We talked to Sune Theodorsen of LifeX about shared living with a Nordic feel and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sune Theodorsen: We got a little boy right at the start of the pandemic and babies need you to spend a lot of time with them at home anyway, so we had plenty of things to do and new challenges to keep us sane, which in some ways probably made the whole thing easier. And we were also lucky enough to have our whole family stay healthy, so we have been fortunate.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded LifeX?
Sune Theodorsen: I have been an entrepreneur for most of my career working in the tech world. I started my first company while still at university. However, LifeX was started as a bit of a side project to solve my own problem of finding a new home and also help some coworkers. I had relocated between Copenhagen and San Francisco back and forth and felt the pain of settling in both times. Initially, I didn’t expect it to grow much, so I was quite overwhelmed by the demand. All my other projects I had been struggling to find customers, and suddenly I had more customers than I could serve. So it’s been a great journey so far, where we have met a lot of amazing people, and we’re just getting started.
How does LifeX innovate?
Sune Theodorsen: whilst also addressing the loneliness epidemic through community-based living. We provide high-quality co-living homes enabled by tech, to an active global community.
The current housing market does not support millennials. Inflexible and inaccessible rental practices have existed in major urban centres for far too long, making it all too common for people to get stuck in long-term leases in low-quality apartments. These barriers are especially pronounced to those who are living internationally or planning an international move. As I mentioned, my partner and I actually created LifeX based on our own challenges of relocating internationally.
While there are many styles of co-living, we innovate through our use of technology and our flexible, family-style concept. Our co-living homes make it simple for people to live in centrally located, high-quality apartments without making long-term, or costly commitments.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Sune Theodorsen: As a company, we’re doing our best to remain nimble and reactive to the ever-evolving circumstances. I t has made some challenges, over the last three years we have been growing quickly and due to coronavirus, some of our plans have been modified or delayed. As our concept is linked with global mobility, we have seen a change in patterns and have shifted plans as needed to match the market.
However, we’re fortunate that many of our members see us as a long-term housing option, even though we have flexible lease contracts. In fact, their feedback has shown that the community aspect of co-living has made this difficult time easier for them, which we’re happy to hear. Additionally, though global mobility is lower, some people have still been relocating for work, and we always have new members joining from within our local cities as well.
Did you face any challenges and what are the lessons you’ve learned?
Sune Theodorsen: The coronavirus has of course come with some challenges and important learnings for our team. The unprecedented circumstances lead to a sudden and dramatic shift in our lifestyles which was difficult at times for both our members and employees. We’re still working hard every day to navigate challenges and mitigate potential future issues.
As a company, we had new issues to address, more precautions to take, and we needed to be very reactive. I would say two important challenges that we faced from the beginning was maintaining the sense of community, and meeting the extra demands put on a household when people’s homes became their world. The technology was instrumental in addressing these issues. Our team prioritized and implemented new features in our Membership App so that members could quickly communicate with our team and vice versa. We also put together corona response and member support teams to become more reactive.
I would say a big takeaway was that although our plans changed a lot, remaining nimble and innovative is key to getting through challenging times. We had time to focus on the growth we had done, and give extra attention to the apartments and members that we already have. By reflecting and focusing on what we had, we were able to streamline processes, build tech solutions, and improve our processes overall – which I believe will have lasting benefits in the future.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Sune Theodorsen: Our relationship between our members and our team is extremely important. As a company with a central focus on the community, we knew this was an area that needed our full attention during a crisis. As we could no longer facilitate our normal in-person events (social get-togethers and other meetups) we had to rethink our community approach and communication channels.
As mentioned, we implemented custom in-app technology (and designated teams) for member support which helped us be more responsive and proactive. From the community side, we’ve switched to online events, and in-house activities so that members can have fun experiences with their housemates from the comfort (and safety) of their homes. Our in-app communication and feedback tools have been instrumental in efficiently and effectively communicating with our members. It also gives us great metrics to work with so we can stay organized and continually improve.
Your final thoughts?
Sune Theodorsen: Corona has been a difficult time globally, for people and businesses. Many start-ups and small businesses have had an especially challenging time; so we feel grateful for all the learnings from this year and to be bringing them with us into the future as a stronger operator. It looks like there is still some time before things settle down globally, but the future is looking hopeful! I’m interested to see how the pandemic alters the way we work and live. I think we will see more flexibility in our lifestyles and more demand for housing that meets those needs, so I expect the co-living industry will continue to grow!
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