Learn more about Upflex at: https://upflex.co/
Find Christophe Garnier on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cgarnier/
JC: Welcome everybody to another episode of the future of best tech. I’m your host, JC Granger. I have with me here the CEO of Upflex Christophe Garnier. Christophe, thank you so much for coming on the show. Tell us a little bit about what you do and how does Upflex work.
Christophe: Thanks, JC. Thanks for having me. Well, Upflex is a company based in New York City, which we created about four years ago, we are a PropTech company in the flex of space. And what we’re doing is we are helping employers leverage the large available inventory of flex workspace out there in order to provide flexibility to employees.
JC: Okay,so now and you know, the obvious question I’m going to have obviously, you know, because you guys have a platform that- and tell me if I’m wrong here so you have a platform where people who have open space not being used can upload it so that other people can rent it is it is it something like that is like a broker-user relationship platform? Am I getting close?
Christophe: It’s a marketplace. So I guess, you know one of the easy analogy would be, we’re building kind of an Airbnb, for the flex office segment with a class pass kind of economic model to it with a lot of memberships. We don’t do only memberships. Membership is historically the first revenue model for the company and maybe the largest at this point of time. And with a very uber-rich, UX and consumption, kind of interface.
JC: Sounds like ease of use then…
Christophe: That’s right, we’ve tried to take a look at multiple models, and kind of steal and inspire ourselves from companies that have proven models, proven interfaces and things like that.
JC: Yeah, we can always we can use inspiration, we can’t say steal, so inspire. So um, okay, so let me ask you a question. So, you know, with so many companies, you know, we talk a lot about Tech, so we’ll just use tech companies as a example. Tech companies were you know, famous and notorious, for they get funding, they get this big office space, they got ping pong tables, they got arcade, you know, they got open floor plans and all this stuff. And then of course, the pandemic hits, right? People are going remote. There’s all this space just sitting there. So here’s my question. A lot of tech companies are starting to kind of go back to the office in some ways, but there’s a lot of people, they’re gonna let stay remote. Right? So is your, let’s say I owned, you know, a large office space, I had 20 offices, but let’s say only 10 of those are actually going to be used again, because the other 10 people, we have said that they can be remote, and we’re hiring maybe nationally, instead of hiring locally, right? If I have this office, and I got these 10 spaces, and I don’t want to get rid of my whole office, can I kind of upload so to speak, like go on your platform and say, okay, you know, take pictures, and this is the office space and everything. And then people could come in and out and use those office and I make money from that, like, how does that work? If I have extra office space, you’re sitting there, but I don’t want to move?
Christophe: Good question. So let me tell you about what’s the model today versus what’s going to be a model. You know, the evolution of the model tomorrow, what we’ve done with Upflex is we’ve created an aggregator where aggregating, unused and unsold inventory of mostly co working business center and executive center brands. We have over 700 brands of co-working totaling 5500 co-working/business center locations around the world in 1600 cities in 80 plus countries that we are aggregating under one platform and one booking system, right.
Christophe: And so right now, as far as supply is concerned, which was the question the supply is really by 98% of it composed by actual professional spaces that are receiving employers and tenants on a very specific economic model, because that’s what they do for a living right? Tomorrow, I mean, in the future, we do want to leverage the platform that we have, in order to start rewarding different types of inventories and allowing the startup or corporate that doesn’t use its office anymore to become a host, just like Airbnb. It’s gonna to be possible. But we are going to defer that in time, based on you know, different dynamics of the market related to supply and demand. Right now, we don’t think that we need to do this yet because there is a ton of supply from inventory. partners that we have, but that’s definitely something that we’re already in planning to launch sometime.
JC: Got it. Okay, so you have a phase one and phase two, your phase one is essentially that you’ve got you know, we work you’ve got Novel, you’ve got Regis – all these big companies have tons of space. They’re not selling them. So you’re saying, hey, what’s that?
Christophe: Not Regis.
