OfficeHub is a service that helps companies find the right office space. But how did we get here? Any entrepreneurial story is one of paths, decisions, bets and sacrifices. Today we want to share with you how we grew from a 2 man hobby project to an international service in the real estate industry.
Two years ago we knew nothing about the office market and if you had asked us whether or not we’d be some form of real estate broker, we’d have laughed you out of the room. It wasn’t until Alex, one of our co-founders, was part of launching a coworking space, that any of us had any relation to the real estate market.
In this process, he learned two things. Finding tenants in this market is freakin’ expensive and finding the right ones for your coworking space is tough.
Like many great (and not so great) ideas the first sketch of what OfficeHub was to become, was drawn on a napkin at a bar. After a few beers the idea of launching a service that would help coworking spaces find tenants didn’t seem all that bad.
The space that Alex was part of launching paid their existing members a month’s rent if they found a new tenant. So the idea was simple: We could be the guys recommending a new tenant and get a one-month rent fee in return from the office. The best part is that we could offer our service to the people looking for a new office for free. We could simply do the searching work for them – for free.
In fact so simple that people told us our idea was stupidly simple and not innovative. In some weird way we just liked the business even more for that underlying simplicity. Neither of us was out for grand fame or building a new type of rocket, so building a solid business on a simple model seemed like the right match to us.
Oh boy were we wrong. But we’ll get to that at a later stage in this article.
In the beginning, the seemingly simple business idea and execution were a godsend, because we just started executing. In the run of two days, we had built a homepage, build a signup flow, registered our domain/company and made our first post on social media about our new service.
So now we were out there with this simple idea: Why do you spend all of your time searching for a new office, let us do it for you for free.
In most startup books you read about the paths that companies need to cross before they find their product market fit. One famous example is written by John Mullins and Randy Komisar and fittingly called “Getting to Plan B”, since almost no startup sets a plan and just goes in a straight line from their initial idea to actual product.
With us this journey was a little different. As it turned out our value proposition was very appealing to our target audience from day 1 on. After a few hours of having a page online we got our first customers that were looking for new office space.
Today we know this was a lucky punch, since there are seasons and hadn’t we launched during high season, we would probably not have gotten a customer within the first 14 days. Which in turn might have lead to us dropping the project prematurely. But sometimes a good portion of luck is part of kickstarting something great.
We have extended our service significantly since our launch in March 2016, but we have stayed true to our core value proposition. Let us do the work and we will find the best matching office for you in your city, without you having to lift a finger. As uncommon as it is, we went straight from 0 to our Plan A. From there on we started growing our business organically reaching ebitda break even without funding.
What we learned during that process is that even the most simple ideas are tough to execute well.
We knew nothing about real estate, so there was a steep learning curve on that end. Real estate is an industry where companies work with gigantic marketing budgets, since the lifetime value of customers is extremely high. So for a newly started company with no deep pockets and no funding you need to empty all your savings just to dip a toe into the water. Another important learning is persistence, we had many points where we didn’t believe in the future of OfficeHub. This is especially true due to the industry we work in. Real estate as an industry is a lot about risk – and a new company is always related to some level of risk. So many of our big accounts were first interested in speaking with us after we had successfully run OfficeHub for more than a year.
And ultimately we learned that you can innovate and be part of changing a gigantic industry even when your starting point is simple. But more on that in our next blog post.