UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series: We Are Pop-Up

1 March 2013

We Are Pop Up

It’s a tale of two opposites – an artist looking for exhibition space, and an MBA graduate living in Covent Garden seeing, day after day, empty shop space and wondering how it could be filled.

From that, We Are Pop-Up was born.

The concept is simple: the website aims to match up landlords looking to rent out commercial space for a short period with pop-ups looking for space to run a business from, for anything between a few days to a few months.

It is the brainchild of Nicolas Russell, who is now the CEO, a graduate of the University of Oxford’s MBA programme and a Covent Garden native, and Mike Salter, now creative director and a graduate with a degree in painting from UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art.

At one time Mike was an artist with one goal – looking for space to exhibit his work – yet now his day-job includes managing press work, marketing, community development, building the company’s website and, if that weren’t enough, pitching in to find new spaces for pop-ups.

After some false starts – including building an app to find out from pop-ups what they look for in spaces, and how they look for it, which flopped – their investors kept faith in their idea and gave them more money which led to the development of their core product: creating a marketplace which connects pop-ups with landlords and pop-up retailers.

After launching their full website, just two days later Boxpark – the world’s first pop-up mall in Shoreditch – got in touch with them and pursued a partnership which would see both them and We Are Pop-Up working together in launching a competition to find a new pop-up for the mall. In all, there were 150 entries for ideas, with the competition and publicity launching We Are Pop Up firmly into the business world.

Currently, the business is working with 177 pop-ups to find them space, with the company’s unique selling point, according to Nicholas, being that they will not only find space, but also help promote the pop-up once they’re in residence.

“If you imagine a pop-up, against permanent shops with huge marketing budgets, the clock is ticking as soon you’re in; so we decided we will tell the world about you, from day one,” he says.

This year they are continuing to expand, growing client numbers, in the middle of a funding round  and hosting meet-ups to foster the pop-up community. The future for them is bright.

The UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lectures are organised by UCL Advances which is affiliated to UCL Enterprise