Launched In 34 Cities Since January – The Story Behind SpareDesk

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Founder of SpareDesk, Dylan Buckley, works with a remote team that has never met to connect freelancers & digital nomads with exciting spaces globally. Here's the story of the platform that went live in 34 cities since their launch in January:

How would you describe SpareDesk in a few words?

SpareDesk is a platform that connects digital nomads and freelancers to great places to work anywhere in the world.

What inspired you to create the platform? How did it all start?

I was in Berlin early last year with a friend and we needed somewhere to work and send some emails for a few hours. We used a website that was supposed to help us find somewhere to do just that, and after walking for almost an hour to this place we discovered it was closed (even though this site said it was open on that day). I decided then that there should be a much easier way to find somewhere to work, book it instantly and have all the hassle taken away. I can just get on with whatever I needed to be doing. It took just over six months from that point till when we launched, and I think we have created the best product available to solve the issue, despite it being a reasonably crowded market space.

Launched In 34 Citites Since January - The Story Behind SpareDeskSince your launch in January of 2017, you managed to gain more than 3000 users. What factor do you think is responsible for this? Can you share some insights?

We have now gained over 3000 users which is incredible. Our ProductHunt launch gave us our initial few hundred users which gave us the confidence that we may be onto something.

All users since then (bar a little press coverage) has come organically, through word of mouth, discovering us on Twitter, or just searching for spare desks on Google. A lot of people find us on Twitter, buy into our story and then see SpareDesk. People love a good startup story and we think that has contributed a lot to our success so far.

With the rise of digital nomadism, more and more companies allowing people to work remotely arise – the competition appears to be fierce. What makes SpareDesk stand out of the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

We have a number of competitors and new ones seem to start every week, which makes this game more fun – haha. SpareDesk stands out for a number of reasons.

Our apps are really well designed and look and function really well, in a simple way. One of the most frustrating things with our competitors is how they want to own as much ‘real estate’ as they can and have no control over what is on their platform. On some of them, you could be looking for a desk to work at but that listing is surrounded by listings for full offices, meeting rooms or even photography studios. It’s a mess and we didn’t want to be like that.

All desks on SpareDesk are available for one day (We don’t allow co-working spaces to sign up if they don’t allow daily hot desks), can be booked and paid for instantly within the app, and works in over 34 cities around the world. We are working closely with remote companies and have an incredible product pipeline planned for the next 6 months which we hope will pave the way for us to become the leader in this space.

SpareDesk has the ambition to be active in more than 50 cities by the end of the year. What measures are you taking to make sure you will achieve this goal?

We are constantly looking at where our new users are, and as a general rule once we have ten users in a particular place we start the process of partnering with coworking spaces in that city. We are currently working on automating the onboarding process for spaces which will free us up to reach more spaces. We also get requests from co-working spaces in cities that we don’t cover yet and even local councils who want to build the startup ecosystems within their communities reach out to ask when we are going to open up there. We have designed the platform to handle payments and bookings anywhere in the world in any timezone which means no place is off limits.

Are you using the platform internally? How does that affect the viewpoints in the development team?

It’s funny that two of the four members of the team live/work in cities around the world that we aren’t available in yet (we have almost fixed that). I used it for the first time a few weeks ago which was a weird feeling as it was the first time I wasn’t looking at it in terms of the code I had written but rather as how I assume our users see it when they use it every day. From that experience, as our development team grows (and they will likely be remote) I think being daily users of the app as well as the developers will shape it in many ways which are exciting.

Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit, gave a great talk on surprising your users in unexpected ways. When you make a booking confetti falls from the top of the screen. Even though I built that, it made me smile when I saw it and gave me a number of ideas for little things that we could add in the future.

What is the most memorable moment throughout the history of your startup?

I have been so fortunate in building SpareDesk to have a small team of people helping on various aspects from all over the world (none of us have ever met in person) all of whom are incredible at what they do and have made the whole process so enjoyable.

The night before we launched on Product Hunt it was a mad rush to get everything done. At about midnight (7 hours to launch) our Android App still wasn’t finished, and having spoken to Dan (Android Developer in Ireland) a few hours before, knew he was taking care of it and it would be live in a few hours. At about 2 am, Dan hadn’t responded to my messages for some time and I began to panic. I assumed he had fallen asleep and starting preparing a contingency plan to launch without an Android App. An hour later I got a hoard of messages from poor Dan who had fallen asleep at his desk (we had a lot to do and had been working so hard). He pulled a pretty impressive next few hours, and we got the app live with about 30 minutes to spare. We laugh about it now and I think will remain a pretty memorable albeit stressful part of building SpareDesk.

What is the biggest challenge that the company has faced?

We started partnering with co-working spaces back in October last year. Angie did an incredible job, but there were a few pretty down moments when the response rate wasn’t what we expected, especially compared to it being over 80% now (we had no website when we started reaching out, no working product and were just cold emailing places around the world). Staying motivated and pushing through as such a small and remote team was a challenge, and there were some days that we didn’t work at all. It made me fully appreciate all the thousands of ideas people have that start but struggle to mentally bring them to completion. I am so glad we persevered and succeeded, though.

If there is one thing you could wish for in improving the European startup ecosystem – what would it be?

I moved to London just over two years ago from New Zealand so am pretty new to the European ecosystem. I believe remote working for startups like SpareDesk is the future, and we need to ensure that, with political changes such as Brexit that our ability to do business together doesn’t change. Knowing that I can fly anywhere in Europe to do business, or employ anyone on the continent without hesitation is an incredible thing – especially when you are building a global business. I hope more cities invest heavily in startup hubs so entrepreneurs have a space and a community to bring their ideas to life and that we use entrepreneurship as a vehicle for solving bigger issues such as climate change, housing shortages and so on.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

It is the hardest thing you will ever do. I thought about giving up dozens of times in the six months it took to build. It’s so important to love what you do, otherwise, you are guaranteed to not see it through. The key factor in us launching was in early December setting a date (17th January) and saying “We are going to launch on this day, and we aren’t moving it – whatever we have. We launch”. We then posted it on Twitter and started a public countdown. If we didn’t launch we would look silly. Even if it seems impossible to get everything done when you know you have a fixed deadline it all falls into place.



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