JC: Oh not Regis. Okay, well, but but those types of companies. You got all these companies that have a ton of unsold space and you come in and say, listen, it’s still unsold. Let us do it, you know, kind of like a like a hotels.com, in a way, right? They try to offload that unused or unbought Hotel inventory. Now theirs is more on a timeline where yours maybe isn’t. But so you’re creating, you have a platform where I can go in so for example, we have some remote workers, right? I can go in, I could say, Okay, I can use it for maybe it’s something as small as a meeting, I imagine. But it’s something is maybe more long term. If I have, let’s say, a salesperson in New York, where you guys are I’m actually I do have a salesperson in New York, where you guys are some asking realistically here. And let’s say he want to have some meetings, I say, Okay, I can go rent through your platform, an office for him to have that he can go back and forth to to have meetings and things like that. I could do that from Denver, where I’m at, right? Is that kind of what you’re saying? I could go in and I can go to your platform and and pick where I want and I can is there short term long term? How does that work?
Christophe: So one, we’ve got multiple inventory types on the platform, we’ve got desks, private offices, and meeting rooms, those inventories can be booked for a day pass for a week, for a month, or for multiple month engagements. So very flexible. The way to consume it can be via our app, open an account for yourself and your team. And then you can configure on your platform as an employer, the way you want your employees to be consuming, whether it’s a credit to buy and that’s a credit for the whole company to be used against any inventory type at any time. Or you want to adjoin some very, very specific memberships to employees, you can do either or.
JC: Ah so they can pick on their own right? So my sales manager, he could just, I could set a permission. And he can just say I want this one on this day. And it just comes out of the account basically right?
Christophe: It depends on the account, if you haven’t created base account, or you’re just going to have access to whatever membership your employer as a point to you. If that employer has fixed memberships for you know, certain employees.
JC: Got it, now that’s cool!
Christophe: And then the employer can actually do a mix, he can have a pool for these employees, because he doesn’t know really, when they’re consumptions that bit about. And he can also have memberships for this other group of employees, because they might be you know, power-users.
JC: Yeah, like for example, yeah, I like that, because it empowers them to do it on their own if they need to. And then the company can decide maybe, well, we only want these types of places because if you’re going to be, you know, presenting on our behalf, we want it to look this way or whatever. But if it’s like oh, hey, we don’t really care, you guys can pick. So I like that it’s flexible like that. So who’s your perfect client? Like right now, if you had to pick, you know, I know you can do for any company, but like, who do you find gets the most use out of your particular model, right now, while we’re trying to come out of a pandemic?
Christophe: So it’s interesting because it has changed tremendously during–because of the pandemic. Before the pandemic Upflex was this small startup trying to figure out a way to create a cool benefit for forward thinking and nimble companies that wanted to provide a better quality of life to their employees, make them more flexible, and give them more choice. And so that’s what we were targeting. We were targeting startups and fast growing companies and SMBs and things like that. And we were onboarding quite a few companies like that when the pandemic hit, and we lost everyone. We lost all our customers, and the demand being reduced to zero. At that point. We also saw that the demand was suffering, obviously, but our supply partners were also suffering because they were losing everyone. That’s when we created an endeavor called safe spaces.
JC: I’ve heard of this. Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that. What tell us about safe spaces. How does that work?
Christophe: So safe spaces is basically an endeavor we created internally by hiring an epidemiologist that worked with the CDC, and we created a protocol and the goal of that protocol was to create a suite of guidelines that the spaces could follow in terms of cleaning and hygiene and health, in order to earn a stamp, that would say that that space is taking the right measures in order to welcome people, you know, in a health and safety manner during the pandemic. And that allowed us to grow from 2500 spaces to 5500 spaces during the pandemic, so the demand was dying, in our business – dying out, but we managed to leverage the safe spaces and never to, you know, skyrocket the size of the network by trying to be useful to our space partners, by creating that endeavor, in order for them to exist, in order for them to tell their members and the prospective clients we’re doing something. And we’re becoming a part of this coalition of workspaces around the world trying to, you know, be of service in a safe manner. It’s been great and we created a lot of marketing around it, it allowed us to not only get that new size of the network, but also to get very large companies to knock on our door.
JC: So yeah, I mean, especially now that because they wanted to be able to be in an office, but you know, they had, they had to, obviously consider health protocols and, and insurance, they don’t want to get sued for putting their employees or their prospects or clients into a, into a health risk area. So that’s a really interesting pivot.
