The Inside Story: How an Office Search Platform Survived a Year of WFH

Tushar Agarwal, Co-founder and CEO
Tushar Agarwal, Co-founder and CEO|

How does an office search platform survive a year of government-ordered WFH?

That’s the question we were asking ourselves back in March 2020. And at times, we definitely asked ourselves if there was a viable answer. 

As is the case for so many businesses, the pandemic has been one of the most challenging periods Hubble has ever experienced. In a matter of weeks, coronavirus managed to throw our entire industry into disarray. New business dried up, existing contracts ended prematurely, and even the concept of the office itself suddenly faced an existential crisis. 

But whilst it hasn’t been easy—far from it—I’m proud to say that we’re still here, stronger and more ambitious than ever, and incredibly excited for what the future holds. 

Here’s the story of what’s been going on at Hubble over the last 18 months, and what we’ve got in store for 2021 and beyond.

London’s leading marketplace for flexible office space

Since 2014, we’ve been building Hubble to be London’s largest online marketplace for flexible office space. Pre-Covid, we were placing a company in a new office every 3 hours. We were backed by the biggest names in property (JLL, Starwood Capital) and venture capital (EF, Seedcamp, 500 startups), and had raised £8m in funding.

We’ve always prided ourselves on our close client relationships with the biggest names in property (including WeWork, IWG, British Land, and Legal & General) and have had the pleasure of placing some of the UK’s most exciting companies into flexible offices—Monzo, Trustpilot, PwC, and Accenture, to name but a few.

We‘d also grown a team of just under 60 talented and driven people, who each played their own unique part in helping the company grow to ever-greater heights.

In short, things were going well. Really well. Hubble had been doubling and tripling its revenue every year for the past 4 years, we were smashing our Q1 targets, and we were well on track to raise a Series B by summer 2020.

Then the pandemic hit.

It was March 2020, and we were in the middle of Series B investor conversations. Possibly the worst time for the government to issue a compulsory working from home order.

As you’d expect, the office market and any investor conversations very quickly disappeared. There was huge uncertainty and panic about the pandemic—and if that weren’t enough, debates were surfacing around the potential “death of the office”, following the new-found success of home-working. 

All of this served to nip any initial interest in the bud. With only three months of cash left in the bank, our company faced imminent failure—despite the trajectory it had been on pre-Covid.

Thus followed some really dark and uncertain months, where the business was just weeks away from death. We were forced to take extreme action to survive: costs were slashed by 70%, and we also furloughed 47 of our amazing 56 employees.

The remaining 9 stayed on board to keep the lights on, support the businesses who needed us, and help office providers navigate an incredibly difficult time to be in the industry.

A few months later, we were able to bring back around half of the team—but sadly, had to make the rest redundant.

Flexibility is more important than ever before

However, despite the bleakness of the situation at the time, Hubble’s existing investors still backed the business to ensure it survived Covid, with an injection of £2m from the biggest names in proptech: JLL, Starwood Capital and PiLabs.

The investors backed our thesis that employer and employee experience over Covid would hugely accelerate the need for flexible office space more than ever before. For context: pre-Covid, the flexible office market was already growing rapidly. At the beginning of 2020, there was more than 17.1m sq ft of flexible office space in the UK capital—over 7% of its total office stock. Ten years before, that figure sat at just 1.9%.

Such rapid growth meant that, even pre-pandemic, it was predicted that flex space would account for 30% of all office stock by 2030. And the theory was that Covid would accelerate this even further, as businesses got burnt by being locked into long-term leases and started to question how much space they really needed. And this was exactly the trend we’d been building for since the beginning.

But in practise, something even more astonishing happened. The whole world started to question the need for offices at all. The entire 22tn office sector was facing an existential crisis. 

So we were backed by our investors to create the future of where we work, for a post-Covid world where everyone had experienced—and many had enjoyed—working remotely for over a year. 

And after going back to basics—surveying and interviewing thousands of businesses, then interrogating the data from all angles—we decided to bet big that hybrid working will be the post-pandemic future of work, by launching as the world’s first Hybrid Workplace Platform.

Why are we placing all our chips on hybrid?

