The co-working and shared office space industry is a very fragmented one that pits operators and customers against each other. In order to attain asset efficiency, operators try with all their might to lock in customers. But customers are fickle and value the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere without being tied down by long term contracts. Co-founders Christophe Garnier and Ginger Dhaliwal saw the oddity of it all, and came to us with an idea to build a two-sided marketplace that creates more traffic and monetisation options for operators, while granting users a single membership that allows them to access multiple workspaces wherever they may be.
When we first met the Upflex team, they brought with them a partially-complete MVP whose loose ends had to be tied up with utmost urgency. After the MVP gained adequate traction, we worked to refine the Upflex platform over several iterations, and even helped the company pivot (more on that later). We also insisted on taking the time to understand the business realities and pain points of both operators (i.e.those who own coworking spaces) and customers. Generally, most software development teams skip this part of the process entirely, but we think that’s wrong. Software should not exist in a void. Instead, it should complement a company’s actual business model. After all, that is what makes good software great.
Understanding Upflex’s motivations and business model helped us to build in a number of features that we believe will prove useful for companies trying to adapt to the future of work. That is why we gave operators on Upflex the ability to manage their bookings and get paid on time from tenants. On the other hand, companies who want to provide offices to a distributed workforce can now use the Upflex platform to manage all bookings, and see how often employees use their allocated spaces compared to what has been paid for.
To make life easier for the thousands of remote workers who check in and check out of co-working spaces everyday, we built a mobile app that acts as a pass that can be used to check in to multiple spaces. Also included in the app is an e-wallet that allows users to keep track of how much they’ve spent on an Upflex space in a given time period.
While talking heads on TV were predicting the death of the office as remote work went mainstream in 2020, Upflex sensed that there will be a significant subset of workers who wouldn’t want to work from home, but also would not want to put themselves through the misery of a long commute as before.
We worked with Upflex (remotely of course) to rapidly develop a whole new product to cater to this emerging segment of customers. Named SafeSpaces™, this new product allows workers to book workspaces that are fully compliant with health and safety guidelines laid down by the CDC and WHO. SafeSpaces allows anyone, be they remote workers, daily commuters, or business travelers, to find and book a safe workspace through Upflex that satisfies their needs and budgets.
Not forgetting that big companies would also look to build remote, distributed workforces in a post-pandemic era, we retooled the Upflex platform to allow companies to book workspaces for teams of any size. Now, even a company the size of say, GE, can use the Upflex platform to quickly and cost-effectively set up a fully-serviced satellite office anywhere in the world. All it takes is a few clicks, and you’re all set!
The good thing about a project like Upflex where success is largely dependent on the platform itself is that the company’s growth becomes a yardstick of our performance. Upflex first began working with us in 2017, and since then has grown into a platform that lists more than 5,500 workspaces in more than 75 countries (at the time of writing). Among its workspace partners are names such as WeWork, UCommune, OYO Workspaces, Tribes, and UrbanHQ. In January 2020, the company raised USD 4.1 million in seed funding and in February 2021, Schneider Electric chose Upflex as its flexible workspace partner in the US.
Now if that isn’t growth, we don’t know what is!