Fiveoffices: Secrets Of Scaling A Successful SaaS

Carolyn Prestat, CEO of Fiveoffices (Photo © Pancake! photographie)

Carolyn Prestat is CEO of office booking platform Fiveoffices. She pinpoints the key factors that helped the SaaS explode over the past year. 

Founded in Luxembourg at the start of 2022 by Robert Glaesener and Daniel Schneider, the goal of SaaS Fiveoffices was to become the Airbnb for finding flexible office space. Remote working was driving a trend for optimised, flexible office space and with no direct competition, time was on their side. But the startup had to scale fast. “They always had Paris in mind,” recalled Prestat.

To expand into Paris, they needed local know-how and so reconnaissance of the French capital market began not long after the startup launched in Luxembourg. “You need to know what are the strategic places that will be important for your business, where will you find the offices that are in line with our DNA? And you cannot do it without being on site for months,” the CEO said. 

Paris exceeded all expectations, a phenomena that Prestat put down to the massive supply of empty offices and demand for flexible office solutions. 

“It is a market where offices are very difficult to find,” said Prestat, adding: “SMEs have a limited budget. So finding an office that has flexible conditions in the centre of Paris with a low price is impossible.” 

“SMEs have a limited budget. So finding an office that has flexible conditions in the centre of Paris with a low price is impossible.” 

Carolyn Prestat, Fiveoffices CEO

Fiveoffices scored its first Paris deals before the end of 2022. To continue growing in these two markets, the CEO stressed the importance of setting goals that challenge the team while being realistic. She said: “If you impose the targets on them, it doesn’t work. Of course, the management thinks about the target that they have in mind but then you set these goals with your team.” 

As well as good timing, Prestat also credits the SaaS’ success to a team that is familiar with the needs of the customers, “because they experienced the same problems. When you speak the same language, it’s easier to do business.”

At the time of publishing, Fiveoffices had more than 500 offices, of which 300 were in Paris. It is meanwhile expanding into the rest of France, a market which is growing organically, and by the end of 2023 it will open activities in London. Here average office occupancy rates are 32%, compared to 52% in Paris. “And London is ten times the size of Paris, so the opportunities are huge,” said Prestat. 

Another challenge startups face when scaling rapidly is bringing the team with them on the journey. Heading a team of 35, Prestat’s advice is to celebrate achievements. Every Monday she organises “hands-on meetings” to help the team reflect on their progress and the shared vision. 

She said: “You need to show them every day that you believe in them so that they believe in the management team and in you and in your vision. And you need to keep this momentum going as much as you can.”

Clear communication is essential and with two language cultures (French and English), this could have been challenging. However, since the start, Fiveoffices insisted on communicating in English. 

“Even if French is my first language, I always talk with the team in English,” Prestat said, adding: “It’s very important that the people understand one another.”

This article was originally published in the 2023 SaaS issue of Silicon Luxembourg.

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