Interview With Graham Wong
Describe your product or service:
“A flexible, on-demand workspace network bookable through our mobile app (hourly, daily or weekly).”
Describe your company values and mission:
“On-demand workspace for remote workers. We provide a seamless work experience for individuals and teams to do their best work in the most convenient, consistent, and professional way possible. We believe that everyone deserves to work wherever, whenever, and however they want. It's what we call ‘work-life freedom.’”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Privately funded since inception with approximately $2 million raised to date.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“The core team has been together since the inception, and the expanded team is around nine people. The team is made up of primarily full-time staff and the support of a couple part-time.”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“I ran an advertising agency for over 13 years and realized fairly early on that our office was severely underutilized since we always went to see clients vs. them coming to our office. Compound this with the reality that when outside of the office for meetings, and you inevitably end up seeking out a place to check in with the office, make a call or get some work done. By default, you look for a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or airport gate to work. I believed that there was a gap in the market for people to find a professional space on the go. Many of my friends, colleagues, and clients shared my pain. The market did not have a ready option in between the office and home to work that was as convenient as grabbing a coffee.
Flash forward five years, and COVID has only further validated our business model and demonstrated the power of having a convenient, consistent and professional option available to people in between the home and destination office.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“LAUFT is a German term meaning ‘run’ or ‘go get it.’ It also hints at the brick and beam image of modern startups and office layouts.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“I have always been entrepreneurial. From lemonade stands as a kid to starting a clothing line and running a retail store while in university.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“I have encountered many roadblocks, but each one represented a valuable learning moment. Access to funding is always top of mind, and not having an established network of mentors to pull from meant learning many hard lessons firsthand. With each roadblock, I needed to pause, step back and dig deep into my creative ability to solve. COVID could be considered a major roadblock, but in reality, it has helped shape acceptance among a larger group of potential users than we could have ever achieved through advertising. Shifting perspective is probably the single biggest way to overcome any roadblock.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Primarily, our target market is anyone with the freedom to work remotely. Not every worker can, but those with the freedom are prime candidates. We established the market because we were the market!”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We market directly to businesses with workforces that can work remotely. Luckily, the pandemic increased this pool of clients dramatically. We leverage lead generation tools and business-specific social media like LinkedIn. Additionally, many of our locations become marketing tools because we have strategically located LAUFT in shopping malls next to established brands. This validates us in the eyes of potential clients as a brand when we sit right next to other brands like Nike.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Organically and through relationships with local business associations.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Booking occupancy, revenue per session, active users and user acquisition.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“Book: ‘Traction’ by Gino Wickman. Podcast: ‘Masters of Scale.’”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Fearless by SAULT.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“EOS — Entrepreneurial Operating System.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“How important simplicity and clarity is to keeping your sanity. Many entrepreneurs thrive in chaos, and that can become addictive. Stripping away the fluff goes a long way!”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Still struggling with this, and my business is all about work-life freedom. In order to be free, you need to be able to contextualize what that is. It's something I still struggle at. But I'm getting better!”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“I try to ask myself one question when I feel like I'm overwhelmed: ‘If I completed this one thing today, I will go to bed okay with everything else I didn't accomplish.’
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“One key habit that is serving me well is to consciously pause before responding to a situation. I try to be more purposeful in my response instead of fielding the first thought that pops into my head.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I had three newspaper routes. It taught me that you always need to show up — even when you may not feel like it. The newspaper needed to be on the doorstep by 8 a.m. — rain, snow, or sleet.”
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