Ep. 14: INTERVIEW - Dave Idell on building Croissant, a flexible coworking company competing with giants.

 
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Dave Idell on building Croissant | Idea to Startup Podcast Episode 14 transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

Dave Idell on building Croissant | Idea to Startup Podcast Episode 14 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

Brian Scordato:
Hello, I'm Brian Scordato and this is the Idea to Startup podcast brought to you by Tacklebox, the accelerator program for founders with full time jobs. Today, we chatted with Dave Idell, the founder of Croissant. Croissant is an incredibly interesting company and our conversation becomes even more relevant with WeWork announcing its financials leading up to their IPO the other day. Croissant's a flexible co-working space that actually has the type of community WeWork, claims they do. They've got a clever tech solution to a difficult problem allowing you to have one membership that gives you access to thousands of locations to work.

Brian Scordato:
Dave and I dig into the early days of the company figuring out where to focus, growing in a counter-intuitive way by purposefully ignoring a ton of advice from investors and his thoughts on where idea stage founders should focus. It was a fun chat, and I hope you enjoy it. And if you need flexible workspace in New York, Atlanta, Austin, Barcelona or a ton of other cities. Check out getcroissant.com. Have a great week.

Brian Scordato:
Thank you, Dave, for stopping by. And for folks who don't know what is Croissant.

Dave Idell:
So Croissant is an app that lets you easily access workspaces all around the world, actually. But most people use it in their own city. But yeah, you could easily access any workspace on the go instantly and by the minute, it's very quick.

Brian Scordato:
So a lot of our founders from Tacklebox have used Croissant and love it. I am curious as to how it started. I'd love to hear the origin story like where the initial idea came from, how you started testing it. All that good stuff.

Dave Idell:
Basically, it started out of a need that we had. So we were working on a completely different startup idea actually in early 2015. And um me and my co-founders would meet up and work on it at these different coffee shops around New York. It was always really tough. We'd always like fight for seats and like we didn't really have a place to meet. And we actually looked at WeWork, which is where we're sitting right now. I considered buying a membership and I just didn't want to spend a couple hundred bucks ahead for something that we would use like once or twice a month. It just didn't seem like what we wanted to do. And so, yeah, we just keep working on this idea and like one day we're just sitting there like, why isn't it really easy to just like hop into any one of these buildings all around us? It's like all these empty buildings, they're not empty, but like they have space and we're stuck running around. It didn't seem right. Something was off.

Dave Idell:
And so that's kind of what sparked the idea and we didn't do anything with this idea, which kind of sat on it for several months, and then finally we went to the Tech Crunch Hackathon that they have every year or they used to have every year in the Manhattan Center. And we prototyped an app for holding a seat at a coffee shop. So that was the original idea. Yeah. The whole idea was to place these beacons in the coffee shop and it would triangle your position. And yeah, as this whole thing it was a Hackathon project. Yeah. And we thought was a cool idea so we prototyped that. It'd triangulate your position and then you would check in with the app and you would pay for however long you're there and you can order stuff to your seat. And so that was the initial idea and presented it onstage at the Hackathon. That's what they do there. Everyone has like 60 seconds to pitch their idea. There's no real prize or anything. But that kind of was a prize because they selected a couple of startups to write about in Tech Crunch.

Brian Scordato:
Oh, wow.

Dave Idell:
So they every like half an hour they put out a new article, like the writers are just sitting there pumping out articles. And then we got picked up from one of the articles and it got blown up on Twitter. And it just yet received a good response on social media. People were like reaching out to us. I was like, whoa, like people actually like this idea as opposed to the other thing we're working on. And we were like Ok, so there's some market validation and it was kind of at that moment that we're like, maybe we should like work on this full time, as opposed the other thing. So that's when we started to play around the idea and we were talking to a couple different coffee shops to see if they would like pilot it with us. And none of them did. They were like "what the hell is this thing?" like "I don't want this thing?

Dave Idell:
So that was what happened. And we're just kind of walking around New York one day and thought what can we do to move this thing forward? And, you know, we ran we decided to walk into The Yard, which is a co-working space, they have a couple of locations here in New York. There were also new at the time. I don't remember how many locations they had. But we talked to someone there and they ran it up the chain and the CEO was interested and he'd signed off on it. He was like "let's try it out". And that was like our first location. And then we quickly got a couple more locations, because the reason it works so much better for the coworking space, than the coffee shop is because the business model for the coworking space is already in place, they could just plug in Croissant, it just made more sense.

Dave Idell:
So that's that's kind of how it all got started. We just like randomly tried it. And they said yes. And we quickly iterated on an app over the next month and just launched it very barebones: check-in check-out app. In summer 2015. And then we started promoting it on .com actually. But then, yeah, word started to spread and people started to sign up and actually use it. And that was kind of crazy to us. Very cool. Yeah, but the first time we actually like to start to get real traction was several months later, like four or five months later, we got into Forbes. We applied to this guy. Andrew Weiner might have heard of him. He had this Forbes contributor licen se of some sort and we applied and we got in and he made an article about us. And that fueled our SCO for the next like six months. So if it wasn't for that I don't know what would happen? But that that was kind of our source of growth.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool.

