After six years, it’s time to say goodbye to our consumer business FlatClub. We are now fully focused on the needs of our corporate clients and are relaunching as Benivo, with the mission to Make Every Employee Welcome.
I started Flat-Club in 2011 to help people rent out their homes to guests they trust within their existing social networks. Frequently travelling during my MBA at London Business School, I wanted to make some extra cash by subletting my London flat to someone I trusted. I ended up renting my flat more than ten times and made friends for life with some of my tenants. Luckily, it turned out that I wasn’t scratching just my own itch, but that of thousands of other people around the world as well: FlatClub (which lost the dash along the way) grew into a business, with twenty employees in two locations and hundreds of large transactions every month.
Soon we developed a habit of running small experiments based on customers’ feedback. This is how we came across the opportunity to help companies with finding accommodation for their interns. Almost 3 years ago, we started with a small pilot. Our Chief Commercial Officer Matthew Chic built a simple landing page in 5 minutes, and we pitched it to Google. It was the the ugliest page in the history of the Internet, but that didn’t deter Google. Being the forward thinking company they are and placing their employees at the centre, they were the perfect fit. This taught us two important lessons: it’s all about the benefits, not the features; and no one else was offering as good a service as we did.
The next summer, Google and Microsoft decided to roll out our service across Europe, and suddenly, we had a fast growing B2B business. With Bloomberg, Vodafone, Hertz, AOL and many others following, clearly, we were on to something big.
And because it’s never wise for a startup to pursue two businesses at the same time, we decided to close down our consumer side and, instead, work with our corporate customers full-time.
As a result of this shift, we had to change our name. FlatClub wasn’t right any more. The very British word “flat” was limiting our global ambitions. Also, we were now providing many more services around relocation which weren’t only accommodation, but the name FlatClub still unduly emphasised this aspect.
The name Benivo is derivative of the word “Welcome” in Romance languages (Bienvenido, Bienvenue, Binevenit, etc.). And in this spirit, we introduced our new mission - Make every employee welcome. We believe that every employee counts. From senior to junior, everyone can make a significant impact on their workplace. We want to work closely with companies to help them welcome employees to a new job, new role, new office, or new location. Employees who feel supported early on deliver better results, are better aligned with company goals, are more engaged, and, according to research, their retention increases by 57%. We help employers make every employee welcome regardless of age or wage.
We feel that it’s not right that only high earners receive support, benefits, and tax savings, while low earners (who may need it more) do not benefit. We reduce inequality in wages, benefits, and support, and we use technology to make it happen. And we start doing this by solving the relocation problem.
What is the new business?
We are committed to the vision of giving every company the ability to relocate any employee on a budget from and to anywhere in the world. We focus on the needs that companies have when supporting their junior and mid-level employees, and do this with a “technology first” approach.
Traditionally, relocation support has been limited to higher-paid employees because of the concierge-like service provided to them: By emphasising technology and the employees’ self-sufficiency, we’ve been able to radically reduce cost and make the solution accessible to everyone.
We are particularly useful for companies with large graduates / interns intakes, call centre or telesales teams, engineering teams, IT consultants, hospitality, or health care services.
What does the future hold?
We are already working with dozens of companies and have restructured internally to be ready for growth in our new core business in 2017. We are now a team of 70 in two offices in London and in Armenia and we are looking to double the team in the next 12 months. We provide our services in 100 locations and are adding new ones every week.
I’m very nostalgic about closing one chapter, but enthusiastic about starting the next. I’m grateful to our investors who have supported us throughout the journey and believed in us during this change period. I’m thankful for every host who listed their place on FlatClub, for every guest who trusted us and booked their accommodation with us, and for everyone who helped us with an introduction, advice, or recommendation. I’m also thankful to the companies who believed in us early on, took a chance on us, allowed us to make mistakes, gave us feedback, and helped us shape the service.
But above all, I’m thankful to the amazing team I am lucky to have worked with over the years. The success of FlatClub is theirs and Benivo’s much greater success will be theirs too.
The living room in my student flat in 2011. Where it all started
The decisive moment to focus only on junior employee relocation came to us when, in 2016, our relocation support platform started to grow like wildfire.
We jumped from six to fifty corporate customers in under 12 months. At this point, we knew we were tapping into a big need: Companies didn’t have good ways of relocating junior employees and we were in a unique position to help them.