Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Fred Caballero

Travel & Tourism

Startup Stay encourages entrepreneurs to offer accommodation to one another as they travel around the globe. Founder Fred Caballero tells us how his new business is faring.

Startup entrepreneurs are often able to work flexible hours in locations of their choosing and, as a result, travel is common. However, with all this back and forth across the globe, the hotel bills can start to mount up. This was a pattern Fred Caballero noticed when he founded a web agency in Dublin, and it sparked the idea for Startup Stay – a community of entrepreneurs across the world who host each other at their houses. Fred was also keen for these people to learn from each other, and gather tips on how to successfully launch a new business.

Fred has wide-ranging experience in digital marketing, and now lectures at the Institute of Digital Marketing and Dublin Business School. He is also an analyst on the technology show Clix, and has used his skills in the online world to create Startup Stay. Now in its third month of operating, we caught up with Fred to find out how the business is going so far.

1. Where did the idea for Startup Stay come from?

Back in 2008 we set up a web agency in Dublin and we had no clue what it was like to start a business. While we traveled we thought that it would be phenomenal to learn from key people who have been there and done it. The idea just rested for a while. Since then, we had been looking to serve the startup sector for a few months, bouncing ideas back and forth. At the end of 2011 we started seeing messages in the internal network of our co-working space: entrepreneurs from Latvia were looking for entrepreneurs in London to host them for a few days. This sparked the idea of hospitality exchange focused on startups only. We then carried out research and surveyed more than 100 entrepreneurs to understand the problems they face when they travel (mainly related to accommodation, productivity and costs). After defining the core problems to work on we started developing the platform early in the year, incorporated the company and finally launched last June.

2. Can you describe a typical working day?

When you launch a startup and things don’t work, you spend your days iterating to make it work. However when you launch something that works and immediately have users trying to join, plus press, you need to become very good at time management since too many things will seem to be urgent but they’re not. Most of my day is behind my laptop doing front line work such as replying to emails, customer service tickets, dealing with press/media, approving new members and emailing invite codes. And also business strategy work such as meeting with new entrepreneurs, members, potential investors, conducting many Skype talks with members and potential partners, meeting online with my partner Facundo Villaveiran in Dublin to analyse results of every iteration, sharpen the product roadmap, define next steps, go to pitch at events, etc.

3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Startup Stay?

Basically in three ways: my wife and I love to cook and we constantly try different foods, recipes and go out every now and then. Whenever I get a chance we travel! (the best medicine). We both love London and everything the city offers so we constantly try to explore new spots and experiences. We’ve been here for only two years, so we’ve still a lot to see!

4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

I’m not the most experienced entrepreneur but, I would talk instead about a secret “recipe” which includes ingredients such as passion, perseverance and openness.

5. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Definitely not starting with specific skills. When you start a business you lack many specific skills that move your startup forward. Planning for the future but not being an expert in business analysis frustrates you because it adds more uncertainty to the equation. Not having a chief technology officer frustrates you because we can’t deeply plan a roadmap. You get the idea. You work with what you have initially but at some point you can’t do it alone and must grow the team to acquire more talent and expertise that will help your startup move faster and in a more flexible way.

6. What motivates you to keep going?

We’re building a high quality network of entrepreneurs — so talking to them, learning about their experiences, how they met other entrepreneurs through Startup Stay and all the support we receive from them is what keeps us going the entire time. It’s so far a very relevant and strong community. We’re very fortunate to have their support.

7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We launched only nine weeks ago so maybe it’d be a bit early to answer that. So far I’m going to say that I would have networked more in order to find entrepreneurs with key skills to offer them to join Startup Stay.

8. Where do you see your business in three years, and how will you get there?

We want to facilitate face-to-face connections among entrepreneurs worldwide. The goal is to spark new collaborations, business opportunities and friendships as a result of entrepreneurs meeting through the platform. Success will be seeing a big and very strong community of entrepreneurs around the world whose members value and foster this unique networking experience. Also ensure that entrepreneurs worldwide know that they have a default option to maximise relationship building in their travels and that their expansion dreams are closer thanks to Startup Stay. We aim to create two million active entrepreneurs around the world and four million entrepreneurial encounters by 2015. During that path we will travel and meet with members of our community, launch an ambassador programme, capture in text, photo and video as many experiences as possible, sponsor entrepreneurial events, iterate fast enough to serve our on-growing community, integrate with key sites and partner up with brands/companies that support entrepreneurs.

9. If you weren’t working on Startup Stay, what would you be doing?

I’d be either starting another startup (not sure what) or joining an existing startup team within my network of contacts 🙂

10. Tell Springwise a secret…

During my first, post-launch hosting experience in London… I almost totally forgot about my guest coming over that day :s

11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

You need to first love the solution that you’re building and the segment you’re serving, otherwise, during tough times, it’d be very simple to give up because you wouldn’t care much. Don’t go in alone. Find a cofounder to partner with. The chances that you could make it alone are very slim.

You can read more about StartupStay here or visit the StartupStay website here