Dec. 4, 2020

Haskayne alum finds his place in Calgary’s growing startup scene

Jeremy Gilman co-founds 'Airbnb for commercial real estate,' hires Master of Management grad to support operations

Jeremy Gilman, BComm’10, knows the value of an undergraduate degree from the Haskayne School of Business.

In addition to studying, Gilman was involved with the Commerce Undergraduate Society and the annual JDC West Case Competition. He completed 16 months of co-operative education placements and was an active member of the Calgary Portfolio Management Trust (CMPT), which is a student-managed investment portfolio. 

  • Photo above: The PlaceHolder team in 2019. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Gilman

After spending the better part of 10 years in a variety of finance positions in Calgary, Gilman started to feel restless in his career. He took some time away from the workforce to explore what truly interested him — he volunteered and even wrote a screenplay. That’s when he met fellow entrepreneur Ramit Kar, BSc’06. The pair sat down to brainstorm interesting business ideas where they could apply their skillsets.

Jeremy Gilman

Jeremy Gilman

Courtesy of Jeremy Gilman

Using an entrepreneur’s mindset, Gilman and Kar identified an inefficient process and saw a gap in the market. They discovered that organizations were renting out their extra office space to friends and other small companies on a flexible basis as a way to make their monthly rent more affordable. They spent a few months exploring this particular industry and learning from others’ past mistakes. Much to their surprise, there was no intermediary to help with this transaction. That’s how PlaceHolder was born.

Fast forward to early 2020. PlaceHolder raised US$1 million in funding. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a mass movement toward working from home to ensure employee health and safety. This meant little demand for offices. Not one to back down from a challenge, the team shifted their business focus almost immediately and expanded into warehouse space.

“We always knew we would expand the business to include warehouses and other types of space," says Gilman. "But with the pandemic we decided to make this change much more quickly than anticipated.” In just the past six months, over 500,000 square feet across 65 different warehouses have been listed on the PlaceHolder platform. The team has also tripled in size with employees in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.

Helping PlaceHolder make this transition was Roberta Stinn, MMgmt’20. Stinn began with PlaceHolder as a student intern and was quickly promoted to strategy and operations manager, a role she shares with Shaheer Tariq (a current Haskayne student). “The pandemic caused an abrupt shift in the job market," she says. "Opportunities I had at the time were put on hold. However, through Haskayne, new opportunities were presented, ultimately leading to my position at PlaceHolder.” 

Master of Management graduate Roberta Stinn

Master of Management graduate, Roberta Stinn

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

PlaceHolder also employs two students from the Mitacs Business Strategy Internship (MBSI) program in partnership with Haskayne. In this internship students complete a strategic analysis of a business and help them restore or modify their operations in a new business environment disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic — a perfect fit for where PlaceHolder is currently at.

“I hire current students and graduates from Haskayne because I can vouch for the quality of the education," says Gilman. "I went there myself and know the value they can bring to our business."