Christophe: It was actually twofold, those companies started contacting us because one, they love the safe spaces, and never and because they needed to, obviously, for liability reasons, make sure that their employees were going to be hosting in a safe manner. But two, because of the size of the network now had grown to a much, much bigger level, be medium to large sized to, you know, very large enterprises as customers started being interested in our network because we provide something called the one MSA one contract-one bill feature, which allows for a large company to have just one contract with us and have access to 5500 co-working locations across the world through one legal agreement.
Christophe: This is the procurement dramatically, and allows us to, you know, streamline their procurement process and act as a clearinghouse for all the money flow define the process of together.
JC: Yeah, it sounds like a win win win, right? I mean, the suppliers, they’re hurting, you can go out there and bird dog for them and get more people in there – all be applied at a discounted rate from there, and but that’s higher than zero. So they can offload some of that on you guys obviously.
Christophe: And also what’s interesting, and I’ll finish there, what’s been interesting is to see that now, some of those smaller (inaudible) players that couldn’t before work with (inaudible) enterprise companies now have a new flow of users and visitors that are coming from some of the largest companies in the world.
JC: So out of curiosity, then you obviously you pivoted, you created safe spaces, which was really smart during the pandemic. How did you I’m a marketing guy at heart, right? I have an agency, that’s all we do. I’ve been doing for 20 years, or more. So I always have to ask question, you know, what are you doing marketing wise, like, how do people even hear about you? What are some of the cool marketing things you guys are doing that are successful? And then maybe what are a couple that maybe didn’t work out so well?
Christophe: So I’ll be honest with you, we’ve been investing a lot into technology, we have a great technology platform, very robust, very well architected, there is a lot that we are, we’re doubling down on technology now, even more. And the second thing we’ve invested a lot is in the network, the size of the network, and the inventory. But we haven’t done much marketing. Aside from the safe spaces endeavor, which has been kind of our baby for a bit. We haven’t done much in marketing, we’ve been trying to have a limited amount of customers to really understand what works, what didn’t leave for we, you know, start really going aggressively after more customers. I think we are starting, I mean, we actually hired the head of marketing just like a few days ago. So we are going into that right now.
JC: Yeah, good.
Christophe: That’s gonna stop now. And it’s just going to stop now because he didn’t really make sense to do it before and also because of the pandemic and the variant and all that. But we are getting ready for a full scale marketing campaign that’s going to take time to build this is gonna be a multi channel thing is going to be International. And so we’re going to start really seeing the fruits of this in the next few months.
JC: Well it sounds like you gotta have a pitch either way. So let’s pivot to something else here. You already touched on it earlier a little bit, but two part question; being the Future of BizTech, as the title would imply here, where do you see, I know that you touched on this a little bit. But again, to reiterate, where do you see A- where do you see Upflex? going in the next year or two, or three? And then also, where do you see the because you know, you have competition? You’re not the only company that does this. So where do you see all of the companies like you? Where do you see that going in, you know, five, six years as their technology, you think that’s gonna come out? Is there a certain type of model now with what’s happened? That’s gonna be more successful? Just where do you see the future of all this?
Christophe: Yeah. Well, you know, we’ve already evolved a lot. And from what we thought we were creating, initially, and I don’t think it’s the end of the, you know, it’s the end of that process of figuring out who we are, and what is our purpose. But I think what we are trying to do is to become more and more of a technology company rather than a service company. Servicing clients ourselves, is not necessarily something we are good at doing. And that we want to do, eventually, we’re trying to build more technology components that will allow us to actually plug into bottlers that actually aggregate that demand and have that perspective of being a stripe or an Intel inside of the flex surface industry in order to empower companies that actually are the true service providers and the true demand aggregators out there. So I think that’s where roughly who we are trying to be. Right? If that makes sense. As far as the industry is concerned, I think, number one, it’s a fascinating time to be doing what we are doing. And I mean, we the technology, flex player, you know, such as, also the data centers and the best parts of the world and, and hopefully, in the UK, and all those companies are creating fantastic offerings. And I think we’re, you know, I think we’re all very passionate about what we do, because it’s such the right time to be doing what what we’re doing here.
