Popwork is one of those startups that almost took off but didn’t have enough gas in the tank. We first presented the self-declared “Tripadvisor For Workspaces” in 2017 and gave it the floor once again last summer – a few days before a somewhat unforesoon closure of the site – in our special Co-working report. The founder, Maxime, is one of those people with entrepreneurship in his veins. Despite Popwork’s failure, which took him several weeks to talk about over coffee, Maxime and his team were able to bounce back very quickly, in Luxembourg and elsewhere.
(Featured Image: Maxime Belair, CEO and co-founder of Popwork / Image Credit © Anna Katina)
Although Popwork has ceased its activity, Maxime Belair is now juggling new initiatives. Between startup Kalkin, specializing in 3D interactive tables, which he co-founded before Popwork, a job as digital strategy consultant at ROZO, and finalizing the business model for a new startup (keywords: virtual reality and physiotherapy), Maxime has his hands full. That’s all I can tell you today! In the meantime, let’s get back to the end of the Popwork story.
“We were forced to seek further funding in a very short period of time, but the deadline was too short.”
The Popwork adventure ended in the summer of 2018. Why?
We initially oriented Popwork as a platform for evaluating flexible workspaces. We had to modify our model to move towards a reservation platform because the evaluation alone, even if it interested users, was less relevant for workspaces. This change in model set us back by a significant amount in a very competitive sector.
However, we managed to get interesting bookings with several thousand euros and were operational in four countries with several hundred partner workspaces. Unfortunately, we were far from breaking even.
When we created the company, we had a strong investor. This was an obvious advantage at the launch but proved to be problematic when changing our model and team. We were forced to seek further funding in a very short period of time, but the deadline was too short. Our cash flow became problematic and we had to stop the company.
What was your reaction when you heard this news?
A great disappointment for the team, our partners, and myself. Time, energy and resources invested suddenly disappeared, as did the potential of an idea.
How did your team react? What happened to them?
There really is only one word: disappointed. They had added significant value to the project, and having to tell them “let’s stop” as we started to get results was very tricky. They all found a new challenge, for some in Luxembourg and for others it was an opportunity to start over elsewhere.
“Structuring and launch partners are essential. Too much dependence on others can be harmful quickly.”
Looking back, what did Popwork lack to last?
Greater and faster traction with a different B2B strategy. We should have developed a key account solution as a priority. We tried different acquisition approaches before obtaining the first satisfactory results. Shorter test cycles could also have helped us. We were in a market where the first purchase can take several months to close, and it was difficult to reach the target at the right time. This requires time that we just didn’t have.
What is your advice to entrepreneurs launching their startups?
I suppose I have a few remarks and some advice.
Structuring and launch partners are essential. It is tempting to focus on the idea and the acquisition of the means to implement it, but there is a delicate balance to be struck. Too much dependence on others can be harmful quickly.
Theories on customer acquisition in the startup ecosystem are very numerous and relevant. Finding what really works for your project, repeating the action, improving it and making it a process is a very complex challenge.
An improvement in the product is unlikely to generate more results if the acquisition channels are not already at a certain level of conversion.
Each person experiences the adventure of starting a business differently. My only advice is that if you fail, take the time to digest it while moving quickly to something else. Iterate quickly by taking the time to think.