Spacehop is a successful young company that offers freelancers and creatives the possibility to rent out work spaces while giving property owners the opportunity to make extra income by renting out their homes when they are away or at work. Childhood friends Matt Beatty and Luke Eastwood are the co-founders of Spacehop and in this interview they share their tips on how to set up an online business, the importance of technology, and their extreme saving plan strategy.
Tell us about Spacehop and who was it created for?
Spacehop.com is an online platform that was built to provide workspaces that are more flexible in terms of price and location for freelancers, startups, and small business. We provide beautiful workspace at a fraction of the cost traditional offices charge by being resourceful and utilising all kinds of spaces.
When did you decide to start up the company and how long did it take you to put the business plan together?
Matt: I suppose I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak, at university a few friends and I started a nightclub promo business, it had a very short period of success and then epically failed. Following that experience, I was hooked, and I’d constantly rack my brain trying to think of the “next big thing.”
I started Spacehop because I thought it was a good idea and believed it could really be of benefit to people. Also because I was ready for a new challenge, I felt like I wasn’t really pushing myself in my previous job and that was it really. I love what I’m doing now.
From the idea being initially thought up to having the first draft of a business plan was roughly 2 months. I got some help from a lovely lady called Yvonne, who worked at the local business Enterprise Centre in Banbridge back in Northern Ireland, she was very helpful in getting me started. One day I was talking to Luke about it and he jumped on board.
Luke: I come from a legal background and Matt was actually asking me a few questions about the legalities of doing something like this. The business plan was already done at that stage - I loved it and was very keen to get involved.
What challenges did you face when you were first starting out and how did you overcome these?
With a service like this technology is key. The website is so important and constantly needs to be revised and updated. We were very lucky to have found Joe Grimes who was only 18 at the time of joining Spacehop. He moved out of his family home to link up with the team and built the site from scratch. Up until that point, it was very slow going and we always felt like the development of the tech was taking too long.
Not having any money was also difficult. We bootstrapped and hacked absolutely everything. We all moved into a live-in guardians property, a disused pub, to cut back on rent. While the site was being built and essentially up until we crowdfunded, we lived and looked like squatters.
What has been an important career milestone since launching Spacehop?
Getting 1000 hops (days booked) last month was special.
Business founders have to be great delegators. How do you guys do this effectively and what is your leadership style?
We have been friends since school and we maintain the same sort of relationship, it’s very conversational. Joe lives with us now and is a very good friend; everything is more of a discussion as opposed to a delegation. It brings out the best in people and makes for a more creative environment. People work better when they are doing what they want to do and everyone is working toward the same goal so there is rarely a need to delegate set tasks. When someone new comes in we always begin by asking them how they feel they could help the most.
What are the most effective marketing channels for business and why?
For us, the most effective are positive referrals. If you hear from someone you trust that a service is good then you will choose that over 1000 google ads. We have been very lucky in that we have a lot of good hosts who leave a great impression on guests. London's community of freelancers is quite large yet small enough so everytime someone gives us excellent feedback or tells their contacts about it, we get more interest and attention.
How do you keep a work-life balance?
To be honest we don’t. Since starting Spacehop there have been quite a few things going on, a couple of girlfriend breakups and virtually zero nights out. Things are prosperous now but we still keep focused to deliver what is expected of us and we are determined to do more 'balancing' in our second year. We are not complaining as the atmosphere and banter in the office are extraordinary and I rarely feels like work. When you do something you love it never feels like work, right?
Are you planning to take over other cities and where would we be able to find Spacehop offices in a year’s time?
Yes. We are opening the service up to all UK cities in the next 2 weeks. We have dozens of amazing properties we are going to make available to book soon to coincide with the launch of our new & improved site.
By October 2017 we’d hope to be on a few continents.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to turn their vision into a successful business?
Matt: Back yourself. Be prepared for lots of down days, you will often feel like you’re not making progress and nothing is going the way you want it to, but you must keep going. It’s all part of the process, it’s not easy, but all those down days make the good days feel so much sweeter. And be around good friends who believe in your idea.
Luke: Just get started. The first step is definitely the hardest, you will find a lot of answers as you go along so try not to wait until you have everything planned out as things don't always go as planned. And jump on board if someone comes to you with a brilliant idea. If you genuinely believe in it and are ready to put in the work, do it!
The days when Matt and Luke lived in a disused pub are long gone.
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