Tom Gatzen, Co-Founder of ideal flatmate tells us about flatsharing and flatmatching.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Tom Gatzen: Yes, all well, thank you. We have been lucky in that we have all stayed healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ideal flatmate.
Tom Gatzen: ideal flatmate came about from a conversation between a university friend, Rob, and me. We were talking about our own experiences of flatsharing and some of the frustrations we had with the sites out there at the moment. We felt it would be great if there were a platform that made it simple to find your most compatible flatmates based on lifestyle and living habits in a given area, at that was what we have tried to achieve with Ideal Flatmate!
Before running a business, I had roles in a number of different careers, from law to politics and PR. I enjoyed all of these jobs but have found running my own company by far the most rewarding but also the most challenging!
How does ideal flatmate innovate?
Tom Gatzen: We are constantly innovating and adapting to the needs of our users. This is most evidenced in how we change the algorithms behind our matching based on data to improve the relevance of our flatmate matches.
The company has also positioned itself as the leader in bringing flatmates into new, high-end Build to Rent developments across the UK which has allowed us to open up a newer selection of properties for sharers and help large housebuilders access the sharing market.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Tom Gatzen: The epidemic took a toll on the business initially as people were reluctant to meet up and share flats. The government lockdowns have had a detrimental effect on allowing people to move. However, the business has adapted, and in recent months, search and move volumes are back to levels seen before the pandemic began.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Tom Gatzen: Questions of staff levels have cropped up throughout the evolution of the business, and you have to do what is right for the company. We’ve been able to bring on some new graduates recently as part of the UK government’s Kickstarter program to get as many 16-24-year-olds into work, and it’s been exciting to recruit our first two ‘kickstarters’ this month!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Tom Gatzen: We try and be as customer-focused as possible, from reaching out to as many of our users as possible to hosting meet-ups and open feedback sessions. These have sometimes been bruising experiences when people have given pretty honest criticisms, but it’s useful to be able to implement positive change in the site. As we have grown, we have recruited more people to specifically manage the relationship of our key clients, which is an important part of helping them get the most out of the product.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Tom Gatzen: We’ve accessed some of the government support schemes, such as the Kickstarter Scheme, that has been available for businesses in the UK.