‘Don’t be afraid to reposition your start-up’ Founders Thoughts, Yoann Demont
By Henna Mehta
Pop & Rest is a PropTech start-up specialising in innovative, tech-enabled solutions that get the most out of underutilised spaces. Working across commercial and residential spaces and transport hubs, Pop & Rest provide custom-built pods that can be utilised for sleep and meditation or as a quiet working space for professionals. As well as bespoke multi-use pods, the company offers consultancy services to help organisations redesign their breakout and wellness areas. Henna, Head of Beaumont Bailey’s Advisory Network, sat down with co-founder Yoann Demont to discuss Pop & Rest’s journey so far.
What has been the most exciting part of creating Pop & Rest?
Making things happen. I love the process and journey of going from an idea on paper to a fully functioning company. Watching a concept develop is fantastic; you can track your growth and progress and see how far you’ve come in a relatively short period. The fast-paced nature of the start-up world is so exciting. Helping property owners add value to their clients is another thing we’ve loved. With our pods, you’re able to see the positive impacts on staff and company culture. We hear first-hand accounts of improved wellbeing and productivity after using our products and services. It makes all the stress worth it!
What were the early challenges? What did you expect and not expect?
One of the biggest challenges for us was deciding when to hire staff. As more work starts to come in, it makes sense to consider recruiting new team members. However, I think it’s essential to be thinking long-term and not recruiting until you’re confident there will be a steady stream of work coming in to justify expanding. Don’t run before you can walk. As we started to scale, maintaining a high-quality customer experience was a challenge. More sites means more stakeholders and users to keep happy. We’re liaising with building reception staff, on-site security, cleaning teams, and landlords. Everything has to be working smoothly to ensure our customers get the best service.
Has it been hard breaking into the sector?
Overall it’s been a journey of finding the right product/market fit and, post-covid, we have discovered an appetite for what we are now offering, so it’s definitely gotten easier. However, we didn’t start as Pop & Rest. We just had this idea of using living spaces in unique ways, like utilising empty rooms as bedrooms for people who need a place to rest – a bit like an Airbnb scheme, where people advertise their spare rooms. We had some initial traction with this but ultimately ventured into the commercial sector instead, providing pod spaces for employees to rest, sleep, meditate or work. With remote working now being so popular, our pods offer an affordable alternative to hotel stays, especially for remote workers who might only travel into the city once a week and need a place to spend the night. We certainly see an interest from this demographic, and I think, as more creative hospitality solutions start to surface, we’ll find it’s easier to break into the sector.
What two things really transformed your business?
Accelerator programmes played a pivotal role in our growth. Having financial, strategic, and networking support helped us to develop. We were able to tap into a network of industry experts who could assist with the manufacturing and engineering of the pods, website development and support, and much more. I definitely feel these sorts of programmes or advisor networks are a great asset that start-ups should be utilising. I also think getting the right senior team is vital. Knowing what input you need and giving back to your leadership team will help you shape the long-term vision and growth. Find people who believe in your mission and bring them along for the journey.
What support do you think you’ll require to raise your Seed Round?
We’ll undoubtedly be utilising our networks and advisors to build out our product/market fit. Smart living solutions are pretty popular in Asia and America, so we know there is a market for our products and services. Now the task is finding our USP and securing a healthy share of that market. We’ll also be working on setting clear KPIs and steady month-on-month growth plans. The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed the way people live, work, and travel too. With 60% of our customer base consisting of travellers and tourists, we’ve certainly seen an impact. We’ll need to ensure our strategy meets the new needs and requirements of our customer base. We’re keen to work with our partners to profile the market and get a clearer picture.
What advice would you give to a new founder?
I’d recommend having some financial fall-back when starting your business. If you can go into this journey with some money already saved up or some external investment, you’ll find it’s extremely helpful in gaining momentum and broadening your horizon. If it’s viable, consider working part-time for a while before fully committing to building out your business. You can invest the extra income into your company and position yourself for success. I’d also say, don’t be afraid to reposition your company as you grow. Take feedback from internal and external partners, reshape your offering or approach if necessary. Always look for a way to improve or adapt your service. The start-up industry is so fast-paced that you have to be quick to meet the ever-changing needs of your consumer. I’d also tell young founders that success is not overnight. A while back, whenever I’d scroll on LinkedIn, I’d feel like I’d not achieved big things because you’re comparing yourself to people much further into their journey. I switched my mentality to realise that my time will come (I hope), and in the meantime, I should celebrate other people’s success while focusing on my vision. It sounds very cliché, but what changed the game for me was developing and following a specific process. Set clear goals and plans for your daily work, and stick to it.
Would you do anything differently if you could go back?
I’d want to go back and tell myself to enjoy the experience a little more! In those early days, I was constantly stressed or grumpy, worrying about finances or upcoming projects. As an early-stage founder, you have to wear so many hats, so you’re continuously jumping from one task or problem to the next. You’re also managing the expectations of your partners or investors, so you never really feel like you switch off. I wish I’d allowed myself to relax a bit more. That’s probably my best piece of advice for any early-stage founder – enjoy the ride!