Today I’m kickin it with Rob and Tashi, or “Rashi”, if you will. Rashi just started their own business. I wanted to talk to these guys because it’s interesting to hear from two people who are in the midst of starting something, rather than waiting until after their success. It’s a stage of the start up world (and the career world) that’s not really explored very often. So here they are, to tell you what ya need to know about starting out as:
So what are you guys doing?
Tashi: We are the co-founders of TwoSpace. Here’s our unedited elevator pitch: TwoSpace connects underutilised spaces with a community of entrepreneurs, creating unique spaces that help businesses start, connect and grow. We have partnered with restaurants that are shut during the day, turning them into an affordable network of cool and unconventional co-working spaces. We are based in Sydney, Australia, and are planning to expand to Melbourne, Singapore and maybe even Hong Kong by the end of the year.
Wait, what (™)!? So how does it work?
Rob: Basically, as an individual (a student, an entrepreneur) you can get a monthly TwoSpace membership, which gives you access to any of our locations to work from. In our spaces, you can work between 9am and 5pm, and we will give you free WiFi (thanks Optus/Obama). At 5pm, the restaurants need to start organising to open for service, but you can stick around if you want, and buy a drink or dinner. For our launch month, membership is free, and based on feedback we will determine the ongoing pricing structure. But our goal is to be the most affordable co-working space in the market.
Where did the idea for TwoSpace come from? How long have y’all been working on this?
Tashi: It was actually only about three months ago. We were catching up over dinner and reminiscing about the start up days, and spitballing ideas. We weren’t really searching for a genius idea, but TwoSpace came to us because it was something that ‘scratched our own itch’, so to speak. We both were looking for ways to work collaboratively and in an environment other than a standard office. Co-working spaces is an obvious answer. So why not use the unoccupied space that restaurants aren’t using in the day? That part of the idea came from a restaurant we used to hang out at in Singapore - which was a noodle stall during the day and pizzeria at night. We’re solving two problems with one solution - and it’s a good outcome for everyone involved.
Ok but once you had an IDEA, how did you actually turn it into something? You nuffies quit your jobs and everything!
Rob: First of all, we wouldn’t recommend you just quit your job once you have an idea - that’s crazy talk. What we did first was a bunch of due diligence on the idea, and we spent heaps of time networking on weekends and after work. I started building a website, Tashi was making connections and pitching the concept to people to get a feel for it. The game changer for us was when we got Optus Yes Lab on board as our key partner. Tashi met the Optus guys at a Hackathon and stayed in touch, and when we had the idea we got in touch and they loved it. That meant that we had a real launch date and people were counting on us, so we had to make it work! We also made sure that we had people who had signed up, and we had a restaurant partner for launch, so we knew we would have revenue coming in the door.
What advice would you give to people who want to start their own business? How do you even do this shit when you don’t have time and money?
Quit your bitching, losers. [Jk, that’s me, Nash speaking].
Suck it up and work nights or weekends or whenever you can - if you are passionate about something you must prioritise it.
If possible, find a partner, whether a co-founder or just someone else who is working on their own shit. When you work with someone else, you can hold each other accountable. Being surrounded by other like-minded people helps your creativity and also gives you access to resources.
Work towards small, achievable outcomes. Working 30 minutes a day is far better than doing nothing.
When you think about idea generation, think about ‘scratching your own itch’. What problem do you want to solve for YOU?
Listen to podcasts and read resources about other entrepreneurs and what they are doing. It’s surprising how much this kind of continued exposure can help you sustain momentum. One in particular that’s good is called TWISTA (This Week in Startups Australia).
Use cheap or free resources to build what you can - building a website on Squarespace is super cheap, and don’t underestimate the power of networking to help you connect with people who DO have resources.
What’s your background? How do you guys know each other?
Rob: I am originally from Sydney and I have a degree in software engineering. When I finished school I thought I would do something in software and music. I ended up working in IT within investment banking, which took me to Singapore, the Philippines, and then back to Sydney. When I was in Singapore I met some start up guys including Tashi, and started getting involved in some of their projects. Even though I hadn’t envisaged working in start ups, once I started getting involved I realised how much I enjoyed the flexibility, creativity, and ownership you get when working in start ups. After a year back in Sydney, I quit my desk job, started coding for a start up, and then started TwoSpace with Tashi.
Tashi: I am also originally from Sydney and I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering - that was the biggest mismatch on this earth. My Asian family obviously wanted the best for me and encouraged me to do something in the medical field, but I hated uni and that degree. When I finished studying I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I started working with my cousin at his start up in Singapore. I ended up working there full time. I came back to Sydney and got into consulting. I wasn’t good at it and I hated not being good at it. I started brainstorming with Rob and going to networking events to feel like I was doing something of substance of the side. When TwoSpace started to take off, I quit my consulting gig and now I’m living the dream (hopefully).
So when you finished school and uni, could you have anticipated that you would be working in this role or industry?
Never in a million years.
So now that you are living the dream (albeit in abject poverty), what does a typical day look like for you?
Rob: I get up at 5, and head to a work out from 6 - 7 with a fitness community called Evolution to Wellbeing (for Sydney peeps, check it out here). I then have breakfast with my girlfriend before she goes off to work. I come home, and work from home while doing chores (I Airbnb my place on the side). I’ll then head to cafes for meetings, or see some of my clients I do freelance work for on the side. It’s great not being locked to a desk all day, and being constantly on the move.
Tashi: I get up early as well, head to the gym and smash some weights. Then I shower and go to a cafe, alone, because I don’t have a girlfriend like Rob [Editor’s note: Tashi is tearing up at this point]. I catch up on a bunch of news - Tech Crunch, start up forums etc, and do some admin. I’ll then do meetings with our existing partners, potential new partners, maybe talk to journalists or go to start up events. Sometimes I will go and hang out with the freelance community and spend time learning about what they are looking for and what projects they are working on.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started down this road?
Tashi: The devil is in the detail… we probably underestimated just how much due diligence and fine detail we would have to go into to launch this thing properly. No matter how simple the idea, you have to set aside time for this kind of thing - developing legal agreements with restaurants, developing the T&Cs. Another thing to keep in mind when launching a new business venture is, you don’t know what you don’t know… so be as prepared as you possibly can, but factor in time for the unknown.
So what’s happening next for you guys?
We launch on October 10 this year. If you are interested to learn more or hear our updates, you can quickly register your info on our website: http://twospace.com.au/. If you have any ideas or feedback, especially about how to find Tashi a girlfriend, you can also email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org