When CultureMap reached out to James Phelan to discuss his new company, Plāsyn, the Houstonian was just about to board a plane to Puerto Rico. A former member of the U.S. Navy, Phelan was stationed there during his service and so was eager to return and help out with relief efforts following Hurricane Maria.
This is right after he spearheaded recovery in Houston post-Hurricane Harvey — "I guess I'm just addicted to helping," he says — and all while he's gearing up to launch his latest venture, Plāsyn.
"Being busy keeps me happy," Phelan says. "And I suppose it doesn't hurt that my background is in urban planning, logistics, and transportation consulting, plus the Navy experience."
That varied background has served Phelan well in his past ventures, which include the former Houston Heights co-working concept White Space, and will be an asset for Plāsyn as well.
The company pairs businesses that need short-term workspace with hosts that have that space — be it a commercial kitchen, conference room, or retail display area — available to share. These "micro-term" temporary commercial real estate bookings bolster a user's businesses by meeting a variety of space needs during a company's entire business cycle.
Hosts with operating commercial spaces share their workplace profiles, accept or decline use on their terms, for fair daily rates. Guests connect to, schedule with, and pay hosts through Plāsyn, securing turn-key places that meet their needs.
"There are millions to billions of underutilized square feet of viable space, and this is a way to reduce 'brain drain' and job loss resulting from the offshoring of manufacturing and services," says Phelan. "Let's reverse this trend and create cost-effective, local options to keep businesses competitive, while also housing the exponentially growing independent/nomadic workforce."
The idea also alleviates high costs for physical exposure in brick-and-mortar stores, since sharing physical retail space benefits operators with money and foot traffic, while saving startups and pop-ups cash on their end. The ultimate goal, Phelan says, is to encourage Plāsyn's tagline of "make, meet + sell."
As director of Houston Young Professionals (HYP), which 35,000-plus local professionals rely on for events and and community volunteer opportunities, and as partnership director of Startup Grind, an event series designed to help educate, inspire, and connect local entrepreneurs, Phelan knows a thing or two about making connections. Now even more will benefit from his experience.