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Interview with Mohamed Haouache

Name Storefront

Founded by Mohamed Haouache and Adrien Kerbrat

Created in 2014

Business sector commercial real estate

Employees 50

How would you describe your company? What is the added value/specificity of your business model?

Storefront is a marketplace dedicated to the temporary rental of retail spaces, or pop-up stores. We enable brands, creators and project owners to book a retail space as easily as they would a hotel room. Our ambition is to democratise access to retail property.

We started in France in 2014, and three years later the company became the world leader in the field, with over 10,000 retail spaces catalogued throughout the world. We were branded the “Airbnb of Retail” very early on.

All stakeholders are winning parties. On the one hand, Storefront offers an adjustment variable to owners, enabling them to make profitable their retail spaces over the short term. On the other hand, brands have access to a unique selection of premises and can use a concierge service to find the premises suited to their project (Pop-Up Store, Showroom, Private sale, Product launch, etc.) and to their criteria (size, layout, neighbourhood, budget). Storefront also handles all the paperwork (temporary rental contract, invoicing management) and provides a comprehensive insurance contract throughout the duration of the rental.

What did you do prior to becoming an entrepreneur?

Storefront is above all a story about friendship. With Adrien Kerbrat, my co-founder, we both worked in New York in market finance for several years.

After several years spent in a stimulating but abstract professional environment, we wanted to come back to the basics of real life, that meant something to us. Basically, we wanted to be our own boss.

We decided to resign in 2013, and returned to France. That is when we started thinking about the idea of pop-up stores, which was a very small niche market at the time. We started out, and 3 years later we are more confident than ever in the potential of our company. And we have replaced the adrenalin of the stock markets with the rush of entrepreneurship, with its ups and downs!

In your opinion, what are the key reasons for the success of a startup?

For me, the key factors of success reside in the very American saying ‘Product-Market-Team’ fit:

  • Product: the product developed by the company must have meaning and meet a real client need, a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’.
  • Market: the market, in a competitive context, must be deep enough for the company to exist over the long-term and thus be profitable. There is no point in being too much of early bird, otherwise you will tire yourself out expounding the merits of the product to the benefit of new entrants, and arriving too late on the market leads to pressure on pricing because all market shares have already been snapped up.
  • Team: startup co-founders must complement each other. It is the only way of making sure they won’t get in each other’s way. The roles must be clearly defined from the very start. Many startups pull the plug because of issues between the founders. They must then make sure they are able to attract the best possible talent, and know how to delegate responsibility.

To succeed, it is essential to be above average on all three of these aspects. It is then a question of a bit of luck, and a lot of passion and energy.