In September, the Vayable team packed our bags, boarded an 11-hour flight across the Atlantic, and landed in Paris. Our mission? To grow our business and improve our product by putting our boots on the ground.
In journalism, those who get out from behind their laptops and conduct “shoe-leather reporting” guarantee themselves the best stories. The architect who spends time on the construction site ensures fewer mistakes and better buildings. For us, a San Francisco-based experience travel startup, operating a pop-up headquarters let us improve our product by co-creating it with our users, the people who know it best.
Yet in silent alleyways in the Left Bank and on the abandoned banks of the Seine, we uncovered much more than a passionate community of locals who power our platform. We discovered an entirely new customer in ourselves: The Enterprise. By bringing our entire operations to France in attempt to “eat our own dogfood,” we found that businesses can benefit from traveling with the Sharing Economy as much as consumers can.
Other Sharing Economy businesses and organizations powered Vayable’s operations as a pop-up headquarters. We used Vayable Insiders and Airbnb hosts for accommodation, the co-working space, Mutinerie, for our office, Cookening and EatWith for dinner parties, Djump for local transportation, OuiShare for community meetups, and BlaBlaCar for long-distance trips. The Sharing Economy, which we typically think of as consumer-focused, lent itself surprisingly well to our business travel needs.
We have used these services to improve our own product, grow our business, and build our community. Moreover, we learned what it’s like to be an enterprise customer to these businesses and in it discovered a whole new opportunity for our own Sharing Economy product.
Our experiment in building our business remotely revealed a viable market: businesses creating their own moveable feasts. As mobile technology becomes more sophisticated, Wi-Fi more widespread, servers living in the clouds, and hardware becoming lighter than books, the opportunity for businesses to take part or all of their operations on the road is growing each day.
Corporate culture is shifting in tandem with the emergence of a freelance economy focused on flexibility. Movements such as the collaborative economy and makers’ spaces blur the lines between work and play. We now expect work to engender meaningful experiences and play to innovate and produce.
When put in this light, it makes sense that our service has attracted customers looking for their ideal workations (merging work and travel) in destinations such as Greece, Puerto Rico, Rome, and Singapore. We book these businesses’ accommodations in other people’s homes, hire local chefs to cook them meals, and connect them with insiders who greet them, show them around their destination, and run incredible team-building experiences, such as foraging for food in the jungle. These are corporate experiences powered by the Sharing Economy.
This week, our pop-up headquarters has opened up in New York. If one month in Paris led to discovering a new customer base that doubled our revenue, we can’t wait to see what New York will teach us.
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Jamie Wong is the Creative Braintrust Leadership Expert and Co-Founder & CEO of Vayable.com