We all have startup ideas or business ideas that address different problems in life but it is the hustle that makes an idea a business. This week we are proud to interview one of the cofounders of upcoming startup OpenHQ space, Jacques Wong, on how he and his team went from an idea to launch.
Jacques: The idea came about when we were thinking about another startup and looked into the cost of coworking. It might just be my personality, but when it comes to business decisions, I try to reduce costs as much as possible so I figured there must be a cheaper way to do it. Then I remembered a TED talk by Manual Forjaz where he mentions borrowing other people’s spaces to save money.
We fleshed out the idea together and we decided to move forward with formal validation.
Y: Ah, a startup based on the pains of the cofounders; a lot of startups came about that way. How important is it in the idea to launch process to understand your clients and their pains? Who are your clients and what kind of pains are you addressing?
J: Understanding and addressing a pain our clients are experiencing is very important and for our startup, we have two type of clients: Restaurants and startups.
We’re helping our partner restaurants create an additional revenue stream and increase profitability. And we’re helping startups and solopreneurs lower their burn rate by reducing their 2nd biggest expenses by over 50%. We plan to offer coworking hot desks at 1/3 to 1/5 the price they’re paying with existing options like rental offices and coworking spaces.
Y: Helping restaurants generate additional revenue stream by connecting them to solopreneurs needing a work place and offering them the vacant restaurant space for 1/3 of the price, that’s very impressive. For such an innovative startup idea, what kind of challenges did you face while getting started?
J: I think crafting compelling messaging was the biggest challenge. I learnt a lot about that during my time as a Sales and Biz Dev at Guusto but since we’re just a low-cost variation on an existing product, we figured marketing/messaging was going to be key.
Validation was difficult but relatively straight forward. Phone calls were the best way to reach restaurant General Managers so once we got a cold calling script outlined, I just hammered the phones until I got enough people to talk to me.
Recruiting a team was the easier part. I have business partners and employees that I trust from other businesses I’ve started so I just tapped into those resources for OpenHQ.
Y: That’s great to hear that you guys are focusing on having an effective message. One of the biggest concerns for early startups is they may have an ugly baby idea and it could halt a startup later on should it not be validated. What did you guys do for validation and did you turn to anyone for additional support?
J: I went to different free classes and found many great resources on the internet. I’ll share one with you guys here, it’s the validation bible. Oh and the cofounders of the startup I was working at were great resources when it came to advice.
As far as validation goes, we spoke to as many people in the restaurant industry as much as possible to see if this would be something that they would be interested in and whether it is worth doing for them. The real tipping point was a recent Business in Vancouver article about the difficulty restaurant owners have with paying rent in the downtown area and being forced to shut down. That’s what really gave us the confidence to move forward.
I didn’t do too much validation on the user side because we’re just a cheaper version of an existing product. Will this turn out to be a mistake? We’ll see.
Y: There are definitely a lot of wonderful resources out there and the more you know the better you are and that’s why we at YVR Startups is dedicated to providing stories and resources for startup entrepreneurs. During the idea to launch process, knowing is half of the battle, the other half is hustling. So tell us what type of hustling you did to get the ball rolling:
J: To get the ball rolling, I contacted a mutual friend who works at a restaurant that fits our requirements. Through that warm intro, we arranged a sit-down with the owners and got the ball rolling from there. Since this is a relatively new business model, negotiating contract terms required quite a bit of back and forth.
On the user side, we set up a website landing page in order to collect emails and marketed it in the same way you would a traditional office rental with listings and stuff. We tapped into our personal networks and also went to different start-up events to pitch our “product” to early-stage or aspiring start-ups. We’ve got more strategies in the pipe, but I think those require that we launch first.
Y: Many startups never made it past the idea stage and it’s great to see that you guys hustled through the idea to launch stage and are launching very soon. Tell us about your upcoming launch event:
J: Our soft-launch date is tentatively set for September 16th and we’ve already got a startup ready and waiting to move in so we’re trying to open as quickly as possible.
If anyone reading this article is looking for some low-cost office space, you can book a tour at www.openhq.space; I’ll give a discount to any YVR Startup readers looking to become early adopters.
Y: Thank you very much Jacques for participating in our interview series. We wish you the best with your launch.
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