Dan Hinden, founder and CEO of OFIXU, tells Talk Business how he is building the Airbnb for office spaces.
Dan Hinden is proving whenever you start, entrepreneurial spirit can shine through and you can be a success. Finding success working for other companies and people, including Wimbu, a rival of Airbnb, and for Facebook co-founder Edwardo Saverin, Dan struck out on his own noticing a gap in the market in office space for flexible workers he started OFIXU.
What exactly is OFIXU and how does it help people?
OFIXU is building the world’s largest online platform for short term commercial rental – think of it as the “Airbnb for Office Spaces”. We offer a system that helps people make the most of any type of space in any location that’s just going to waste by earning an income renting out spare desks and office spaces.
OFIXU is providing users who would usually work out of hotels and coffee shops (overcrowded, lack privacy) with an Airbnb type platform but for the working world. It provides all users from all working backgrounds the opportunity to work smarter, cheaper and quicker.
25% of people now work remotely but have no access to office space. The problem is that there’s a general lack of instantly available workspace so people resort to working from coffee shops or other public spaces which are non-conducive “work” environments. It takes too long to search for convenient and affordable work space, serviced and managed office spaces are expensive and there is a general lack of flexibility for short-term contracts.
At OFIXU we are building the online marketplace allowing hosts of any surplus commercial space “private or otherwise” (desks, offices, floors or entire buildings) to list and rent out their space to those that need a place to work, there’s no particular restriction on location either, indeed people who want to stay local but find a place to work will save money on commuting whilst those with the excess space can realise more income from underused assets. There’s no minimum or maximum restrictions on the rental duration with OFIXU, you can host or rent space from 1 hour to 365 days!
With OFIXU people and businesses can start earning extra income on spare space. OFIXU believes that you should be able to work well Anywhere!
What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?
In 2010 I found my way into a startup called Wimdu, which was pretty much a rival to Airbnb. In fact, today its one of Airbnb’s biggest rivals on the market. I came on board as a director tasked with building global property acquisition, this meant winning key markets such as London, New York, Miami and so on, we achieved 100million euros of bookings in year 1!
Repeating this process frequently and succeeding meant I became somewhat a specialist in the “collaborative-consumption” sector. I then went on to work with Jumio, which is backed by Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of Facebook and Andreessen Horowitz, one of the biggest VC firms in the world. That’s really where I learnt how to execute startups, not just in client acquisition but in team building and more. Really I learnt how to help drive a startup from nowhere, to what is now valued at an estimated $1 Billion.
I exited Jumio in 2014 to build my dream, which of course is the OFIXU platform. The idea emerged in 2011 while I was still with Wimdu, but the market wasn’t ready then like it is now. Now is exactly the right time, you only have to look at the explosive emergence of companies like WeWork to see how this market for working or co-working is exploding. Today we are a team of 15 and are backed by a Canadian PayPal rival, our goal is to acquire commercial property hosts everywhere on the planet.
We started with a concept and where we are today is a result of a huge amount of stamina, perseverance and just a few rocky moments. But we are here, still standing and we intend to be something special.
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
That’s the really tough part, you know in life you’ve got two options, do what you’re told or blaze a trail, neither are wrong, but it begs the question which one is easier than the other?
Look, families will always judge the success of their loved ones under the harshest spotlight, doesn’t that tell you enough? The fact that any businessman trying to fulfil their goals may be tested by family, consciously or unconsciously, means we are being tested by and benefitting from the experience of those that know us best and have many years in business themselves, the reaction is a process that continues past the initial raised eyebrows, of which I hope we get many more.
How have you managed a work/life balance?
It’s all about ‘raison d’etre’ and stamina, family goals and the belief in the vision of the business then conviction to execute the plan. If something is working you keep repeating it right? of course the work/life balance can tip up and down sometimes but I always try to imagine the scene of a midnight highway maintenance team resurfacing a motorway, i.e. its not like we’re digging up the roads here! As for my family, well, they know what I’m like.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Always learning is a great challenge, overcoming what you don’t yet know to what you will eventually learn is something you hope to do as near to real-time as possible to avoid the pitfalls. I’m proud to say I’m always conscious of that, but of course we have other experts in our business who we trust to conquer things, there will be much more to learn especially about the future of this market and I foresee us playing a major role in that.
Have there been any problems going international so soon after starting OFIXU?
Actually, surprisingly no, soon after we launched OFIXU V2 we started seeing many New York based signups despite the concentration on the home market, to add to that San Francisco, Berlin, Hong Kong and other territories and no fewer than 200 cities from the user end.
I was always taught to win the local market first but we can’t stop the international interest we are getting, and why should we? The internet space knows fewer cross-border boundaries than bricks-and-mortar businesses, we’ve definitely caught the imagination of the international market and continue to evangelise the concept particularly to those who have never thought about renting out unused desks and extra space. They’re also realising other benefits in collaborating with guests, e.g you’re an accountant with extra space, you rented your unused desks to a design company, earned an income on that and walked away with a new audit client – it’s win-win!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
You’ve got to step off the island onto the boat and set sail, just be prepared for any adverse conditions.
How do you expect your business to develop in the future?
We’ve already seen quick growth with OFIXU, if you consider the fact its taken only 6 months from funding to achieving our first revenues, we expect to roll-out to all major cities over the next 2 years given that the market is ready and conditions are prime for renting.