Dave Idell:
Yeah.

Brian Scordato:
So I have a couple of questions. First, so that initial team, you're saying "we". So who was on that team? And what we're your skill sets, what was the background?

Dave Idell:
Yeah. So I mean, at the time there were four of us. I had a tech background, three others . So, you know, it was me tech. Another tech, one of them had sales background. Neisha has designed background. Two of them aren't with the team anymore. But right now, it's the active founders are our manager. The initial background was just a well-rounded group of tech and like partnerships, sales, kind of.

Brian Scordato:
Very Cool. And did you each have full time jobs at this point or had you kind of jumped in on the previous startup?

Dave Idell:
No, I quit my job a year earlier. Like I was telling you before we started, I used to work as a programmer. I did that for several years before that I did do some entrepreneurial stuff, but it didn't really go anywhere. I got a job, worked for a while, saved up a bunch of money and just quit that. I know most people can't do that, but I saved money and I knew that with my skill set, I could always just get another job if things went south. And so. Yeah. Don't try this at home. I got lucky and that this idea came upon us. I don't know. Yeah, I guess if it didn't happen, it would just get another job or something. I was kind of running low for a while.

Brian Scordato:
Next question was around something that our founders had to deal with a lot where it's like "I have an idea for a marketplace". They're an established business. So in your case, it was in the coffee shops and then it was The Yard. But you've got really nothing to pitch them. The coffee shops it sounds like didn't go well. I'd be curious to hear what you pitched them and then what you pitch The Yard and what that sort of looked like.

Dave Idell:
The pitch to the coffee shop was...when you enter a coffee shop they're packed with people on their laptop who are buying like one coffee, one black coffee every five hours, you know, not like profitable for them. So we thought it'd be a win-win if like, OK, let's say you have a paid section so people will feel bad about being on their laptop and also you make some extra money from it. But at the end of the day, we didn't pitch a lot. We only had like 5 or so, but they're just like, oh, we don't want to divide up our coffee shop into a paid area and a non-paid area. They just didn't want to do it.

Brian Scordato:
Sure.

Dave Idell:
I can see why, I know it's kind of a great thing to do.

Brian Scordato:
No I totally get it. It's a tricky thing and we've had pitches for that sort of thing. It's tricky. So how did the conversation with The Yard go?

Dave Idell:
Well, that made much more sense for them because they already have a common area and it's already a paid thing. So it's like, OK. Why not try this thing? So it just clicked. We didn't really put too much thought into it, just like, "oh, I guess it would make sense" if it is like I did it.

Brian Scordato:
Was there like a specific pilot set or were they just like, let's give it a shot, man? And then eventually it turned into a contract or whatever?

Dave Idell:
Yeah, we put together a very basic proposal. We didn't sign anything actually. It was kind of like a handshake agreement based on a proposal that we sent them.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool. And they were new as well so they were sort of trying to figure out how to get stuff going.

Dave Idell:
I actually now that I think about it. They weren't new because I read that they'd been around for a long time since at least 2012, 2013, that I could be wrong, maybe even earlier. I don't know. This is in 2015. So they've been around for about it, but nothing like us existed yet. Yeah. So we were, it is a very novel idea. Like if you do that nowadays they'd be like "yeah, I don't know". But back in the day. It was weird that this hadn't thought of yet.

Brian Scordato:
So you mentioned then you got the article which drove SEO. What was the messaging that resonated with people and what were you, what were sort of like the early call to action for them to do or join ?

Dave Idell:
Well, we had one package. No, we had to two packages. We had full time for $299 and then part time for $99. Before we had roll, we have roll over nowadays. This was back in the day where real hard technology was invented. So those are like basically the two packages that you could buy. There wasn't anything special about the messaging. We just kind of told our story in this article. It's like this is what it is. It's kind of cool. It's new. And I guess that was good. It got people to the website and we just had a very simple click here to buy.

Dave Idell:
We had good mentorship too. The whole time that this was happening we were at an accelerator called Co-found Harlem, started by a guy named John Henry. It's pretty prominent nowadays. He's doing his thing on Vice now. But back in that day, he was starting this accelerator shortly after he sold his company. So he was kind of acting as a mentor. So him and his buddies were also helping us figure out the call to action and variables on the site to sell, you know?

Brian Scordato:
Yeah.

Dave Idell:
So that that mixed with the article.

