Tech Innovators 2014: We Are Pop Up pairs businesses with short-term leases

Launched as a way of providing creative entrepreneurs with a way of finding a commercial space quickly and easily, We Are Pop Up is plugging the holes left behind when businesses go digital.

Look anywhere around London and you’ll notice an increasing abundance of pop-up businesses, those taking out a tenancy for a short time.

Tech Innovators 2014 business We Are Pop Up is speeding up the time it takes for a vacant space to be filled by presenting prospective landlords with a range of options.

We Are Pop Up

Based in: London

Founded in: 2012

No. of employees: 8

Company founder: Nicholas Russell                   

We Are Pop Up founder Nicholas Russell

Founder profile:

Nicholas Russell has advised multinationals in consumer goods, finance, and retail on new economic models.

Background business profile:

The existing business model of agency cannot support the needs of tomorrow’s retailers. Enter We Are Pop Up – an online marketplace for short-term commercial property. We Are Pop Up automates short-term property transactions, making the process much easier for tenants, and lower-risk for landlords.

Inside track:

Nicholas Russell’s first exposure to the concept of pop-up sites came while working in San Francisco for a brand strategy agency. At the time he worked with retail and luxury brands mainly on marketing and pop culture connections. At that stage pop-ups were primarily promotional stunts, used as part of campaigns by national players.

The start of We Are Pop Up began with four months of research, compiling an initial business plan in a largely academic way. An injection of founder capital was then required to get it going, with the team thinking ‘let’s give it a shot’.

An benchmark moment came when the start-up was accepted to the Springboard accelerator programme (now called Techstars). The business got its start with Boxpark, a pop-up retail space located in Shoreditch, East London. It served as a proof of concept and allowed more funding to flow through the door.

Boxpark had contacted We Are Pop Up to run a two week competition to fill one retail space. Some 20,000 page views and 150 retail concepts submitted and We Are Pop Up had filled three shops.

In terms of growth metrics, the start-up has been working with two councils, Camden and Brighton, and has placed 300 shops to date. A lot of work has been done with the creative communities and pop-up restaurants.

As the system develops the team has noticed a decrease in transaction time, meaning it can now fill more spaces in less time.

‘Space has been the main problem as property is configured for long-term leases,’ Russell says. ‘One great thing about having competitors is that we are all hammering at this point. What has been amazing is on the demand side, tenants and creatives take it up instantly as they use other platforms such as Kickstarter, Airbnb and Crowdcube.’

We Are Pop Up team

Recent milestones:

  • Real-estate contracts paid and signed entirely online
  • First £10,000+ automated transaction
  • Turnover-based ‘plug-and-play’ demonstration launched in Berlin

Upcoming milestones:

  • Signature-less contracts 
  • Plug-and-play shop, version 2.0
  • Property-as-subscription

Recent technology:

The We Are Pop Up platform automates commercial property contracts using a custom-built web platform. The business is extending that functionality to the shop floor working with partners to integrate POS systems and footfall tracking.


  • SkyAuth


  • Arts Alliance Ventures

Contact details:

22 Waterson Street, London, E2 8HL

Tel: 07912 653 412



View all 23 companies contained within Tech Innovators 2014

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

Related Topics

Innovation in Business