Here our chat with Robert Ollett at Habu.
Disrupt SW: As an intro, what does Habu do, what stage are you at currently and what makes the business and your offering unique?
Robert Ollett: Habu is workspace management software. While that probably doesn’t sound partly cool, catchy or disruptive, for our customers, Habu is certainly cool and catchy! Workspaces and the way we work have undergone massive changes over the past decade. There are more freelancers and startups than ever before. Mobile technology has radically altered so many things. And generational change is shifting both how we want to work and how to get the best out of new skills coming into the workplace. The explosion of coworking around the world is a clear example of this, and the flexible methodologies developed within coworking are now impacting the wider world of workspaces.
Without going into the details, Habu is basically the central engine that automates and manages many of the complex, core tasks such as memberships, bookings and billing for spaces. Our goal is to take the stress and strain out of managing coworking hubs and other kinds of flexible workspace, to enable our customers to focus on what they do best, which is creating great workspace communities and spaces.
We launched rather quietly earlier this year but have grown our customer base steadily through the use of social media. We’re almost as likely to get a customer in Nairobi as we are in New York! It’s amazing to have customers around the world using our platform to manage their spaces.
Disrupt SW: Speaking of People, can you share some challenges you have faced, are facing or are anticipating around up-scaling and growing your team? And are there any top tips you could share with those faced with the same issues?
Robert Ollett: We’re just moving into a phase of up-scaling. Prior to this, our biggest challenge was in securing investment to enable us to accelerate our growth.
My advice for startups seeking investment is to nurture the quality of perseverance. If you’re at an early stage of trying to build a disruptive company, it’s likely that you’ll be met by lots of sceptical investors. Particularly if you’re not in ai or blockchain technology! You’ll need to use all of the resources and creativity you’ve got to get over the line.
One significant challenge we’re facing is in growing our team as we’re quite specialised in both the tech we’ve built our platform on, and the industry we work in. Recruiting the right person, who both has the skills to enhance your business, and that fits into your culture isn’t easy and takes time. But so far, we couldn’t be happier with the team we’re building.
Disrupt SW: Moving to Product, what is your approach to understanding and addressing implications of change around you?
Robert Ollett: Our approach has always been characterised by using our experience and then verifying any resulting ideas through extensive research to see whether we’re right or not. This was exactly how we came to develop Habu. And it’s how we continually appraise what we’re doing in order to make sure we’re building a business with both long-term vision and value.
Disrupt SW: Do you have any tips to ensure focus of planning and strategies on opportunities, options and possibilities when faced with change?
Robert Ollett: It’s of great benefit that Habu has co-founders when it comes to planning and strategy exploration. Being able to bounce ideas off others that are equally committed to building a successful disruptor business is key. It also helps that the Habu co-founder are brothers too! If you’re a sole founder, I’d advise looking for someone to join you at an equal level that can challenge you and help drive and improve your business as soon as you can. I wouldn’t necessarily advise working with family, though it works well for us at Habu!
Disrupt SW: And then Potential, can you share some challenges or barriers you had to overcome to create a Product / Offering with potential?
Robert Ollett: When you’ve got a small team, limited resources, and need to get traction going for a product that’s nowhere near being ready for market release, you’ll come up against many challenges! At least we certainly did in our pursuit of building Habu, a complex product that touches on almost every aspect of our customers’ business.
A couple of the key things we learned along the way to overcome these challenges are focus and expectation management. Building a disruptor business is like trying to get the skeleton of a plane up in the air and building it along the way. Metaphorically speaking, getting out onto the wing to make them bigger while you’re flying is always gonna be an ask. That’s why it’s critical to always focus on developing the most core of the core features from the outset. Enhancements come later. And expectation management is absolutely essential too. You’ve gotta be as transparent as possible with where you’re at and what your priorities are for what your building when you’re in beta. Otherwise, you’re taking your early stage users for a ride, to carry on the metaphor, and the journey won’t necessarily be a happy one. With focus and great communication, you really can realising your business potential.
Disrupt SW: And finally, is there one piece of wisdom you could pass on and share with those that are part of a Disrupter Business…
Robert Ollett: Fight the good fight and try enjoy what you’re doing. Making a successful disrupter business isn’t easy, so enjoy reaching those various goals and targets when you do. Also remember to get some sleep along the way. Burn-out isn’t cool. Being well-rested and focussed is!