Brian Scordato:
And it's, it's just one of those things that I remember. I distinctly remember the first time I heard about it and it was probably 2015. And I'm in this world where it was like it was just a really good first of all. The name stuck with me because I remember hearing the story very quickly. The first thing I heard that there was a story that the founder had to buy Croissant's every once and a while because he felt bad from working, working from the coffee shop, which...

Dave Idell:
Well Neisha came up with the name. She just randomly came up with it. And I mean, it was based on that experience of buying coffees and croissants at the coffee shop. We were sitting there at the Hackathon and like, "what should we call this thing?". And we were just like sitting there for like a minute, not saying anything. And then randomly and you should blurt it out just like "Croissant!". I was like, "Boom. That's awesome!". I was like, "that is freaking amazing." That is like the best name ever.

Brian Scordato:
Yeah.

Dave Idell:
And people told us like, oh, you should change your name to be more recognizable, like desk, DeskBooker and stuff like people seriously over the years, like. I don't really get this anymore but. like the first like two years people strongly recommended changing the name and I was like, "no, not going to happen".

Brian Scordato:
That's so funny. Because I remember hearing everything about it felt different than the way that other co-working spaces were sort of popping up, like trying to call for more attention. I thought that was interesting. I do want to talk about that. So early on, what were the thoughts on differentiation? Or I know now you've got a great focus on community. Was that something that was focus or a priority early on?

Dave Idell:
Well, we made a community message board early on. I don't know if community is the main focus. I just wanted to get people into spaces as easily as possible whenever they want to. That's really the focus. And community kind of comes with that. But I mean, I'm not like trying to act like I'm some sort of community God, you know. I'm like, I'm trying to make this thing as awesome as possible. And then when you make something cool, like generally community will form around it. That's kind of happened a little bit.

Dave Idell:
In the beginning we didn't really think of it that way. It was like, "oh, let's just make this thing work". That was it, let's just get spaces to come on board and let's make the app, keep adding features like we have in a feature for adding your guests and everything. And yeah, we keep hearing what people want on both sides of the equation, the spaces and the customers and just keep building and keep pushing out there through articles or bloggers or however else we can get it out there. And that's really all we thought about. We didn't build the community message board that we had about six months in, I would say, based on people like wanting that kind of thing.

Dave Idell:
To this day though we really don't really have a structure on our community. We've always just kind of let it go. Like people can form their own groups if they want to. We actually for a while had a feature where we had these little meet-ups to call them are like co-working sessions where you can book a seat alongside someone else and invite people to your whole. This is crazy feature that I made, but it didn't really take off. So we turned it off for now. We'll bring it back in the future. But for now, we just focus on other features. That, that's we've experimented there.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool. I have a question about focus. So early on it can get challenging to figure out what to prioritize and what to work on. What were the things during those first six months that you were like we need to nail X, Y and Z. We need to not think about other things. Was that sort of...

Dave Idell:
Yeah. No, that is a good point. I did have to think about what to work on. I'm trying to think how I did that. I really.. I still don't know. We just kind of made a list of everything that could be worked on. So we had like Asana and just made a list of everything and we kind of prioritized it as a team. We just looked at the list and moved things up and down and in the say over the next week, we didn't set timelines, but we're just like, let's just do this next. And then once that was done, let's do this next goal. So it's kind of like a gut feeling what we should do next.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool. Were there any metrics early on in terms of like what what were the things you were trying to push forward?

Dave Idell:
No, we didn't really track any metrics out for the first year. So we had we applied. We got into 500 start ups about a year into it and that's when we were introduced to the concept of metrics. I just wanted to get this thing working for like the first year I'd say.

Brian Scordato:
Nice. Did you have, did you work with Elizabeth anything?

Dave Idell:
I've met her, but I didn't work with her. Yeah.

Brian Scordato:
She's on the pod, she came on the podcast, with a Hustle, she's doing HustleFund. So we talked about that stuff.

Dave Idell:
I just know I would read her blog I think when I was there.

Brian Scordato:
Nice! That was my.....We spoke about her prioritization and she was like, I'm not sure she's got a lot of things going on. I was like you should prioritize your blog because it's freaking awesome and everyone reads it. So cool. So I'm curious about you mentioned the pricing models off hand. But how did you come up with those prices. Pricing is tough. How did you come up with that?

Dave Idell:
Yeah, I think the first time when we first launched it was $299 for unlimited.

Brian Scordato:
So how many spaces did you have then?

Dave Idell:
Like three? Well, yeah, we were like three to ten. Yeah. We weren't really growing fast. We were just kind of like haphazardly getting new spaces whenever we could. And this kind of focusing on just like coding and designing rather than like trying to like grow numbers or anything like that. But yeah, the first price was just like $299 for unlimited use and we still offer that actually today we just don't advertise it. Yeah. That got some traction actually. And then randomly we were like I don't think people want to pay that much. So we introduced a $99 package. And we were like ok, so how do we...so what do we give them? So that's why we introduced the concept of like hours. So you get like 40 hours for the ninety nine package. And then and then it's another. So that was like two months in and I'm like another six months later I think we introduced the $39 ten hour package and then somewhere along the way we got rid of the $299.

