Q&A with Benoît Clement- Bollee, Asia CEO of Storefront

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By Butterboom Writers  /  January 12, 2017

Benoît Clément-Bollée is the CEO of Storefront in Asia. We spoke to him recently to get the low-down on the growing pop-up store trend. So what is Storefront? In a nutshell, Storefront is an online and mobile platform that offers short-term rental space to brands. Claiming the sweet spot of being the Airbnb for retail space, Storefront currently operates in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Paris and since 2016, Hong Kong. With over 10,000+ listings and growing, it looks like pop-up stores is the next big  thing in retail at a global scale.

 Hailing from France, Benoît arrived in Hong Kong 4 years with his wife and family. He has one of the most interesting background in a start-up entrepreneur we’ve seen so far, a mix of military, humanitarian and corporate; he’s clocked 8 years in the French Navy, spent 5 years in United Nations and other NGOs and has served and worked in the Middle East, Africa and various parts of Asia.  It seems Benoît has his teeth cut out for expanding Storefront into Asia as they look at entering China, Singapore and Taiwan soon.

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What do you love about the city that you live now?
I live in Hong Kong and love how international it is, the easy access to Asia and the dim sum.
 
When did Storefront start? 
Storefront started in 2012 in Paris as Oui Open when Mohamed Haouache and Adrien Kerbrat learnt that there was a need to matched retailers with landlords for short-term rentals in Paris. It quickly became the leading Pop-Up Store marketplace in France. Around the same time, New York based Storefront founded by Tristan Pollack and Erik Eliason were doing the same helping online brands find a physical presence in brick and mortar temporary stores. The two start-ups decided to join forces in 2016 bringing their combined listing together under the Storefront name to offer a global platform to over 3000 brands including the likes of Lululemon, Samsung, Esty to open pop-up stores all over the world. Today, we have 80 people worldwide and 15 in Hong Kong.
 
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How big is the pop-up market?
Its about US7 billion for whole of Asia. We are in Hong Kong as a launchpad into China and rest of Asia.
 
How does Storefront work?
We deal directly with landlord in order to keep the store as affordable as possible and build a strong partnership with landlord to make it extremely easy to rent out their space on a short-term basis. When you make a booking, you pay 50% of the rent to secure the space for short-term (less than a month). 
 
How is Storefront different from the other platforms offering short-term retail space? 
We offer prime locations to our clients and partner with major shopping malls. We offer speed in booking, whenever you make the booking online, it is available straightaway. We offer full liability global insurance for short-term lease for some of our pop-ups around the world.  We have the biggest listing in comparison to other similar platforms; 15,000 listing worldwide and 1500 in Hong Kong.
 
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Describe your typical work day?
I get to the office at around 7.30/8am and work on different aspect of the business. Everyday is different. Right now I’m staffing the Hong Kong team so I’m training staff and looking at China, Singapore and Taiwan to enter these markets.  I also spend a lot of time with our international team in New York, Paris and other places. 
 
Top qualities for hiring?
I’m hiring a local team in each market with local knowledge.  I look for people that are helpful, honest, can think out of the box. People who are constantly striving to get to the next level, to be better all the time.
 
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Best advise ?
Before you do anything, ask yourself  what will be your return of investment, in terms of results, what you will get from this action. When you are an entrepreneur, its easy to stay in your comfort zone, doing the thing you are comfortable with but it may not be the most urgent thing you need to do. So when I ask this question, it helps me focus on the essential and prioritise the most important thing I need to do. 
 
If you can change 1 thing in the world today what would it be? 
The US election results. 
 
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