Creating a Startup Without any Outside Investment. andcards: an Application That Automates the Management of Coworking Spaces
andcards is a coworking space management software designed to increase workspace efficiency and improve members’ experience. The system offers tools for booking meeting rooms and desks, simple and direct communication, access control, billing, and other important tasks. The andcards team managed to achieve something incredible– building a product and a full-fledged company with almost no outside investment.
The team’s story began in 2017, when the two co-founders first met in Seoul, South Korea. Igor graduated with a masters degree in South Korea and began his career in corporate finance at POSCO. Meanwhile, Rostyslav graduated from Franko University in Lviv, Ukraine, and immediately received an offer for an engineering position at Samsung Electronics. The Ukrainian community of Seoul is quite active, often organizing various social events. The co-founders quickly became friends after meeting at one of these events, finding common interests and sharing values, and decided to pair up to work together on a new business idea.
During their initial brainstorming, one of the founders came up with the idea of an application that would replace the Contacts function on any mobile device used for professional work. Business people in Korea are still actively using printed business cards, even though the cards can easily be adapted to a digital format. Rostyslav and Igor created an application where users could update the position, phone number, and address of contacts at any time, and everyone in the user’s contact list would immediately see the changes. This app did not get sufficient traction, and, reflecting on past mistakes, Igor understood that products should not be created without broad user input. Every idea must go through the validation process and have more than trivial value for users.
While attending a startup conference, Igor and Rostyslav met a founder of a coworking space, who offered to integrate their application in his IT system after they made some improvements. Working at the coworking spaces, the andcards team observed inefficiencies in their operations that could have been solved with the help of modern software. The coworking industry is quite small, but it is growing rapidly and has a huge upside. If andcards could offer a quality product that would appeal to coworking operators and members, they could easily capture a large share of the market.
After the new andcards version was released, new customers immediately started to flock to the platform. At the end of 2019, about 15 coworking spaces were already using the new system. The team began getting requests from coworking spaces in different countries, 23 as of today. “We are even in Curacao! Who would have thought that there are coworking spaces there! ” — rejoices Igor.
Among the users of andcards there are many Ukrainian coworking spaces. One of these spaces is Kooperativ, which we covered briefly in our story on Preply. “Imagine a comfortable and stylish workspace that adapts to your needs and strives to surprise you wherever you are,” says Igor. “Coworking spaces are like these. This is the future of a cooperative workspace.” However, coworking also has some challenges. It is very difficult for residents to learn about the variety of additional services that a coworking space is providing. This problem is solved by the andcards software. It allows coworking spaces to take care of residents through a single application that bundles all products and services.
“We made just about every mistake a startup founder can make”- jokingly admits Igor Dzhebyan
For administrators, andcards serves as a coworking management system. The application is filled with various features that help automate conference room and desk bookings, communicate with residents of the coworking community, and offer additional services. In addition, the app allows administrators and community managers to be more productive and save time.
The application can be integrated with many other professional tools, including payment systems, data analytics, access control systems, visitor management, email marketing, Google Calendar, and thousands of other programs via Zapier. Additionally, andcards offers a new way of interacting with a coworking space for its residents. “We believe that in the era of software specialization, it is impossible to create an all-in-one application that meets the high expectations of consumers. We focus on what we do best, and use partner integrations to build the best overall product possible,” says Igor. From user behavior studies to frequent product updates, the andcards team is following a fast innovation cycle to make workspace residents more satisfied with the provided system. Their mobile applications are highly rated on the TrustPilot platform and meet the expectations of even the most demanding consumers.
“Even before the remote work trend became mainstream, we decided that we would work remotely.” andcards was inspired by GitLab, which has operated without a single physical workspace from the very beginning. “Working in large corporations requires a narrow focus and leads to a limited impact on the overall result of the company. This is the opposite of the vision we had for ourselves.” The opportunity to work from any country in the world was exactly the kind of freedom the andcards founders sought for themselves and their teammates.
All employees who are currently working on the product are Ukrainians. The company is open to hiring anyone with the right qualifications, however, and the company values are publicly shared in the company handbook. Among the personal qualities the company is looking for, college education does not play a prominent role; andcards is more interested in the person’s achievements, work results, and willingness to learn new skills. “It is no secret that in a startup, the main factor of success is a consistent drive. You always have to be hungry for new achievements,” says Igor.
Investments and Grants
Initially, the andcards team participated in competitions for state grants in order to test their product. Igor even moved to Chile at one point because the startup was invited to the Start-Up Chile program. Thanks to the program, the team received $70,000 to finance their R&D in 2019–2020.
One of the impressive things about andcards is that they required almost no outside funding. “We want to become highly efficient and self-sustaining as an independent company. Only then will we start looking for investors with the goal of growing even faster.” Thanks to grants and various incubation programs, andcards managed to do the impossible — develop a product and become a profitable company without any outside investment.
In 2019, andcards was recognized as one of the best coworking software solutions. The team’s biggest achievement of 2020, Igor says, is becoming profitable. The past year has been difficult for many businesses, with the ongoing pandemic affecting many startups. In spite of this, andcards continued to grow rapidly, finally turning out a profit. “More than 92% of the residents of our customers are fully satisfied with our application and rate their experience with five stars,” adds Igor.
“We’ve been using andcards in two of our coworking areas in Norway for almost two years now, and we are very happy. Their customer support responds almost instantly, and the team provides an excellent personalized service as well. I always recommend andcards to any coworking space or flexible office space,” says Sabine Larrieu-Hellestad of Blender Collective coworking space in Norway.
“Offering andcards is a step towards improving the experience of all our customers. The CitySpace app from andcards offers even more flexibility for new users who use the space only periodically. Thanks to various payment methods and a catalog of services, we can provide access to CitySpace to anyone who does not even have a signed contract with us, often travels, or is simply tired of working from home,” says Jakub Bawół, product and marketing manager of the largest coworking space network in Poland — CitySpace.
“Our vision is to turn andcards into the main coworking interface for all residents,” says Igor. “From discovering events, to booking workspaces, to using additional services without having to call or do anything manually — It’s a coworking space in a smartphone!” jokes Igor. One of the priorities of the company is to increase their presence in the United States and United Kingdom. While there is progress with the UK, more remains to be done with expanding in the US.
The Ucluster team hopes that you were inspired by andcards’ successes and can’t wait for new startup stories. We are working on bringing you more startup founder interviews, but in the meantime, visit the andcards blog and learn more about coworking and coworking management.