Dave Idell:
So I guess the question is why we did all this, it was all just random. I mean, we've changed the pricing a few times, actually. But I mean, you're always going to get pushback. I think what I've heard is you should get some pushback because that means you're charging enough. If you don't get a pushback on pricing, then you're not charging enough. So you get pushback on both sides, actually, on like how much we're charging and how much we're paying out. So the spaces,like, if we get a little bit of pushback I think it's a good place to be. That's just the advice I've heard and I've just been applying that and I think it's working. So I haven't felt the need to do more experimented lately because I think we have the right amount of "it's too expensive" feedback. Not too much, but a little bit. So it's. Yeah.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool. And that brings up another point that I wanted to touch on. From a feedback perspective, what is that? What's your feedback loop with your end users look like?

Dave Idell:
The folks having to pay? Yeah. So we use Intercom to auto message people. So everyone who signs up gets a message automatically from someone on our team. And then they respond we will respond back. So then yeah, a lot of times we'll ask for feedback in those messages and we'll keep that in like a airtable or a spreadsheet or something. What we do with that feedback, I mean, we keep an eye on it like because it's tons of feedback. You can't possibly act on all of it. So we try to look for the patterns and we don't like Score it or anything, but like our gut tells us, like what to work on next based on patterns that they're seeing. But yeah, in terms of the messages. Yeah. It's like after you sign up, an hour after you sign up, you get an email from Georgette our head of community or someone else that says, "how did you hear about us?" or something or another message might be "how's your experience so far?" depending on if they use it or not. So we have different triggers.

Dave Idell:
Yeah. Like you can set tags, um I don't know if you know about Intercom, but you can set tags for different triggers. So in our database we set triggerd, we tag the people in intercom and that's what prompts those messages to go out. That's pretty much our entire feedback about say. And then on the partner end of things and the other side of the marketplace, we don't have automated emails. But I mean, every partner does go through an onboarding process with our partnerships. So she has a call with them to maintain a relationship. In some cases I have some older relationships with the partners and they give me feedback all the time and I'm trying to quickly incorporate it but it's a lot of work.

Brian Scordato:
That brings up a good point. I think that a lot of our founders are hesitant to set up a system like that with intercom. You can set that up if you have one employee or no employees and a hundred customers, not necessarily creating everything automated, but having a system to start that process. I think a lot of, I think we have some founders who are worried that they will annoy their customers sending a message or something like that. Have you found that.

Dave Idell:
I guess it depends on the product. Like if I sign up for like Instagram and I have someone from the Instagram tag me, I wouldn't want that. But I feel like depending on the product, if they sense to be helped out, handholding, because we're kind of not really, like in a B2C maybe not B2B. So we're kind of like on the line between B2C and B2B So that's, we do it like a little bit. But a B2B company would probably do it a lot. There's like a whole like sales person there, like integration, onboarding person, then an ongoing support dedicated person, we don't do that. But we like, our support team is responsive. But yeah, those automated e-mails are kind of like a light version of a B2B handholding situation.

Brian Scordato:
Very Cool. I love the setup of your company because you've got so many things going, but it sounds like the systematize them. So back to those early days, were there ever. What were the signs that it was working? And were there any times where you were like, "I don't think it's working".

Dave Idell:
I got more thoughts like that nowadays..

Brian Scordato:
Really?

Dave Idell:
In the beginning I was like "oh this is going to work, this is the best idea ever". That was like before all the like, because like the bigger it gets, the more shit happens. And it just I start to call into question, "oh man. Should this even exist?". Like the shit that like people stealing stuff like, oh my god, like all sorts of shit happens like.

Brian Scordato:
Yeah, that's what I was afraid of because you have like B2B, B2C and then like you have people.

Dave Idell:
Well the B2B and B2C is like this like I'm just saying we kind of toe the line. But at the end of the day it's kind of the same experience for everyone.

Brian Scordato:
Oh yeah. But you've got, you've got to deal with relationships and businesses and with...

Dave Idell:
Yeah the partnerships are crazy. Yeah. So we try to systemize that as much as possible. That's taken a lot of work to figure out how to systemize that, ah man. So much pain. But we got a pretty good system now. We'll probably have to drastically change it to grow. Right. Right now we're at around 600, a little over 600 partnerships. So how to if we want to double that again, that's going to probably change some things. Yeah.

Brian Scordato:
What was the most interesting or fun part of the first year and a half?

Dave Idell:
Well, it's just like weird because, like, we were really focused on numbers, just like building whatever we felt like and not like focusing on anything else. So that's kind of my dream like this. Always like start a startup and just like be able to do what I wanted and like, could. But I guess eventually reality sets in and you have to like actually if you're gonna make a business, you would like to be a business person. So I kind of make that mental shift.

