Startup Story #3- David Mandell on How PivotDesk is providing a Marketplace for Shared Office Space
“You need? I have! ….. I need! You have?”
This is the new jingle which everybody doesn’t seem to get enough of it. Sharing Economy has truly revolutionized our lifestyles and the way we perform our day-to-day activities. This concept has resolved the problem excess capacity and underutilization of assets by making the ‘extras’ available for rent. Moreover, people are giving up traditional mediums, and are adopting a more direct approach by communicating and trading directly with the asset owner. Instead of buying a product or service, they are shifting their focus towards borrowing or leasing it for a certain period of time. And you know what is interesting? This theory is applicable on almost every industry, even Real Estate!
PivotDesk is fabulously mixing the trend of Collaborative Consumption and Real Estate by creating a transparent marketplace for those who have an extra office space and for those who are in lookout for an office space like Startups, Small Businesses and Remote Teams. David Mandell shares his insight on how conventional way of leasing an office space can be revamped by providing a better and more flexible peer-to-peer solution to both the parties, just like PivotDesk.
In conversation with David Mandell, CEO and Co-Founder of PivotDesk.
Q: Tell us something about PivotDesk, and how it works.
A: Businesses are dynamic. Real estate isn’t. PivotDesk enables businesses to grow fluidly within the static real estate infrastructure by connecting companies with excess space to companies that need it. Flexible agreements eliminate the risk of a long-term lease, allowing entrepreneurs to offset costs so they can focus on what’s most important – growing their business.
Companies with extra space list their space and set a per seat, per month price. Companies looking for space then review postings in the area they’re looking for, communicate directly with those companies and schedule tours via PivotDesk. Once both parties consider each other a match, the booking is processed. The month-to-month contract and payments are then processed via the PivotDesk platform.
Q: How did PivotDesk came into existence?
A: As a Techstars mentor, I have had a lot of interaction with folks who bust their butts trying to grow their business. Throughout my conversations, I noticed the same problem kept coming up – when it came to office space, there was no solution that complimented the unique growth patterns of each company.
Making a long-term bet on real estate is extremely stressful and risky for growing businesses. I’ve experienced it myself — putting my own credit on the line to secure space before my business was far enough along to effectively project our growth rate.
I knew there had to be a better way so I did some thinking and two and a half years ago, started sharing the concept with a simple PowerPoint presentation. The general consensus was that this was the right approach and today we have expanded to 29 markets.
Q: How does PivotDesk ensure the successful collaboration between the Host and the Guest?
A: While this is a B2B marketplace, we like to remember that people run businesses. Outside of matching companies via our marketplace, we connect each user with an account manager who then works to ensure users find the right space and the right environment for their team.
Once a booking has been made, we educate both parties on how to form a respectful relationship in which they both benefit. We take this very seriously. There’s nothing more important than ensuring our customers compliment each other and form a culture of their own.
Additionally, the marketplace allows companies to list house rules and set expectations in advance so they can trust that adding a guest to their space will be a positive experience.
Some of our collaborations have had outstanding “side effects” that have resulted in long-term partnerships and investments.
Q: What is your marketing and promotional strategy, to make PivotDesk an established brand?
A: Our key focus is relationships.
To start, we put general managers on the ground in our major markets that absorb each market’s unique culture and translate that back to the internal team.
Now that we’ve streamlined our approach in major markets, we’re taking our strategy digital.
Unlike most brands that take a fire hose approach when it comes to online advertising, we’re working to build long-term relationships with our audience online.
How? By providing real value — via our marketplace and mentoring initiatives.
That means you won’t see a lot of blogs and emails from us on how to find shared office space using PivotDesk. Instead, we’re connecting with our audience with educational initiatives like our series, ‘Been There, Done That’ where we provide a detailed look at our experiences launching and growing businesses. Our goal here is to share our experiences so that those who are in the trenches of building businesses can leverage them and hopefully cut back on some of the resources they’re wasting trying to reinvent the wheel.
PivotDesk and Sharing Economy
Q: Do you think there is a dire need for sharing assets like office space? (If yes, then why do you think so?)
A: Traditional real estate solutions refuse to adjust to the dynamic nature of businesses today. When you sign a traditional lease, you are making a major bet on the growth pattern of your business. You’re locked in long term and are often required to offer a personal guarantee — putting business owners at risk.
PivotDesk allows businesses to find the right space for right now and gives them the flexibility they need to grow fluidly over time. Businesses who anticipate major growth can secure a space that accounts for that growth and offset costs in the meantime by sharing their space. Businesses who are unsure about their growth rate or who prefer to retain a smaller team can find flexibility in working in shared office space.
Q: In your opinion, how does Sharing Economy holds the key to the better future?
A: It’s simple really. Sharing means cutting out the middleman — cutting out resources that look to profit off fulfilling our needs. The sharing economy allows us to work as a community to access resources more efficiently and at a lower cost. PivotDesk’s role is to enable the accessibility of those resources (office space specifically) giving people a marketplace in which they can both find and share space.
Q: According to you, what can be done to speeden up the penetration of Sharing Economy in our nation?
A: We typically see companies like Uber and Airbnb create a tremendous amount of demand in major markets. The issue is that when they solve for the demand and implement their services at scale, they are faced with a number of regulations that they must battle before moving forward — thus stunting their growth.
Because the space is still new, we can expect to see these battles continue for a period of time, but once we’re able to work through the bulk of them, we’ll see the rate of adoption for Sharing Economy based businesses increase dramatically.
Q: Where do you see PivotDesk in the next 5 years?
A: PivotDesk aims to connect businesses that can benefit from one another. Today, we do so by enabling businesses to share office space and alleviate costs. One of our major focuses as we move forward is to add commercial real estate brokers to the mix, giving them the ability to leverage our marketplace to present prospects and clients with a more flexible approach to office space. We’ve launched a new tool called Cultivate that is just the start of this initiative. Through our marketplace and Cultivate, we hope to adapt the commercial real estate world to the nature of modern businesses.
Q: Any word of advice for all the startups out there, who are trying to make it big like PivotDesk.
A: Leverage each other. Whether for physical resources or shared experiences, you will save resources and accelerate growth by connecting with others who are also in the trenches.