Well-known investors invest millions in new real estate venture

Entrepreneur Marcel Boekhoorn has invested in real estate again. Together with Michiel Mol and the Belgian entrepreneur Philip Cracco, founder of employment agency Accent Group, he will invest several million in the start-up Tribes.

Over the past few years, Boekhoorn built one of the largest Dutch commercial real estate portfolios. In 2013, his capital was estimated at €1 billion. At the end of last year, Boekhoorn sold his real estate portfolio with a loss to an American private equity company. Mortgage provider FGH Bank in particular, made significant losses on the sale.

This new company is founded by former Regus Director Eduard Schaepman. Tribes is an office concept that provides the flexible rental of business workspace. Schaepman, who until recently was responsible for Boekhoorn’s real estate vehicle Chalet Group, has openly targeted his former employer Regus with this new business. Regus has 55 locations in the Netherlands and is by far the biggest lessor of flexible office space. “Feel free to refer to us as Regus 3.0,” said Schaepman when asked for comment.

Tribes will transform and rent 11 spaces this year. The start-up works together with a big firm that has already signed up as a tenant. Schaepman does not want to reveal the name yet, but he has disclosed that the establishments will be opened in cities like Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Arnhem, Brussels, Antwerp and Gent. It is said that 60% of the office space is already occupied. Tribes will not own the buildings but will work instead with real estate managers.

50-50

“We are looking at locations in the city center, along the ring road, near stations or at a business park where on the action is happening,” said Schaepman. The new concept is not to compete with existing real estate concepts, says the entrepreneur. “We will only be where we can add value.”

Schaepman expects to have 34 Tribes in the Netherlands, 26 in Belgium, eight in Luxembourg and 34 in London eventually. Further expansion will likely be done by franchisees, with the goal of having a global presence within five years.

The total investments in the first 11 establishments will not be publicly announced, but are speculated to be in the range of millions. Real estate owners typically charge between €800 and €1,200 per square meter for furnished office spaces. Tribes calculates a minimal space of 5,000 m2 per location. In addition to Boekhoorn, Mol and Cracco, building owners are expected to invest in the improvement of these spaces. “Generally it is a 50-50 split, especially in communal spaces, like as hospitality-related spaces,” says Schaepman.

Soft values

The inspiration for Tribes came from photographer Jimmy Nelson, who conducts research into the disappearance of old traditions and cultures.

“Office nomads can be considered to be a tribe with common characteristics.” His previous employer focused on square meters and chairs. Schaepman places more emphasis instead on soft values. The entrepreneur looks for example at the Amsterdam Zuidas (Amsterdam’s financial district), which is highly attractive to young lawyers.

“It is about seeing and being seen, a combination of hospitality industry, high-tech solutions and services like fitness centers, pop-up stores and dry-cleaning.” The definition of a ‘tribe’ differs per office. “We only open establishments if there’s market demand.”

Tribes’ core will be a system that nurtures the tenant from the moment he enters the parking lot. Additionally, Schaepman wants to build an offline community by adding a network of experienced coaches. “There are 1.2 million people aged 65+ in the Netherlands with a lot of knowledge and experience. We aim to connect them to 1.7 million mobile workers.”

The management team of Tribes also consists of Regus’ former financial director Jasper Bekkering, and the Flemish Alain Brossé (former COO of Accent Group and former commercial director of Regus). The three are minority shareholders.

Originally published in Financieele Dagblad on 2 February 2015