Brian Scordato:
Yeah, that's a tough one. We've had founders who like take, I don't know if you've ever read the book, The E-Myth.

Dave Idell:
I think I read that actually. Yeah I did read that.

Brian Scordato:
It's a great, it's sort of the whole premise in the beginning is the example of a woman who opens up like the bakery and then she hates baking pies. But it's like she use to love baking pies and then she opens up a shop to day five because she hates it, because everything else that takes precedence over baking pies.

Dave Idell:
Yes, that's what happened now. That's why I call into question them like another show. I have to do all the shit now besides what I set out to do so. But it's still fun. It's still like thrilling and all that. It's like it's great. But like, it's just not what I expected.

Brian Scordato:
And we heard that from a number of founders. Who as they ramp up, it just gets harder and more stressful and there are more questions. But you should still start your startup.

Dave Idell:
Still follow your dream. It's definitely worth it. Like I wouldn't change anything. Like everything. Looking back, I really have like no regrets. I was thinking about coming into this interview is like asking if I could change anything. I don't think I would like to think it like because I mean, I did the best I could at the time, given what I know. So, yeah, I know.

Brian Scordato:
That's a good answer. And I was going to ask.

Dave Idell:
I think I saw it in the show notes.

Brian Scordato:
So. And you should read the book The E Myth. It's actually really, really good. So I think there's there's an interesting shift here or I'm guessing there might be from early stage where you had 3 up to 10 locations to like now. This seems like a pretty I want to use the term franchise, but you're in a bunch of cities. Was there an inflection point where you were like, all right, we need to get this in a different way? And what was that? And how do you think about it?

Dave Idell:
Yeah. When we were first starting out. Everyone told us, you need to just focus on one city and get it big before you can do all of these other things.

Brian Scordato:
So whose everyone? So you went through. Sounds like.

Dave Idell:
I mean, everyone as in like, you know, we we went to start events and talked to mentor or met other startup people over the years. So that that that's what I mean by like, you know, I would meet other people in these settings and talk about what I'm working on. Give me advice. I guess it doesn't happen anymore. They use to shovel advice on me but it doesn't really happening more now. It's like, "oh, you did it".

Brian Scordato:
So what do you think about that? I have my own thoughts on that. But what do you think about the advice that early stage founders get during those early days from folks who spent a few minutes with them?

Dave Idell:
A lot of it's wrong. Yeah. Yeah. Because of the advice for focusing on one city at a time, I think is best for a startup that has like 50 million in funding. If you're not at that level, I don't think you've played that game. You can't like mass market in one city. I think if you don't have that setup thing, you have to do something completely different if to change the game. So for us, changing the game meant just going, wide quickly? And that's kind of what we settled upon doing.

Dave Idell:
Just like, you know, we're not going to get anywhere any time soon if we just keep focusing on New York. So we as soon as we got out there to San Francisco for 500 start ups, we immediately started looking for partners and we launched on prime time. We kind of relaunched. We get we actually got hunted like a month in unexpectedly. So that was kind of weird. That was in 2015 and 2016, we intentionally got hunted again. When we launched in San Francisco we kind of redesigned it a little bit. So it's more of a second launch.

Brian Scordato:
So you grew San Francisco and then. Well, I guess so.

Dave Idell:
Actually, you have that prior to launch, we emailed, like pretty much everyone we know. And then that got the word out. And then it actually I think we hit number one spot and then that's when things that's when the stress level started to go and that's when things started to move quicker in the business because more people heard about us.

Brian Scordato:
Cool. So I always thinking about growth in terms of like horizontal and vertical. It wasn't necessarily so like actually it's a little counter-intuitive in this case and the pregnant around, but it would be if you stayed in New York, you'd have to grow horizontal across different subsets of customers to get everybody versus if you went to other cities, you'd stick with this niche of customer and understood just in a different place.

Dave Idell:
Well, it's not all about the numbers. It's also about learning how to expand. Just expanding for the sake of expanding could be valuable. On the surface, it could look like a bad idea because it doesn't look like you know what you're doing. But just by forcing yourself out there out of your comfort zone, expanding forces to kind of to figure out how to really get at it. Because we've invested all that time into it.

Brian Scordato:
Really interesting.

Dave Idell:
Had we just not done that and just focus on New York for like two, three years. Like, I don't know if it would've worked out as well. I am pretty sure it wouldn't. I mean, I don't know, it's all speculation.

Brian Scordato:
That's really interesting. So how does it look like when you spread to a new city.

