The pandemic has shifted many aspects of the workplace across all markets and industries. We spoke with the co-founder of flexible workspace aggregator, Deskimo, Christian Mischler, who shared with us how his company is facing the challenges of the pandemic.
What is the problem that Deskimo solves?
As professionals adapt to the new normal of flexible work, many are in need of affordable workspaces near their homes. Deskimo provides exactly that: On-demand work desks at professionally managed workspaces across Singapore and Hong Kong.
Our pay-as-you-go model also aids businesses in their move towards a remote-first or hybrid strategy. Businesses can reduce long-term office leases and substitute them with flexible Deskimo accounts. This helps companies to save costs, and also allows fast-growing companies to expand without having to move offices or add floor space as the workforce grows.
Deskimo is an asset-light replacement of the traditional office, giving employers and employees a lot more flexibility to execute.
How did the idea come about?
Before Deskimo, I co-founded a few high-growth tech startups in proptech and hospitality, most recently GuestReady, the leading urban short-term rental management company in Europe. When the pandemic started, we swiftly gave up our office leases to save costs; the team was already equipped to collaborate seamlessly across markets, working from home was not a problem.
Unlike at GuestReady, for many corporate employees the change has been dramatic. However, while they needed a period of adjustment, after a short while many started to see the benefits of flexible work.
The COVID-19 crisis may come to an end, but a complete return to the pre-pandemic workplace isn’t realistic. Professionals and businesses across the globe have been decisively sobered to the benefits of hybrid work. In short, flexible work is here to stay and we’re ready to continue building the post-pandemic future of work beyond the four walls of a traditional office.
What is Deskimo’s USP?
Deskimo users can simply download the app and get to work at any workspace of their choice in Singapore and Hong Kong. We charge by the minute and users don’t need any membership or enter other long-term commitments. Deskimo offers the flexibility that many have previously been missing from co-working spaces.
What is Deskimo’s biggest challenge?
Continued COVID-19 restrictions have definitely posed a challenge to Deskimo. As the number of clusters and infection rates fluctuate, many cities, including Singapore and Hong Kong have been put through repeated soft lockdowns and tightened measures. Of course, this has also impacted some of our workspaces.
Do you have experience building online marketplaces?
For a decade, I have collected a lot of experience in building two-sided marketplaces. I was a co-founder of Foodpanda, Asia’s leading online food delivery company, originally a Rocket Internet venture. I then co-founded HotelQuickly, which turned into the leading last-minute hotel booking app in Asia-Pacific at the time of the company exit in 2017. Thereafter, I co-founded GuestReady, which I’ve already mentioned.
My co-founder at Deskimo is Raphael Cohen, who most recently was the Head of Asia at Rocket Internet. Before that, he was the founder of GoBee.Bike, which was a leading bike-sharing company in Hong Kong. Raphael was already my co-founder at HotelQuickly and we know each other from Foodpanda, where Raphael was looking after the Vietnamese market.
Who are Deskimo’s backers?
Deskimo has been admitted into the Summer 2021 batch of the Y Combinator accelerator program, which is currently taking place. Aside from Y Combinator, we already have a few high-profile angel investors on board.
Deskimo’s relevance in the current market has caught the attention of many investors. We will raise our first official round in September this year.
What is Deskimo currently working on?
We've made significant progress across the different app markets. For example, with our entry into the alternative Android markets, the Deskimo app is now available on Huawei, Samsung and Xiaomi devices. Moving forward, we also have ideas on how to further refine the app based on months of collecting feedback, which we’re excited to share with users.
What is the most common request from clients?
There has been a frequent request to add the ability to pre-book meeting rooms via the app. Right now it’s possible to reserve private offices and meeting rooms for 2-10 people directly with the workspace, but there seems to be a desire to be able to do this ahead of time and ideally directly via Deskimo. We’ll work on implementing this feature over the coming weeks.
How do you see the market evolving and what will you be doing to be ahead of the curve?
The online workplace market will have a much greater role to play in the future as businesses migrate towards flexible work systems. We’ve always envisioned Deskimo to be more than a listing platform for workspaces. We’re also here to help businesses improve the employee experience by equipping them with tailored enterprise solutions.
This can be in the form of providing businesses with greater insight into the needs and preferences of their employees in terms of workspaces and in-demand amenities. We also hope to optimise our platform to cater to the collaborative needs of our users.