We talked to Ross Khanas of andcards about its coworking space software that elevates tenant experience and automate administration.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ross Khanas: COVID-19 affected me the same way as the readers I guess. I’ve been on a couple of lockdowns, and I couldn’t see the family often, but at the same time, I found new ways to connect with them online.
Probably the biggest issue for me at the moment is related to the impossibility of going abroad freely, the way it was before.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded andcards.
Ross Khanas: I was living in South Korea, working as a software engineer at Samsung Electronics. I was excited about the job at first, but after a few years, I understood that I am not really happy with what I do anymore. I always wanted to be a founder, to have the freedom to create new things and to be fully responsible for achieving goals.
During this time in Korea, I was visiting various events, many of which were hosted at the coworking spaces. Those workspaces were modern and beautifully designed but noticeably lacked tech innovations. For instance, they attached a pen and paper on the wall next to meeting rooms so people could book them. I have many other examples of similar outdated approaches that I wanted to change. That was the reason why and how I got into the coworking space industry.
We found first paying customers even before building a product. Then there was a successful release. We managed to capture our first market (South Korea) quickly. Then we expanded to Europe and the Americas. Currently, about 100 coworking spaces with 30000 members use andcards in 20 countries. We didn’t use any investments to take off our project, only startup programs.
How does andcards innovate?
Ross Khanas: andcards is innovative in many ways. Here are some of them.
– The company is fully remote form the day one, which turned out to be a real benefit during the COVID outbreak. We didn’t have any issues in terms of organizing the work environment.
– We believe in automation. All operations in our company are optimized to take as little time as possible. For example, we take advantage of Stripe to automate all the billing, etc.
– We developed a corporate vision and mission, and all our team members share them. Our mission is our brand and product strategy at the same time. Before bringing any innovation to our product, we always match it to our vision and mission.
– We took a completely different angle in our industry niche. Unlike other companies, we focus all our efforts on the best user experience of consumers, which are customers of the coworking spaces.
– We monitor industry trends all the time to know what is going on in the world, including the changes we see in the industry during the COVID-19. Of course, we adjust the product to the current needs of our customers. For example, we have recently developed an unprecedented solution for super flex offices that are likely to be in-demand in a post-COVID environment.
– Since we are a small team, we are very tight-knit. We work closely together, and all team members are aware of all each other’s activities, which helps to stay motivated and feel peer support. Everyone is always welcome to introduce new ideas. Absolute honesty is one of our company values that helps us move forward fast.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ross Khanas: It affected us a lot at first, just as many other businesses since there was a bit of panic all over the world and lots of lockdowns. Our customers started to ask for discounts, and some even shut down their workspaces.
We had to cut some unnecessary expenses at first, but once strict quarantine restrictions were over, we quickly got back on track, started to grow, and keep growing by now.
That uncertain time was even useful for our business because it made us realize that we need to diversify our product a bit and make it more useful even if tenants do not come to the coworking spaces. That made us less likely to give discounts to clients since they are actively using the product even if there is a quarantine.
At the same time, we believe that COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation of a traditional office. More companies became open to remote, and thus more people will go to coworking spaces in the future. Many global influencers, such as Bill Gates agree on that.
“The online experience today isn’t as good at that kind of casual thing before and after the meeting or just kind of hanging out. Now, some of that can be improved. But I don’t think we’ll completely eliminate having those foundation offices and people come in and do face to face meetings.” — said Bill Gates to CNBC.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ross Khanas: As mentioned before, the most difficult choice was to cut salaries and working hours at the beginning of the pandemic. However, our team members understood that decision, so we can consider ourselves lucky enough.
In my opinion, the biggest lesson that has been learned is making our value proposition not dependent on a single feature.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and andcards in the future?
Ross Khanas: A famous internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Tony Hsieh said that being a part of something bigger than yourself is one of the four fundamentals of happiness. Being a founder, creating a team you are happy to work with is one of the most important things to minimize potential stress and anxiety. Having the right team members and team culture is important to stay productive, motivated, and happy. Doing sport helps a lot too, so I play football a few times a week.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ross Khanas: Our competitors are other coworking space software vendors; however, andcards is different in the core concept. While other developers mainly focus on administration features, we prioritize the greatest asset of any coworking business — its customers.
As to our strategy to stay in the game, we’ll concentrate on three key aspects:
(1) focus on growth and sales,
(2) improve product-market fit,
and (3) boost operational efficiency.
Pure innovation is just research, pure creativity is an art, but combining those two makes a great product. This is how we are going to strengthen our positions in the market – through constant innovation, combined with creativity.
Your final thoughts?
Ross Khanas: To sum everything up, I would like to add that it is possible to not only survive the pandemic but even continue the stable growth of your business. If it’s difficult to sell your product, track the trends, analyze new customers’ needs, and unleash your creativity to invent new solutions that address their urgent pains. The demand for technology is getting bigger. Businesses come to the idea that automation and touchless experiences are the future. The fact is very encouraging for SaaS companies, as many new possibilities are waiting around the corner.
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