Getting a company from start-up to scale-up
At Digital & Agile we thrive off helping businesses with purpose to navigate and master the digital space. We’re especially passionate about start-ups, people who are taking a chance to follow their dreams for change, to reach their full potential.
One business with a BIG, let’s make a difference to society, purpose is The Room Xchange.
The Room Xchange is an online platform that connects busy, time poor households with guests who provide two hours of help around the house each day in xchange for food and accommodation. The VALUE to the host is they get more of their most valuable resource – time. More time to spend with their family, their personal fitness, a passion like painting or even a side hustle. The value to the guest is they not only massively reduce their cost of living, they can save around $20k a year, follow a dream, have new experiences and contribute to someone else’s life. It’s a massive WIN WIN and it’s changing the way people live.
We asked Ludwina Dautovic, founder and CEO of The Room Xchange, to share with us her story. Ludwina is passionate with years of experience and has a lot of learnings in the start up world. Here is a little insight into how The Room Xchange was conceived, how it’s going from start-up to scale up and Ludwina’s vision for the future.
- Please share your story
I began my career as a television and video producer 24 years ago, way back in the analogue days. (Remember VCR’s?) I moved through analogue and embraced the internet at the beginning of the digital era. Although I was 30 when I first used a computer, I fell in love with technology. I kept learning and embracing each digital change that came along. Fast forward 20 or so years, I became curious about investing in tech. I then invested in four tech companies’ and worked very closely with two of the CEO’s. During this time and after my eldest child had left home, I began organically sharing my spare with young travellers we knew and the concept of xchanging began. Three years in and about 5 guests later, multiple people started asking me where they could find an ‘Xchanger’ to help them around their house. My entrepreneurial radar fired off and after a chat with my husband we realised this idea could turn into a global platform. With all the experience I had over the past couple of decades and what I’d learned about the tech start up environment, it was a no brainer. Once we realised we could do this, we took some money from our house, I stopped my business consulting practice and put all of my time into building The Room Xchange. My husband supports the company by working away on his business, Atlas Electrical, which covers our living costs while I build this global empire!
- Why a technology play?
There have been many developments in tech, communication and globalisation that have facilitated the emergence of this economy (the sharing economy) including the mainstream acceptance of;
- Renting a product/service
- A peer-to-peer transaction in exchange for a product/service
- Collaborative consumption which divides the costs between individuals who are after the same product/service
- Trading of property or skillsets as an alternative to money
As the ‘social glue’of trust between strangers grows, so too has our courage in pushing traditional boundaries around the way we live and work and how we use tech as an accessible tool to outsource our needs. We are a business that aims to create a community of widespread access, opportunity and trust. It’s not just about the revenue.
- Why have you built the team you have around you?
I believe that you get the people you deserve and you also attract people around you who are like you. Apart from their extraordinary talent, this is my personal belief. After they’ve ticked off the talent requirements, we share a meal together and engage on a personal level. If that flows and is enjoyable then we’ll have fun in our working environment and that’s important to me. We spend a lot of time together, which creates our own micro-community and in turn, close friendships.
- Tell us about building a brand
The fact that I lived this way provided me with an origin story which has helped immensely in building the brand and having people understand what that brand is about. Our brand is very much an extension of me and the way I live. When there is see a cohesive link between the two, it’s easier to understand it. I also learned early on that our brand is about much more than giving busy, stressed people back their time and saving others money. It’s supporting our society through some deep social issues such as disconnection, loneliness, stress, high cost of living, limited childcare access and affordable housing. It goes even deeper. The practical outcomes that we see on the surface form a framework of trust, support, community, kindness, openness and sharing.
- What are the qualities you value in your team?
Team Culture is my culture gifted to them. What I mean by that is, how I live and share my life with my friends and family is how I want my team culture to be. I’m all about a hug, sharing food and sharing life. I see a big kitchen in my company building one day where we’ll brainstorm over home cooked food.
- What is important when finding a tech partner?
This has been the greatest challenge for me. I think it’s primarily because of my level of knowledge in the area along with the high cost attached with building the technology for this platform. Ongoing, it’s a costly part of the business and choosing the right developers is like choosing a life partner. Apart from the high level of skill, knowledge and being a developer who can also think creatively, they also have to be people you like to spend time with, as there’ll be a LOT of time spent together.
- What’s your 5-year vision?
In five years
- We’ll have a strong global network of micro communities sharing lives cross culturally
- Mobilise a tribe of millennials who will drive the Xchange Revolution
- Change the way millions of people are living globally by utilising resources that already exist –spare bedrooms
- What are your tips on getting investor ready?
If you plan on raising capital to fund your business, make sure every decision you make, has investors in mind. This will help you make the right decisions in terms of your company structure and building your data room. Think about your company in terms of how an investor would think about it. We can often get too close to the passion and mission and forget about important things like growth potential and costs. Also do some research on people in your industry who have successfully raised capital. What did they do, how did they prepare and what had they accomplished prior to their capital raise?
- Any advice for ambitious entrepreneurs?
One of my dear friends and advisor hammered this into me before I started The Room Xchange. He said ‘Ludwina, if you’re not willing to max your credit cards and mortgage your house, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur’. My takeaway on that was if you’re not willing to back yourself, don’t expect anyone else to back you and I’m not talking about sweat equity. Investors want to see if you have financial skin in the game too.
Also, get the right people around you who are experts in their field and constantly use that knowledge to help you make the right decisions. Having said that, if you’ve learned how to listen to and trust your gut instinct, then hone that skill, tap into it and then find a balance between the two.
- How has working with Digital and Agile helped grow The Room Xchange?
Making the decision to work with Digital and Agile was vital in the growth and development of the concept. I recognized that although marketing and digital have been my primary career skill set for many years, I needed to be a CEO and lead the company. Once Aisha jumped in, I was able to hover above my business and see it from that angle. Aisha enabled me to keep my focus at a high level which allows me to act quickly, be insightful and respond instead of react. But it’s much more than that. Aisha really took ownership of her role within the company which meant she was invested. That makes a massive difference.
Things change very quickly and you need to be able to move with the speed at which it changes. Working with someone who is agile and can adjust to change is vitally important. Your company will go through various stages and having a team who understands that can give you the flexibility you need to grow it.
Thanks so much for Ludwina for sharing.
If you’re an entrepreneur about to tackle the digital start-up space we hope that these key takeaways and insights inspire you to stride forward.
If you think your business is one with purpose and has the potential to grow into something meaningful and commercial, please reach out firstname.lastname@example.org