Dave Idell:
I mean, it's always different. Sometimes we'll visit a city like in San Francisco, we visited and had partners. In some cases we'll hire basically freelancers to do it for us. That's kind of what we do nowadays. Once we have traction in city because we get a lot of inbound requests that kind of join the network. We used to kind of turn them away, but now we don't. Now we're just kind of onboard them. So if we get like two, three partners in one city that came on board. Okay. And there's some interests in the city that's kind of like what happened with Barcelona, for example. Like we got two, three, four or five. And then I reached out and then really. Okay. So we brought on someone on the ground who would help us talk to these faces.

Brian Scordato:
Cool. So. And then they had like full time or?

Dave Idell:
Nah, just part time coding. Just pay them per project. You're like, oh, can you do X, Y, Z for us and we'll pay this much and they do it. We have an ongoing relationship with a lot of our part time freelancer.

Brian Scordato:
So how many cities are in and how many full time employees do you have?

Dave Idell:
So right now we are in at least 80 cities. So, yeah, I mean, if you consider we're in them because a lot of those is just like one random partner that like Tokyo, we have one partner that just reached out. Can we list them, OK. So now we have a partner in Toyko, you may get a job somewhere down there.

Brian Scordato:
Then how many full time employees, I'm just curious.

Dave Idell:
Oh, yeah, full-timers, there is about five.

Brian Scordato:
That's amazing. Yeah.

Dave Idell:
We have a lot of part-timers though. We have like 30. Yeah.

Brian Scordato:
So I'm interested in that. And we were talking before the teams distributed so you don't have a central office.

Dave Idell:
The full timers are in New York. Well, one full timer. He's kind of offshore full time or he's in Ecuador. But the other four of us are in New York. So we still meet up sometimes, but we're generally see each other once a month. I don't know if that's recommended. We're just like really like techie people say, like you're good with like Slack and Skype. And I'm like, we just use these tools really well. You know, for a non-technical founder, maybe that's not possible for like ultra nerds like us it works.

Brian Scordato:
And um any lessons learned or tips for managing that big of a part time employee base?

Dave Idell:
I'm still figuring it out. I mean, you've got to be ruthless with your time. It can easily become just random little administrative tasks to take up all your time. So we have one thing we did look to streamline how we budget the projects that we're offering to our freelancers. Before it's kind of like we go back and forth a million times in each one over every little thing. And once we standardize that, that cut down on the workload. So that stuff like that. I think it's it's how you do it. Also how you communicate like you should not be haphazardly going back and forth chatting about random little things because that could quickly pull you into taking up all your time and really hurt productivity so you kind of have to communicate in a very turse way unfortunately but it works.

Dave Idell:
I mean, if you communicate very... you can't you can't talk like how we're talking right now. You have to be like very kind of to the point if you're gonna be working with this size team remotely with ours. Maybe for like a larger organization, you have more like middle managers maybe don't have to be that for our team we are pretty small and we're trying to do something big. So we have to be very smart about how we communicate and I don't mean communicate as in check in with each other. I think a lot of teams do a little checkin thing and like stand up. We don't do like stand up or any like check ins.

Dave Idell:
We do like a weekly like strategy call, but that's it pretty much. We don't talk to each other. Actually, most of the time, yeah. If they ping me for something like they need this, they can't figure out how to do that. Yeah. And let people ping each other but like. Yeah, I think we're like more productive since we're remote because there's less back and forth. It's like you'd have to like an office. I think going to get right to the point and we're all like passionate about working on this thing and we're perfectly happy the way it is. We just work on it. And it's like awesome. And yet we don't really feel the need to feel like a work cooler chat ya know. That's just how it works.

Brian Scordato:
That's great.

Dave Idell:
We do a book club, though, once a month we do a book club.

Brian Scordato:
What was the best in the last year.

Dave Idell:
It's on, we put them on our Web site. So like I said, I liked this one. What was it called? "When I stop talking, you'll know I'm dead". It was about, oh, what's his name? He was like a promoter in Hollywood. He just kind of told stories from his life and it's kind of cool. Cool book.

Brian Scordato:
Very cool. Nice, I'll check it out. Cool. So I guess the next question is around fundraising and funding in general. What is your perspective on raising funding and how much effort have you guys put into it and that sort of thing?

Dave Idell:
Yeah, we're you know, we're looking at another funding event, hopefully. So I believe that it's a good thing to do. I know a lot of people are against it, but I think it's it's nothing wrong with it if it makes sense and you want to grow something big. I think it makes total sense.I mean it would be nice to have the billions that we were eyeing up, but we haven't quite reached that. I don't think we'd want that much, but yeah, you have to get some money.

Brian Scordato:
And that actually transitions perfectly in my next category, which was competition. And so how do you think about? I get e-mails constantly from new co-working spaces, new like everything from the WeWork model to more niche co-working spaces based on industry or whatever else, to spacious cattle space, those sorts of guys. From my outside perspective, ad I don't know if this is right wholly anecdotal, but it seems like you guys are very much like you have a very clear niche that it is like that you go to Croissant if you're this type of person. I think that that kind of blows my mind because I don't think that a lot of the others have that. So how do you think about competition?

