Appear Here is an online marketplace for pop-up spaces that entrepreneur and designer Ross Bailey created five years ago in the U.K. It has since been used by more than 150,000 brands—including Apple and Nike—to launch concepts at thousands of locations in London and Paris. Last year, Bailey expanded into New York, inking exclusive deals with the city’s top landlords and real estate firms, and raised more than $20 million from investors to fund the company’s growth.
Fast Company: What inspired you to start Appear Here?
Ross Bailey: Even companies founded on the idea of not having physical stores have ended up launching [pop-ups] as a way to connect with customers. When I was looking for a space to sell my T-shirts in London, there were whole areas of empty storefronts [with landlords holding out for high rents], but no website where you could see temporary real estate listings with transparent prices.
FC: When you approach building owners about Appear Here, how do they respond?
RB: In the beginning, it was hard to convince landlords to give us a single storefront. Now we get whole streets by [selling landlords on the idea of] being part of a collection of beautiful stores. Early on, we redesigned and relaunched the retail space in one of the worst Tube stations in London. We’ve had over 500 brands launch there—jazz cafés, a Jamie Oliver restaurant, an installation for Netflix. It shows how a shithole can become the coolest place to shop.
FC: How does your experience in retail apparel influence your work today?
RB: Our team is more like a creative studio than a tech or real estate company. Personally, I’m always working on different initiatives, like a rebranding project for Topshop, and helping a restaurant owner who lost his businesses in Aleppo, Syria, find space and build a brand in London.
Ross Bailey is No.48 on the 2018 Most Creative People in Business list. Check out all 100 people here.