Christophe: There’s going to be there is changes operating right now, in the way people consume workspace, obviously, at scale. And we still don’t have answers on how we’re going to be using space in the next year, two years, five years. So all we know is that flexibility is going to be, you know, Top of Mind, for all employers out there. And it’s going to become really a competitive advantage to hire and retain great talents. And so I think we have a huge opportunity in understanding the crossover between prop tech, and HR, and figuring out how we can be useful to those companies in creating assets that allow them to do to to create better life environments, and better work life balance for their employees, we’re eventually going to be those companies, we’re going to, we’re either going to empower, you know, some of those largest companies that are servicing those employers, or maybe some of those tech companies will be able to replace some of those those service providers and components, there will be two categories. As I said, well, if we Upflex will be on that category of being a technology provider, rather than replacing anybody out there. But you know, a lot is still to be defined in terms of, you know, usage habits and consumption before we can say exactly where we will be.
JC: Sure. Okay, well, let me ask you this. You’ve been in business a long time, who is probably the most like inspirational or influence on you personally, when it comes to business. You know, is there an.. did you have a mentor was there an author that you read him, he kind of just like what who out there was it was a big driving force in who you become today with what you’re doing?
Christophe: I’ve had few mentors throughout my career. And mentors change with time. I actually have one mentor, who’s been with me for 23 years.
Christophe: He was my first boss and CEO back in 1999. And I still, I still talk to him from time to time for advice. But I tend to not be fixed on just one mentor or two mentors. I have different people in different advisors that I go to, and I have been, you know, cultivating new relationship with new mentors every time I have a new obstacle or a new a new issue to resolve. I’d like to try to continue evolving with different feedback as I develop in my career.
JC: So it’s funny to say like an old boss, I have an old boss too, that I still talk to every now and then I’ve owned my company for 11 years, you know, it goes far back. But, you know, there’s definitely a benefit to especially if someone just kind of you met, you know, the had that influence on you realize that they just got it right, you know, especially at a time when you didn’t know anything, right kind of thing. So I think that’s really cool. That is one of your old bosses, because I’m similar. I have one that I keep in touch with every now and two. All right, last question here then is, what advice would you give to the audience based on your experience with your company from how maybe you had to pivot? You know, things like that? I know, that’s really hard for companies to do. But if you had to give one piece of advice to the audience for just from your experience, and what’s all been happening, what do you think that would be?
Christophe: Whoa, giving advice to the audience.
JC: I’ve put you on the hot seat. So that’s..
Christophe: I mean, you know, I think I still have a lot to learn. And so not so much in position to give advice to anyone, I’ll just say that, you know, when you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re passionate about what you do, it’s very easy to just get caught up, it’s important to always take a step back and try to see what’s out there. I’ve been, you know, you’re talking about mentors, something that I’m doing more and more is just to ask for advice around and surround yourself with the right people. This certainly the most important thing that, you know, over time, I feel I’m doing better and better is to run myself with good people, you know, reliable people, and the right people for the business because you can’t come up with everything.
JC: Yeah, I like that one. I always tell people, if you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
Christophe: That’s right, exactly.
JC: You can’t learn anything. So how can people find, so tell people real quick, how can they find Upflex online? How can they find to maybe reach out to you personally, if they’re a bigger company who wants to do some sort of deal? How can people get to you in the company?
Christophe: So Upflex.com all the information is there “U-P-F-L-E-X” .com. We also have an app, which you can download on both the App Store and Android store. And if you need any further information, you can email me at Christophe C-H-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E at Upflex.com
JC: Perfect, perfect and for everyone listening out there. Again, if you liked what you heard today, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, give it a five star review, preferably with some writing behind it that always helps with the rankings. So the other techies like me, and you can find it enjoy all these amazing helpful b2b softwares and services on the market today just like Upflex. Christoph, thank you again, so much for being on the show. And I plan on actually doing a little deep dive into your website here soon because we have remote people too. So this could be a big deal for us as well.
Christophe: We’re super happy to set you guys up. No problem.
JC: Wonderful. So talk to you soon.
Christophe: Thank you. Bye JC