Dave Idell:
That's a complicated question.

Brian Scordato:
Are those even competitors to you?

Dave Idell:
You could say they are in New York? There's competitors in every city. So, yeah, I mean, there are people doing similar apps out there. I think we've been successful because going back to the name, it's very memorable. It sticks. It's an interesting I think we've been successful because of our branding is very unique, whereas most of these other apps are very like information, all like this is a desk acquisition. So all the other apps are exactly like that. And there's really no one with like interesting branding like we have. And that's, I think, the biggest reason that I stand now.

Dave Idell:
And then aside from now, we also kind of differentiate by having this check in and check out system. It's something most perfect system is kind of wonky in some ways. It's it's a weird, but it's not like, you know, because usually these other sites are like listing sites where you can buy a day pass. It's more like one off purchases. Whereas with us it's like a whole system, kind of Apple vs. IBM, like we have like the end to end system that you're part of this day in that system. So it's opinionated. And I think since you're the first one and like the biggest ones to do it, we've been able to stand out. Like if someone were to do that exact same thing. Yeah, I think they have trouble. But yeah, I don't think anyone else that's like doing the same exact like kind of end to end check in and checkout system so far. So up until now, yeah, I think we've been successful because no one else is really doing that same exact thing.

Brian Scordato:
Yeah. So from an outside perspective I totally agree and I see it as like this Venn diagram between the unique tech ecosystem that sort of is all inclusive and that the brand side. And the last piece is, I'll give a quote from one of our alumni who mentioned Croissant, I'm going to embarrass you, but I mentioned Croissant. I think I mentioned to her that I was doing this interview and she sent in an email or forwarded one of the newsletters you guys sent out that said "Croissant is frustratingly good at this. How do they do this?" And what she meant was, how are, how do they speak like such a good voice directly to their customer when you're the size that you are? It's really impressive.

Dave Idell:
I didn't even think that we did that. All right. I'm actually like, that's interesting. I mean, like, basically, the newsletter is created by our community, head of community, Georgette. She's like super creative as well as our co-founder Neisha. She's also, she's the brains behind the concepts that we've done different concepts over the years from the newsletter. But the latest one, it's kind of concocted by Neisha and perfected by Georgette. And they're just really creative people like I can't do it. I mean, I kind of like give my input here and there, but like, that's all that cool.

Brian Scordato:
So I do think it's interesting because it's at it's core of the transactional service. Did you do incredibly well? But you also humanize it a really nice way.

Dave Idell:
Yeah. So I think that branding is why we stand out. So we kind of lean into that branding because it's like I've always loved it. From the very moment that we came up with the name, I was like, that's perfect. Like, that needs to exist. And I just don't lose sight of that. I guess it's really easy to lose sight of that and be like, oh, you should be more corporate or change our brand. But like if you do something crazy, like lean into it, I think it could work and really you can make it stand out. So that's worked for us, I don't know if it's like that for everyone, but that's just what we've done. You know, the craziest thing we can think of it was do it. And I got this crazy idea for the newsletter. I was put in the newsletter. So like a stupid gif in the newsletter. And we just did it.

Brian Scordato:
That's awesome. We talked a lot about how if you do, a lot of people do ordinary things and then expect to get extraordinary results. And that's not really how it works. So my next question is, and I promise you, we're getting to the end of the lot. There's a book I read. If if you're looking for suggestions or if you measure it already. It's called Essentialism. I really, really like it. I had the basic premise is that it's sort of on the topic of what we're talking about. It is that 99 percent of things that people do are all the same. So everyone will be answering emails the same way. We all know if you're doing sales pitches, most of the sales pitch is going to be the same. There's one percent that's going different and that's going to drive the majority of your results, whether they're good or bad. What are some of the 1 percent things, this is a tough question to ask on the spot. But are there any things that you've done that are different than what other people have done but have driven enormous value for you?

Dave Idell:
I say, I mean, we do a lot of things differently, obviously, but the number one thing I think is the branding. And just like how the actual app works, like those two things put together are like really distinct. And that's why people like latch on to it like this. It's like it's like a game, we make it feel like a game when you use the app. It didn't feel like you're doing work. You're booking a desk through this other system, where you're joining a workspace with Croissant and it feels like you're joining a game and you're playing a game and your life is like a game. It is actually doing the work why you're doing it. So that that's kind of the feeling that we want people to have. So that's important I'd say.

Brian Scordato:
It's amazing. And I booked this room in a WeWork and it did not feel like a game. It felt like a chore, please don't kick me out WeWork. Cool. So I have a couple of final questions. One of them was going to be if you could do it over what would you do differently? The next question, I have a couple that are that are more general for founders. So what do you think are some of the core tactics or fundamentals that drive a startup in general if you're going to get something with an idea advice or industry agnostic?

