the six-month programme and gain access to an incredible workspace, equipped with a bar, cafeteria and terrace, as well as networking and mentorship resources – all free of charge. It’s an ideal place for start-ups and has worked well for tenant Joseph Nejman of Sharerails. The Harvard alum’s company, Sharerails, makes inventory in retail stores easily searchable for online customers. Sharerails has already implemented its services at Pacific Place shops and is growing. We meet up with Nejman to talk about Blueprint, his business and his famous former client.
My first business was starting a healthy smoothie joint in Venice Beach, California. That’s when I met Britney Spears’ dad, who wanted to partner up in my business. Later, I decided to move to Palo Alto to work for Google but still kept touch with him. Then the head-shaving incident happened, and Britney was being chased by the paparazzi.
That's when I pitched her dad the idea of taking control of your own social media channels. Be your own paparazzi. He liked the idea, and then I started running Britney’s social media presence and was involved in her original comeback tour. But after that job, I started running a venture fund and then eventually founded Sharerails.
We started Sharerails because we saw a huge need for mid-tier retailers to connect their physical store to online channels. Customers can see in real-time what stock and sizes are available in the store and then go and purchase it. Purchasing online is still only eight percent of total retail, and it's an even smaller percentage in Hong Kong at three percent, making it an ideal city to add value to stores by increasing their presence online. People overestimate how much they think they shop online. There are still a lot of advantages to offline shopping because you can see the product, touch it and immediately purchase it and take it home.
The biggest positive feedback I get is from people searching for odd sizes. Sharerails makes it much easier for people to sift through inventory and see which stores have what they need.
Right now we are trying to increase our portfolio with shopping malls like Pacific Place. Our sweet spot is aggregating the information about a shopping mall much like a directory. What we are doing is expanding that directory also to show what products are sold.
I get a sense of community working out of Blueprint. There are a lot of restaurants and bars in the area with a thriving happy hour culture, too. I especially like grabbing food at Camper’s (A Japanese eatery on Pan Hoi Street, Quarry Bay). Their curry is my go-to. Whenever we have clients, we always put them up at EAST hotel because it’s nice and just walking distance to Blueprint. And a lot of businesses we work with in fashion retail are located here in Taikoo Place. So, that just makes things even more convenient.
I found out about the accelerator programme through a former member, Kim Leitzes of ParkLu. She suggested that for what we were doing, Blueprint is the ideal place to be and a great way to build a relationship with Swire Properties. You get to meet all sorts of people here who have been able to give their input for our project. And it helps that there are a lot freelancers that work here and are accessible if we need them. Working out of Blueprint could not have worked out better, which is why I’ve stayed even after the programme.
Taikoo Place is full of characters. Love football? Read our story on Asman Ali of Aegon, who is starting a league for the community.