Tell us about your business: What do you do? What did inspire you to start?
FlatNav is NOT my business! It is an online market place for people’s short-term accommodation and vacation rentals business.
We just help you running your business. We connect guests (people who love travelling and exploring) with hosts (people who have idle and spare space) in a very secure and social way. Guests can search for places to stay all over the world, be it a couch in London, an apartment in New York or a villa in Spain! Hosts can list their spaces for FREE and accept guests, helping them to make money while they meet interesting and diverse people!
The idea behind FlatNav is not something new! It has been going on for centuries. Our parents used to stay with their friends, or friends of friends while they travelled, and in exchange would take gifts or reciprocate the accommodation offer. We have been consuming spare capacity collaboratively for many a years now, however, it is right to say that the internet has led this process to become easier and safe.
FlatNav endeavours to make it safe and secure for both parties by creating a community, which is based on trust and social connections. Users have an option to connect their profiles to other social networks, while the vetting process is further enhanced by the strong embedded review system.
My drive to create something special and outstanding out of interesting business idea made me to develop and launch FlatNav. We might not be the biggest but we try to be the best. Our customer service in next to none and our website has already got excellent reviews! We are not only a portal like many others out there but also a community based on trust.
In London we also provide some value added services like NAV+ whereby hosts can get their keys and cleaning managed when they are away! I think this is a great feature and takes the last bit of hassle out of renting your place out for short term. None of our competitors provide these services as of now.
What have you learnt during the process and what are things you wont do again?
What I have learnt is setting up a business from scratch and then running it for the first few months gives you an unbearable sweet pain! It’s painful and not easy yet it takes you mind and passion to such heights where you feel the adrenalin, especially if you are in a creative industry.
Enough of my state of mind! In terms of business, having a strong team and one with which you love “hanging around” is paramount. I am sure this is said by many people and is already a known fact, but its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. One needs to have a team, which feels equally passionate about the Product, Company and People. The office space needs to have positive energy and anyone who doesn’t contribute towards this shouldn’t be a part of this.
What were the biggest obstacles launching the start-up and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle is getting the right people at the right time. I was lucky to have a few people from early on whom I could trust. They have worked for this company very hard. Our community has grown dramatically and we are proud of what we have achieved and we have a steep hill in front of us but we believe by supporting each other and working professionally with passion, we will get there in the end!
What would you say has been your most memorable experience while developing your startup?
Of course the launch of the website. It’s a nerve wrecking moment especially when you have to showcase it at a launch event! But it all went well for us. The move to our new office and the first customer were also proud moments for all of who are involved in FlatNav. We have grown to become a team of 10 since then and we all are working hard to serve people who want to stay at or list short-term accommodation.
Tell us about DO’s and DON’Ts when starting the company?
- Do the market research before starting. Analyse what competitors are doing and is there space for another company in the market? You don’t have to the biggest to be successful.
– Get a proper office space. It is very important to be in the right environment.
– Get the right team. In startups, passion comes before experience.
– Assign roles! Don’t let it become a mish-mash. Make some people responsible of some tasks.
– Inspire people. As an entrepreneur your biggest trait is what you give to the team, not the company.
– Sleep well. Yes mind it!
– Know that it isn’t easy, but it is worth every penny spent and every sleepless night
- Spend too much money at the start. Going full on in the start can leave you skint when you need the money the most!
– Be afraid of the big boys in the business. They can’t harm you!
– Hire people who just want money.
– Hedge your bets – you are in it to win it so there is not another way!
I would say why not? It’s vibrant, connected, diverse and offers character. At FlatNav we are all about sharing and helping the community and Shoreditch gives us that very feeling! We love this area and love hanging around here too after work! (Well we finish late though!)
What/who should help for the development of Shoreditch entrepreneurial community?
The Government has to realise that there are a lot of cool and hardworking people in this area. We are the ones who are working toward changing the image of work in the UK. Cool Britannia come from the pictures of black cabs and Big Ben all over the world anymore, but how tech businesses and startups are doing in the UK. More infrastructure needs to be built and also support (both financial and technical) should be at hand. Its companies like FlatNav, which will take this city’future and image forward (at least we hope too!)
Who/what are your favorite Businesses in Shoreditch?
Moo.com – they have made a great business out of a printing press… Who would have though eh? That is a prime example of entrepreneurship!
What are your favorite places in Shoreditch?
The Book Club! Love to it to bits. But then again, every place here is unique so we love it all! Its an area where the more you explore, the more you go wow!
What does the future has in store for Shoreditch?
Shoreditch is not only THE Silicon Valley for Europe but also the place where the world comes together and cultures are fused. This is the area where the orthodox of this world rub shoulders with hipsters. It’s where culture and fashion begins and it brings something for start-ups and entrepreneurs, which can’t be found any places else in the world. It brings inspiration, new opportunities and admiration for diversity.
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