The office was one-size-fits-all, and it didn’t work. WFH was also one-size-fits-all, and that didn’t work either. 

At Hubble, we feel that the future of where we work will be personalised to each individual, team, and organisation. 

We believe that going forward, every company and employee will have their own ideal blend of working from the HQ, home, and on-demand third spaces.

But this is a whole new ball game. From planning, to execution, to management, implementing an effective and sustainable hybrid working strategy is hard. 

So we aim to make it easy.

This is how we do it:

1. Analyse 

Businesses can use our Workplace Strategy Tool to get deep, actionable insights into how and where their employees want to work in the future.

The tool enables you to easily survey your team members using a 5-minute curated questionnaire, and access the data immediately via your personalised results dashboard.

Read how the Workplace Strategy Tool has helped hundreds of businesses already

2. Configure 

We then map these insights onto a selection of recommended workplace “configurations”, that match both your employees’ and company’s needs.

For example, a 100-person company looking to adopt a hybrid approach may be advised to:

  • Take a 50-person HQ on a flexible contract,
  • Give all employees access to on-demand workspaces, and
  • Continue to invest in remote work experiences to support employees at home.

3. Deliver 

We can then deliver the entire hybrid configuration to your business, via a combination of our products:

  • Hubble HQ has been London’s largest online marketplace for renting flexible office space for the past 5 years, with over 5,000 offices live on our platform. Through a combination of tech, data, and property expertise, we can help you find a new HQ on a flexible contract.
  • The Hubble Pass allows you to give your employees on-demand access to our global network of workspaces. With it, they can access convenient workspaces, with top-notch facilities (such as super-fast WiFi, phone booths, and meeting rooms) whenever they need it—by booking spaces within our platform.
  • Hubble Perks (beta) helps you export your company culture to employees’ homes, through everything from virtual experiences to better workplace equipment—ensuring that remote teams have productive and happy workspaces.

By allowing you to manage all of your workspace needs in one simple platform, we make adopting a hybrid work strategy as simple and stress-free as possible.

4. Optimise 

Finally, you can use your Hubble dashboard to monitor the effectiveness of your current configuration: through a combination of team feedback, usage tracking, and advice from your dedicated account manager, you can be sure that your workplace setup is always meeting your team’s needs. 

Our plans are also designed to be flexible, so that you can adapt as circumstances change. 

The steps that we take mean that Hubble works for all businesses—whether you consider yourself to be “office-first”, “remote-first”, or “hybrid”.

Like a phoenix from the ashes…

We’ve been operating our new platform behind the scenes since the beginning of 2021 and have got instant product-market fit, with a huge pipeline of businesses waiting to activate a hybrid workplace once restrictions allow it.

“Hubble has helped to make hybrid working really easy for our team. We started off by running Hubble’s survey to figure out what the team wanted. And we found out that our people now want a blend of remote and in-office working. So, Hubble suggested we take a smaller office. We now also have access to hundreds of different spaces around London, which has been really, really useful, and we’ve saved a lot of money!”

Gemma Young, Founder at Settled

Our new contract signings are also now back to 80% of pre-Covid levels,, despite official government guidelines still telling businesses to work from home. 

I feel confident that whilst the pandemic nearly killed our business, it’s never been a more exciting time to be in the market—in fact, it may have been a huge blessing in disguise.

I can’t quite believe what’s happened—from the jaws of death, to rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.

Our vision has always been to create the AWS for the workplace, ensuring every business can scale up and down their office footprint flexibly, and Covid has actually accelerated our path to achieving that.

And finally…

Before I sign off, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to a number of people who helped us on this journey to launching “new Hubble”. We definitely couldn’t have got this far without:

  • Our office providers and customers—who stuck by us, spent many hours speaking with us about their office plans, signed up to our beta products and gave incredible feedback.
  • The members of our team who, heartbreakingly, had to leave. We were lucky enough to build on the foundations you helped create..
  • Our existing investors—who, despite a very challenging environment, continued to back us.
  • And, of course, our team now—every single one of you has worked tirelessly over the past year, in times of uncertainty and massive change, to consistently outperform already ambitious targets.

Thank you to all of you.

You are helping us to build the future of work for everyone.

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