Today, we are here with Guy Waslake, the Founder of Lavanda, a tech startup based in London. We wanted to ask and learn more about the business journey, the iterations they have made within their company, the tech tools they are using in their daily tasks, and so on…
They have quite the pivot story—lots of key insights for entrepreneurs and London based founders or tech people.
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Value to customers
Currently, Lavanda is a software platform that allows institutional landlords to access opportunities in the short term rental market. On the other side of this marketplace, they enable property managers to service the demand and manage those units to provide an amazing hospitality experience for their guests.
The core promise and the value proposition to an institutional landlord who is a client of Lavanda are about optimising the performance of their portfolio. In addition, they are enabling people to make analytical and data-driven decisions regarding their property.
What is an Institutional Landlord?
An institutional landlord is somebody who is doing this for commercial purposes. It’s not necessarily based on the number of properties they have. It could be someone with a small number of properties or an institution that has blocks of hundreds or portfolios, pension funds that might have tens or hundreds, thousands of units globally.
It doesn’t matter to us because the toolkit is fundamentally the same.
They launched the initiative in 2015, which was a “laundry business” back then. After shutting that down within a couple of months, they focused on property management initially with a team of 4-5 people. This was around mid-late 2015.
From there, they’ve now grown into this technology platform that they are today. At the beginning of the year, their team’s headcount was 24 and today, it’s 30, and they are planning on growing their team size more.
PropTech is a new field in technology. They’ve come to the property industry because there is a lot of opportunities. It is an industry that has not been digitalized, hasn’t been benefitted from technological innovation. Therefore, there is an exponential value to be gained and scope to innovate and expand. It’s stimulating and exciting because of the size of the market globally.
Pivoting a Startup
They started as a laundry business in 2015. They realized really quickly that everyone was using their laundry service through a short term rental operator or an Airbnb host.
At that point, the target of their business was switched to that need of customers when they studied that a little bit more short term rental market, there were lots more different dynamics included.
* The market was growing incredibly fast globally.
* A lot of the users were illegitimate. A lot of them were tenants who were illegibly subletting their properties on Airbnb. Also, the property managers are managing those units were not managing them in line with local regulations.
There was a bunch of things that were broken around the short term rental ecosystem. So they were able to see the opportunity to come in to address the structural problems in this ecosystem.
History of funding
They raised capital to grow the business and essentially find the product-market fit which they now have. They ran Series A funding and managed to raise $5M in August 2019. Before that, they raised $4M, which builds up to a total amount of $9M throughout the time.
With all the support of these fundings, they’re growing so fast that even expanding the business internationally at some pace, such as in South America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, etc.
What is best & worst about being a London startup?
Guy says that the talent pool in London is exceptional but is exceptionally competitive. So when it comes to winning the best talent, it comes down to funding. Having access to funding to pay market salaries and to engage the best talent is a massive challenge.
US investors’ appetite for risk is so much greater than the UK ones and their willingness to invest in early stages with a significant amount of capital. In the UK startup ecosystem, you have to fight really hard to win the talent because you are also competing with the US. Access to resources is a big challenge.
Decision Making Process
They have a team of 30 people. The core strategic decision making authority is kept within the senior management team is a very flat team, and there is no hierarchy. They are sitting together and make decisions as a process of consensus. This also helps them to bring out the benefit of various strong skillsets of the team members.
The but the culture of the business is the people – everyone in the team. So to that extent, they aim to build a business that is engaging, rewarding and understanding for all the employees.
They built a team that have shared values and a common understanding around the mission and the vision of the business. They get out of bed every morning to do something that they believe will have a fundamental impact.
The Startup Culture
Culture is super important in terms of engaging your people. When you are joining a startup business, everything is ambitious. You want to make sure that everyone joins that business because they are willing to commit their hard work and energy to build something out of nothing.
“I think it is only right that everyone gets a share of the upside that they create.” says Guy.
At Lavanda, everyone in the business has equity, and it is fundamental to their culture. By this, they are equally motivated to go that extra mile. Because, İf you are not willing to go that extra mile, you need to know that the odds are against you.
Key metrics to track
Lavanda London has several key metrics to monitoring and focusing on as a team. They have weekly team meetings where they share updates and the progress of the business. Each week different people stand up and delivers a different presentation. One of the most important priorities is to create a very flat and transparent community within the business.
“We work hard together, we win together, we celebrate together, and when we fail, we fail together.”
Lavanda’s core metric to track and analyze how the business is doing is based on the number of property units they have on their platform. It is the fundamental measure of market penetration.
Today they have over 10.000+ units and are working on a pipeline that includes 125K units. The market is huge as Germany has 9M of units, the US has more than 30m units, etc. So it looks like there is a lot of room to grow for Lavanda.
The tech solutions (SaaS library) they depend on
Tech tools are the building blocks of a company. They provide new and better solutions for unsolved problems and get you to the next stage. But, if you start to need to replace those and build your own solutions over time, that’s even better, says Guy.
I believe in platforms or solutions as a service. They are a key enabler of high growth early-stage businesses.
Lavanda is a massive user of SaaS tools. For example, they use Hubspot as a CRM tool for their sales pipeline. Also, Stripe is for payments they have been making. Guy says there is just too many to name.
Future goals & milestones
They closed a Series A round recently and working on getting ready for the Series B funding round. This would be Lavanda’s major milestone that is set for 2020. They are also focusing on international roll-out.
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Each week, we will be visiting a new startup office to meet with their team & founders. Stay tuned!