Flat-Club is an exclusive network for alumni and students of top universities for short-term accommodation. The idea is to help us find people we trust – our friends of friends from our existing social networks - for short-term accommodation solutions – anything from one night up to six months.
It’s an ideal solution for exchange, internships, travel, relocation and even business trips. Hosts make extra income and network with like-minded others, and guests save 80% off hotel prices with the extra facilities of a flat.
What gave you the idea to set up Flat-Club?
The idea came from the need. As students we were struggling to find short-term accommodation when moving to a new city, going on internship / exchange programmes and even travelling on a budget. Also, we were looking to make extra income, and realize the under-utilization of our empty flats when we are away. The next step was to think who would we trust to stay there, and that’s how we came up with Flat-Club – where a host can choose who will see his flat posting.
How many people work with you and how did you find them?
Exactly a year ago we had a team of two and today we are 15 from 12 nationalities – probably the most diverse start-up in London. We are based in London Business School as part of the Incubator Program, and our team come from this network as well as from our extended network in London.
What are your growth plans for the next year?
Within a year from launch, Flat-Club grew from five flats in London to 2,000 flats and rooms in 20 cities, and the plan for the next 12 months is to expand into more cities and more networks. Our guests keep asking us to add more cities according to where they travel, and we aim to be a one-stop-shop for short-term-accommodation for our customers.
You graduated from London Business School last year - what were the highlights of your MBA?
I think the best experience for me in the MBA was the diversity of the students in my class and engaging with them. In my stream we were 80 students from almost 60 countries with wide backgrounds and experience, and I probably learnt more from my classmates than from any case or book I read.
Another highlight which I am only now starting to fully understand is the alumni network. I wouldn’t be able to build Flat-Club so quickly and grow internationally without the help of the alumni network who supported me in sorting out the administration of the company, introductions to investors, and leads of potential customers. We launched Flat-Club within the LBS community and their feedback was amazing – within two weeks we had 70 flats posted and had our first bookings.
What was your career experience before business school?
I had quite a diverse career starting from a BSc in Industrial Engineering and Management, to working for start-ups in Israel to working for Israel’s largest bank. I actually came to London to accelerate my banking career, but since I started with Flat-Club I found out that this is the job I’m most passionate about, and enjoy it more than anything I did before. So I gave up the other options I had.
Did your MBA help you to set up a business?
There is quite a big debate around whether one needs an MBA to start a business, and my view is that it’s of course possible to succeed without an MBA but for others, like me, it’s very helpful. Apart from the time and inspiration to build Flat-Club, I also got great help from my classmates with advice and contacts. The alumni network also played a key role in spreading the word and supporting the business.
Finally, being part of the LBS Incubator is a great help to Flat-Club – we get access to top faculty for advise and mentorship, students are engaged with school projects, we have access to services and space, and we have the LBS reputation which has a huge impact for a growing start-up.
How many of your LBS classmates have founded their own companies?
From my class about 5% of the students chose entrepreneurship for their career path, and probably less than 10 started a business from scratch. However, in the following class I know of at least 20 who are starting up and there is strong interest from the new students, hence I think there is a real change in the preferences of students.
In London there is especially a good vibe for start-ups and I see more and more great people choosing to start their own venture or join a start-up instead of joining large corporate.
What advice do you have for other MBAs thinking of setting up a web business?
My best advice is to focus on the marketing plan. One of the most challenging tasks for a website is to drive traffic, and without a very focused marketing plan which will answer the three key questions it’s very hard to succeed. Every morning I ask myself and my team these three questions and we prioritize our resources and time accordingly:
1. Who is our customer?
2. How would they hear about us?
3. Will they use the product/service?
What will be the next evolution in social media?
I think that finding targeted niches is the next step. My view is that we have different needs and interests, and the next stage is to find a way that will fulfil these individual needs.