Dave Idell:
Well, if it's like a pure software startup, I would say you're going to want to test it out as quick as possible or you want to get in front of customers and try to sell them on if get getting actually using it as quick as possible. So that's nothing new, right? That's just everyone has advice.

Brian Scordato:
The next one is around uncertainty. Things that always get me are just the number of things that are uncertain when you're starting a company. How do you deal with that? So it can be the mental state of having like a lot of your life be totally up in the air at all times. Is there anything that's been helpful with that?

Dave Idell:
I mean, it helps to have a programer background. Because if it all goes to shit, you can always get moving that don't have that job security. Yeah, I can see how it's a lot harder to take a leave. Yeah, I've never had an answer for that. Like either you got money saved out from your job and you can get another job if you need to. Or I could see the merit in doing aside like you're doing an accelerator kind of doing it on a side. It's possible. I would think I may have never done it. But I don't see why not.

Brian Scordato:
I mean, we've never had anyone be really successful until they've quit. I think it's possible to validate a lot of different types of start ups while you have a job, but I don't think it's possible to build anything. Really. I'm not one of those guys. You can do a side hustle. Have you anything?

Dave Idell:
Yeah. I would build something prototype and get feedback. And then if it's good, then I quit right then and there.

Brian Scordato:
Cool.

Dave Idell:
Well, I don't know. Don't do what I said. But Yeah. I can see it starting outside it. Yeah. You'd want to transition to full time as soon as you can.

Brian Scordato:
My last question for you which I ask everyone, if you were going to start. If you were like alright, Croissant just sold to WeWork for a billion dollars. But you can't use that billion dollars. So that for some reason is in escrow. And you were going to start a taco truck tomorrow. What would you do?

Dave Idell:
So I guess the thinking about that, the first thing I would Google is how to have a food truck, something like that. I would just like research that first, because it's not really like software tech play, like software tech play I would just like kind of build what I want to do and then put it in front of the customer. But if you're talking about like a business like that, I think it's completely different. Unless you come from that industry you got to figure out how it works. I feel like a lot of restaurants have um... one of our book clubs recently was all about this, like restaurant tours starting from outside the industry. It's kind of had an idea for a cool food concept and they've just yeah, they just did it.

Dave Idell:
So I guess in this case. Yeah. I'd Google how to get the permits and everything, assuming that that's how that works. I literally know nothing about it. I guess the question is how to get money for your first truck. I assume Ebay or something buy an old truck and take it over or maybe start out with a stand and what the rules are, I'm sure you can figure it out. Yeah, and I'd have to learn it since it sounds like a highly regulated thing. So that sounds like it's another aviation school. I'll do all that research.

Brian Scordato:
It's so interesting hearing all that like the approach from someone that's like a programming background versus someone with different types of backgrounds. Really interesting stuff. Appreciate that. Very cool. So that is what I've got. Is there anything that I missed that you think would be important for early stage founders to know or to think about as they decide whether to pursue an idea or not?

Dave Idell:
Well, I wouldn't overthink it. I would just, you know, either you're in or you're out. Like, if it's going to work, then try. And if you're not willing to see it's going to work, then you're probably not that passionate about it. So, yeah, I'd really, I really don't do much thinking. I just do. I don't do much thinking so I'm the wrong person to ask. Wait, so what was the question?

Brian Scordato:
No, I think that was a great answer to it. The thinking was like, "what should an early stage founder be thinking about when they're deciding whether to pursue the idea or not". And I think your point that like if you're passionate about it, there shouldn't be that much thought. It should be something that you really want to do and you have to do it. Versus a lot of our founders who tend to be successful are the ones who, like they couldn't not do it.

Dave Idell:
Or like they just saw the idea and were like "oh wait, that's a really good idea. I just want to do that now." And that that's kind of that moment of glory if you pursue your idea. So if you don't have that moment of glory if you're not passionate about it, maybe keep your day job.

Brian Scordato:
I like that, use the moment of glory. Very cool. Dave thank you so much. If you are listening to this you should go in the show notes or go to getcroissant.com. The link will be there as well and you should join because I think it's the best way to work when you're working remotely. So thank you so much again for coming in. Appreciate it.

Dave Idell:
Thank you.

Brian Scordato:
Thanks so much for listening, I hope you enjoyed it. If you need flexible co-working space, go to get christened dot com. And if you've got a startup idea and a full time job, come say hi to me and gettacklebox.com. Have a great week!

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Episode Description:

Dave Idell is the founder of Croissant, a flexible coworking company beloved by freelancers and entrepreneurs around the world. We talk about the early days - how he tested the idea, how they grew with some counter-intuitive and aggressive decisions, and how he thinks about growth. We also talk through his thoughts on early stage founders and the stuff they should nail down early. Enjoy!

Show Notes:


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes and here on gettacklebox.com/idea-to-startup.



Brian Scordato