Nicolas, first introduce yourself to Youth Time readers.
Hi everyone, my name is Nicolas, 27 years old. I’m from France and am currently living in Madrid. My background is computer science engineering, which I studied at ESIEE Paris University. Then I followed this degree with a Masters in European Business at the ESCP Europe Business School, to get double competency. I love traveling, meeting new people, and also a bit of “fiesta”. Madrid offers me all three, that’s why I enjoy living here so much :)
Can you tell me more about your app and the idea behind it? What made you want to start something like FlatShaker?
The program of the Masters in European Business which I did included studying two semesters in two different countries. I studied in Madrid first, then I moved to London. While I was still in Spain, I started to look for an apartment in London on the internet, but there are so many fake ads that I did not want to book anything without viewing it first. Since I had not arrived yet, it was impossible for me to do so. Thus, I had to book a hotel for a week and could only start looking for a flat after my arrival in the UK. In the end, the process was expensive and stressful.
While I was still in Madrid, I knew there were students like me who were already in London and probably had some free time. I thought that they could go view a flat for me in exchange for some money. The main advantage for me was that I would get an objective review of the flat that I wanted them to check out. Indeed, I would pay them for the viewing process: it doesn’t matter whether I booked the flat afterwards or not, they would get their fee anyway, so they would have absolutely no interest in sending me false information. Other advantages are that it allows me to plan ahead for my flat search, do it while I still have time, and it does not cost me more than booking a hotel for a week.
This kind of service did not exist, so I decided to create it, and FlatShaker was born! As you probably understand, the idea is that, a few weeks or months before moving to a new city, you identify someone who is already living there who can go view and check out some flats for you. He sends you up-to-date, personalized, and objective information (pictures, videos, a checklist, etc.), then he gets paid. During the process, both you and the viewer are protected by the cancellation policy, and if any problem occurs, the customer service is here to help to resolve the issue. Finally, you give him a review about the quality of his viewing, to help future people who need to move and to keep the whole FlatShaker community informed.
What is the current state of the app/project?
The first version of the website has been live for a month now. At the beginning I need to bring in more flat checkers (people who can go view and check out the flats), then I will start the promotion and marketing phase to bring in the actual clients (people who need a flat to be checked). Right now, anyone can register and post a viewing offer in his city. When someone is interested in the offer, the viewing process begins!
What are the main obstacles you faced when creating your start-up?
I started to build the website myself, after a business degree and almost two years without doing any coding, so the first obstacle was definitely to learn again the latest computer science techniques (as you can imagine, a lot had changed). It took me a few months, but I’m happy I could do it.
Then, like many entrepreneurs, loneliness can easily become part of your everyday life. To overcome it, I chose to work in a co-working space - called utopic_US - in the center of Madrid, where I can meet people and feel supported.
Finally, I’ve heard it’s quite common, when someone has a new idea, to face many people telling you it will never work. I feel lucky because so far, almost all the people I have explained it to have given me positive opinions and feedback about it. This encourages me to keep going!
Where have you presented your project so far?
I have presented it at Entrepreneurship factory, an event in Madrid. I talked to an expert from IBM and got good feedback about the project. She told me to target first universities and students in general, which confirmed what I was thinking. In the end, I had five minutes to pitch my idea, which is always a good and not-so-easy exercise.
What are the main qualities that you think young entrepreneur should have?
The first I’m thinking about is not being afraid of failing. There are so many new businesses these days that it is harder and harder to become known, and very few of them survive after the first few years. The most important for me is to keep learning every day, no matter the outcome.
Then, I would say listening to your environment. Most of the time, the idea of a business has to change with time and in the end, it is completely different from the original one. Being able to adapt it to your customers’ needs is a key to success.
Last but not least, a more philosophical one, is to like the unknown. Tomorrow may be completely different from today, with new problems, new challenges and above all, new opportunities. Relax, seize them, and have fun on the way!