In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.
Nitzan Yudan is the CEO and co-founder of FlatClub, a United Kingdom–based online marketplace for short-term rentals that connects verified members of exclusive alumni, employment and organizational networks. In Part 3 of this four-part series, Nitzan explains how the London Business School (LBS) community helped him find traction for his start-up idea and discusses the preliminary phases of building his company.
The first step in creating a business around the idea of renting flats through exclusive networks was to perform some basic market research. I spoke to approximately 300 of my fellow students on an individual basis, with the goal of learning how trust works across different demographics and cultures. The LBS community proved invaluable in this regard. I also asked people in marketing and branding for input and received help from a friend with the modeling that I would later use to pitch to investors. I learned from my research that trust is a very personal and individual decision. It seemed that what people most valued was the ability to control their privacy settings.
Another important moment in the creation of FlatClub occurred while taking “Entrepreneurship.” I decided to pitch my idea to Professor Gary Dushnitsky [LBS Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship]. Dushnitsky liked the idea and said, “Why don’t you just go for it? What can go wrong?” This was exactly what I needed to hear. Shortly thereafter, I began testing a very basic prototype of the site. Although I did not have the money to hire employees or invest up front, I had free access to a huge network of students and faculty. To drive traffic to the new site, I sent an email to the entire LBS community. Within two weeks, 70 flats had been listed, and we had our first sale.
After graduating in 2010 and gaining the confidence to get FlatClub off the ground, I joined the LBS Incubator Programme for one year. One of the greatest advantages was being able to call people and introduce myself with the affiliation of the program. In addition, the incubator provided my company with free office space, access to school resources, advice on accounting, public relations support (we were mentioned in Forbes and the Financial Times) and access to investors.
My partner, whose background is in real estate, came on board in 2011. In April 2012, two professors invested in the business, and just six months after launching, we hired our first employee. We are now a team of 13 people from ten nationalities and recently closed a significant round of financing. We are still based in London, which is where most of our team is located, and FlatClub has grown to include more than 10,000 listings representing 30 business school communities globally.