29 March 2017
How did you get your idea/concept for your business?
Technology has fundamentally changed how companies of all shapes and sizes use space. Retailers are selling online and they need less fixed stores, but more click and collect points & pop-ups. Remote working and hot-desking is becoming the norm in large companies. Freelancers that pop in and out for project based work are being preferred over hiring full-time staff. The next big start-ups are being built on laptops in coffee shops.
It’s becoming more and more obvious that commercial space, especially office space, has to be available on-demand, expand and contract with ease, and become a hub to facilitate meaningful human interaction, that is impossible to achieve remotely. Unfortunately, the commercial property industry still works like it did 20 years ago. Typically, office space is only available if you sign up for a 10 year lease, put down a hefty deposit, pay fees to agents & lawyers and then spend money on furniture, utilities & maintenance. Most businesses, big and small, have no idea how much space they’ll need in 10 months, let alone 10 years.
I started noticing these trends in my previous job as an investment banker, advising a company that was in huge trouble due to its long term lease commitments on space it no longer needed. When I suggested to my boss that there could be an alternative use to this space, my suggestion was laughed off, but still stuck in my mind. From then, I kept seeing the same problem everywhere and knew I had stumbled across something huge.
I didn’t know exactly what the solution was yet, but I quit my job and joined Entrepreneur First where I met my co-founders Tom and Rohan (Co-founder of Second Home & advisor to the Prime Minister). Entrepreneur First helped us use lean start-up methodology and hypothesis testing to work out the solution, and build the product.
We knew the problem that we were solving would take years to solve; bringing a fresh perspective to an industry resistant to change is incredibly tough.
What is unique about your business?
Speed: a typical office rental transaction takes about 3 months, ours typically take 3 weeks or 3 days.
Flexibility: almost all the offices on Hubble are ready to move-in immediately and rented on monthly rolling contracts
Unique spaces: Like AirBnB has done for the travel sector, we’ve opened up 100s of unique office spaces across London which wouldn’t be available if we didn’t exist. From sharing space with some of the world’s biggest brands like Telefonica, to the world’s coolest, like Propercorn – we also have spaces in transformed former primary schools, railway arches, police stations and even hospitals.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
To have an outsider’s perspective. Amazon wasn’t started by a retailer, Uber wasn’t started by taxi driver and AirBnB wasn’t started by hotelier. Each of these founders brought a visceral perspective of the end user and solved the biggest problems in the industry, to create, huge, global businesses.
None of the founders come from the commercial property sector. However, we are the end user, and empathise completely with the problems faced by SMEs in renting office space the way they want to. This allows us to continue to innovate in this sector, where the incumbents find it difficult to move away from bad habits and the “This is the way it’s always been done” heuristics.
If you could time travel back to day one of your company, and have 15min with your former self, what would you say?
Stick to your guns, stick to your vision, stick to your values – focus. It’s easy as a founder creating something that hasn’t existed before, to become distracted and spend too much time following things down a rabbit hole. Every time I have I realised my time could have been better spent focusing on what I knew was already working.
What are some of the biggest lessons that has impacted the way you work?
Ruthless prioritisation – as a founder, you will always have a 100 things to do, with the list growing by the minute. You need to be able to able prioritise that list based on what will make the most impact, for the time / effort it takes compared the next most important task. You need to do this constantly to be effective, along with saying no to unimportant time consuming tasks.
Selective hearing – everyone and their mother has a strong opinion on business ideas. Its this sentiment that makes shows like The Apprentice & Dragon’s Den so popular. As a founder, this can be exhausting as you hear contradictory advice all the time. Unless they are your customers or a founder with a similar business to you, ignore them and decline unsolicited advice from generic “business mentors.”
Use your data – in the early days its easy to work out what to focus on as you have a strong intuitive sense of what’s going well or badly. However, as you grow, you have to start relying more on your data to drive your decisions; in many cases the right thing to do is counterintuitive.
Do you have any tips on how to manage work life balance. Do you have any hobbies that help you switch off?
I’m a workaholic and always have been. In fact, I come from a family of overly anxious, overachieving workaholics.
The biggest lessons I’ve learnt that this counterproductive in the long run and you need your brain to focus on completely different things in order to perform better.
Because I find it difficult do anything in moderation, HIIT gym training helps me press reset on my body and brain as I have no choice but to focus on my training due to the high level of intensity required. I will also go the opposite and do extreme relaxation, including massage, steam, sauna, turn my phone off for a day etc to remove myself.
I also love the arts. I listen to a lot of music, vigorously consume books (fiction & non-fiction), good TV shows, movies etc. I relish any opportunity to be creative and am currently trying my hand at painting, making music and some writing.
What is the best advice you received, and that you still follow?
This is my favourite quote of all time, and for me, completely embodies they “what” and “why” of being an entrepreneur.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
If you had one piece of great advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Stop talking about it, just do it. Stop asking me for advice, go ask your customers what they want.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
Probably a controversial one, but Kanye West. Most people only know the current Kanye, however, they don’t realise he is one of the biggest innovators of our generation.
He created a new genre of music, 5 times, in 10 years. He re-invented himself every album. He found a way out of the rap early adopted into the mainstream. He knows how to do design, branding, PR, marketing, execution and then do it all over again in a different industry.
He’s a quite eccentric, sure, but in his own words “name one genius that ain’t crazy.”