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London Startup FlatClub: AirBnb Meets Couch Surfing Meets LinkedIn For College Students

Flatclub,flat-club.com,London startup,startup,startups,startup interviewSo what do you get when you take two Israeli guys, move them to London and mash together AirBnb, CouchSurfing and LinkedIn? You get London startup FlatClub.

FlatCub is a network for college students and alumni to find temporary housing situations amongst their friends, friends of friends and trusted acquaintances. FlatClub connects college students from all over with each other to offer spare bedrooms, couches, and even apartments. Say you have a year round lease on an off campus apartment and you’re not going to be at school during the summer, you could use FlatClub to find a trusted renter.

FlatClub utilizes the social web, requires users to be college students, and provides a safe and secure payment system for taking the payments for booking.

The growing startup closed an undisclosed Series-A round back in May from a syndicate of non-traditional VC’s. They are also a product of the London Business School Incubator.  But even with the security of a Series-A round and the backing of an incubator like the London Business School co-founder and CEO Nitzan Yudan is far from done the hard, sweat equity type grunt work.

Yudan is planning a US expansion to the top 30 universities and plans to do it with a road show across the country. He’s looking to generate as much buzz as he can. Yudan feels that FlatClub offers a safer more secure way of finding temporary accommodations. By requiring users to be college students or alumni there’s an element of security already in place.

FlatClub also provides an element of real social interaction. Students and alumni renting accommodations will see how they are socially connected to potential renters and vice versa. Also for those students and alumni that are renting rooms, they’ll get the in person interactions that you can’t find with similar services.

We got a chance to interview Yudan. Check out the interview below.

What is flat-club?

Flat-Club is an exclusive network for alumni & 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 1 night up to 6 months. It’s an ideal solution for exchanges, internships, travelling, relocation and even business trips. Hosts make extra income and network with other like-minded people and guests save 80% of hotel prices and benefit from the extra facilities available in a flat.

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

Flat-Club is LinkedIn for short term. Everyone can post an extra bedroom or their apartment for people that they already trust from existing social networks, such as top universities or friends of friends. Flat-Club verifies to which clubs the guests and the hosts belongs and also provides a secure payment system for booking, providing 100% guarantee for the guest from frauds and scams.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Two founders. Both Israelis. Both students from London Business School. Nitzan Yudan – Co-founder & CEO – 12 years experience in tourism, IT, and finance. Nitzan loves to travel and always dreamt about making it his full time job. Tomer has 10 years experience in real estate and he is a civil engineer.

Where are you based?

In London, UK as part of Google Campus at TechHub. We are also a member of the London Business School Incubator.

What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?

Amazing! It’s all happening now in London for start-ups. The vibe around us is great and there is a real exciting atmosphere that the next big thing will come from London.

How did you come up with the idea for flat-club?

The idea came from the need that we discovered whilst at business school. As students we were struggling to find short-term accommodation when moving to a new city, going on internships / exchange programmes and travelling on a budget. Also, we were looking to make extra income, and realized that there was under-utilization of our empty flats when we were away. The next step was to think of who we would trust to stay in our homes, and that’s how we came up with Flat-Club – hosts can choose who will see their posting and decide who they want as guests. .

How did you come up with the name?

The name is inspired by a great book (and movie) – Fight Club. We took from Fight-Club the community feeling, the non-conformist approach, and the idea that we need to take control of our own lives. I especially like the quote – this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.

What problem does flat-club solve?

We solve 3 problems; we help guests achieve the often hard and expensive task of finding accommodation for short stays, we help hosts find guests they trust and make extra income, and we help universities by providing a 100% guarantee against frauds and scams, as well as a platform for networking.

What’s your secret sauce?

We have two – the first is the concept that instead of creating a new social network (there are too many anyway) and trying to build trust from scratch, we look where trust already exists and we leverage it. The second is our team. We are a super-passionate and focused team, who not only believe in the idea, but also know how to make it happen.

What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?

The main dilemma that I still face every day is how to stay focused and prioritize my time. There are so many good ideas and good opportunities, but the real challenge is selecting only those that best fit our strategy and focusing on executing them. My solution is to concentrate on these three questions: 1. Who is our customer? 2. How would they hear about us? 3. Would they use the service? And then see if any good idea is in line with the answers we have for these questions.

 

What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
One of the biggest challenges is to create reputation for a starup and get the first sales. With an average booking of $1,000’s we need to ensure that a guest is not thinking twice before paying just because they are hesitant to use the website. We were lucky enough to be able to launch within a very supportive community base that is the London Business School. Within 2 weeks of sending one email throughout the network, we grow from 5 flats to 70 rooms and apartments and had our first bookings and revenue. Moreover, we took an approach of finding  relevant startup competitions and applying to them. Once we started winning them, especially the TechCrunch Pitching Challenge, it was a strong boost for our reputation and for team morale. Suddenly, universities started to contact us and request to join Flat-Club.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
I try to have a diverse pool of mentors to support us with strategic growth, finance decisions, tech, and marketing approach. My business role models are Maureen & Tony Wheeler – founders of the Lonely Planet, who managed to make their passion to travel into a successful and innovative business. Moreover, I admire Tony Wheeler for keeping an on-the-ground approach. When I just played with the idea of Flat-Club, I sent him an email and asked for a coffee and a chat to hear his advice. Not only did he agree but he even came prepared to the meeting and provided me with some insightful feedback.
What’s next for flat-club?
International expansion. The one thing we hear all the time from our customers is when will you be in more cities? And this is our focus for the coming year. We also work very hard on improving our product and looking into providing a better experience to our hosts and guests. I can’t wait to see some of the new sketches live on the website.
Linkage:
Check out FlatClub here

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