Founder of Kodesk
We are talking with Sebastien Arbogast, winner of Brussels' Startup Weekend with his startup Kodesk, a marketplace for shared office space providers and nomad workers to find one another quickly and easily.
How did it al start (idea) and what made you apply to startup weekend?
The idea emerged 2 days before the weekend really, once I decided to enroll. I never knew if I had the entrepreneur in me. So when I heard about the Startup Weekend a couple of months ago, I hesitated for a long time. But I knew the organizer of the startup weekend, and I think he saw something in me long before I did, so he convinced me, gently but surely. So I registered, and then I wanted to come with an idea, but not one of the many things I've been thinking about along the years. I wanted something new, fresh, tailored for this event. My passion for technology as a world changer always drives me to ideas that bridge the physical and the digital world. So here I thought "I'm a nomad worker and we're gonna be working for 2 days in a place that is designed for nomad workers. What problem connects me to this place?". We had a talk about it with some other colleagues, we are all working together in a business center, and we realized we were all facing an obvious workspace flexibility issue. That's how the idea for KodesK came up.
Tell us what is your project about?
KodesK is meant to solve the workspace flexibility issue by matching the needs of nomad workers with the increasing offer of shared office space, whether it comes from business centers, incubators, coworking spaces and now even other companies who would like to monetize their empty desks. We will do so by making it easier for office space owners to put their desks on the market, and by building a vibrant community of freelancers and other mobile professionals who will be able to find, choose and book just the workspace they need, when and where they need it.
As I can imagine that there are a lot of coworking websites popping up around the world? So where or how will you make a difference.
Indeed there are a lot of coworking websites popping up but most of the time, they are dedicated to a limited set of shared office types, or cover a limited geographical area. And since there are a lot of them, they are very fragmented. What we intend to do with KodesK is to gather all the different sorts of office spaces that nomad workers might be interested in, and even make things so easy for space managers that new actors will be able to enter this market with minimum hassle. And of course, for nomad workers, we won't just put all those desks in a database and let them find their way. We are already working on some very innovative tools that they will be able to use wherever and whenever they really need a desk. But I don't want to spoil you and tell you the end of the story yet. If you are interested, I really encourage you to sign up for our private beta.
Did you make any big pivots/changes during the weekend, or is this still very much the original idea that you are working on?
We didn't really make any big pivots but we definitely changed a few things. The problem we had is that, at the beginning of the weekend, we identified a lot of opportunities on both sides of this market. But we didn't want to solve all the problems at once. I'm a firm believer in everything lean, and such an intense but short weekend forces you to be. So we had to make tough decisions, narrow down our scope, figure out which market was the most interesting in terms of risks and long-term strategy. So for example, we went from "office space" to "meeting rooms+desks" to "just desks". So the general concept remains the same, but I think all the work we did on purifying our business approach played a big role in our "leanest startup" prize.
What was the big lesson learned or the mistake that you could avoid by having your startup shaped through 54 hrs of startup weekend?
The biggest lesson I learnt during this weekend was a personal lesson. As I said, I hesitated for a long time before I registered for this event because I was not sure that I had it in me. And at the beginning of the weekend, I made a bad bet: I left my leadership at the door of our team's room and I tried to let all ideas express freely. And it took me some time, a few mentors, a lot of adrenaline to finally jump back into my boots and play my role as a leader to help the team structure their ideas so that we could produce something useful and convincing in the end. That was a real revelation for me. 54 hours to get something out the door is a double-sided sword: all the pressure amplifies the potential danger of such a mistake, but it can also give you the kick in the butt that you need to fix things.
How far are you off from a beta launch?
As I said, we firmly believe in lean, doing things iteratively and improving progressively by integrating user feedback. So we will start small and fast. The first beta should be completed in a couple of months at worst.