Great to speak with you Aidan, could you give us an introduction to yourself?
Likewise, my name is Aidan Rushby, I’m the CEO and Founder of Movebubble. I went to university in Bristol and completed a business degree. I started working in the real estate space for a large real estate company that did everything from land, new homes, financial services and surveying. Very quickly, I could see that renting was going to be a really big part of the future and I was frustrated with the fact that renters were seen almost as second-class citizens and not really looked after. There was no real brand that represented them and so after I completed my MBA, I set out on a mission to make renting better, and set up a company that would put the renter at the heart of everything that we did. I’ve been building Movebubble for over six years, we’ve raised around £9 million to date, we have over 700,000 users on the app and are growing around 100 to 150% year on year since we’ve launched the app.
How have you found the Founder journey so far?
I come from a family of Entrepreneurs; my dad was an Entrepreneur. I wanted to learn an industry before I went off and did my own journey, I had multiple ventures from a young age; from car washing businesses to a babysitting business to selling stuff at university to eventually starting work in property and taking it from there! I think the hardest thing is to give up the security of the ongoing income at the very beginning, and I think it’s really important that you take that big leap initially.
What have been the benefits of being part of a Founding team as opposed to a solo Founder?
The founding team here was me, Logan and Tony. Tony was a lawyer so supported with fundraising and helping to get the initial bits and pieces together which was amazing. Logan was somebody I met at University, a really talented marketing person, however, as the business progressed we eventually parted ways and since then I’ve been the CEO.
What has been the key highlight of your time at Movebubble thus far?
There have been many highlights! From being on the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, to welcoming our 500,000 user. There’s been so many highlights, I think some of the more recent highlights and something that inspires me every day is, on a Thursday afternoon, I always speak to a number of renters that are using the app and the thing that keeps me motivated is how enthusiastic they are about the product. One of customers I spoke to recently was in Brazil looking to move to London and they loved how empathetic the team at Movebubble is. The overwhelming thing that comes across is that they feel that we’re the only people that really care about a renter and that’s really what I set out to achieve.
Do you think having a mission that resonates with so many people has helped when it comes to hiring?
I think from a hiring perspective it is really important. However, we’ve found that London is just overbearingly competitive today. From a hiring perspective, we’ve become much more of a global team working across multiple different time zones to ensure the business is efficient and as effective as possible.
However, what we’ve found is that no matter where you go in the world, everyone relates to the same problem, finding a flat to live in is for the most part, extremely painful.
Previously, we had had an office in London and then around two years ago, I made a decision to stop development in London, as the costs were just so high. It was so difficult to retain talent and the cost and speed of scaling up the talent was extremely difficult to do. So I went out to the Ukraine and set up an office there with two very talented engineers. We now have a very talented team based there, but we still do all the product and design from London.
Do you have any tips for anyone managing remotely for the first time in the current situation?
We’ve always used JIRA, we use it across all departments in the company from marketing to engineering, to design and to sales even. And so having that understanding of those core sprint mentalities really enhances your ability to work remotely. I think it’s the most productive and most accountable way to see what teams are doing. We’ve been working that way for the last couple of years, so carding things up moving them along, moving to the next sprint was just a rhythm and a way of working that we worked internally anyway.
I’m hoping that one of the great things that comes off the back of this whole situation is we find remote working to be more acceptable because there is great talent outside of London…
I completely agree, I think it will really shift the way in which people think about Talent, we’ve definitely taken a different view around hiring. It’s all about talent, not where they are and I think that’s something that’s really shifted. We’ve got our quarterly planning coming up and I couldn’t think of anything worse than doing something like planning in a remote environment. I find being on zoom calls for more than a couple of hours, extremely hard. So I don’t think anything will replace that human contact point, we always get together every quarter as a team anyway, so I think it’s really important to maintain certain elements of face to face, but I definitely agree with you in that it really broadens the talent pool if you if you’re prepared to have people remote working.
How have new hires adapted to being onboarded remotely, is it more difficult to build those relationships remotely?
I think the senior leadership team has to be so much more organised, so there’s a lot less time wasted. So when you’re asking someone to complete a task, it needs to be carded up properly, it needs to be well described, you need the acceptance criteria there, there’s proper agendas to meetings, all of these core business disciplines you should have anyway become so much more exaggerated when you’re in this remote setting, but I agree with you, it’s really hard to build it on a personal level.
I think it really depends on the personalities that you have in the team, one person in our team has been doing a quiz every week and it’s amazing how their personality comes out throughout the whole team and connects people together. I am a real believer that nothing beats human connection and even though you may be working remotely, having things like quarterly planning and still catching up with people in person, even if less frequently is so important.
Why should someone work at Movebubble?
I think that’s a really good question!
In recent years, we’ve really defined what our values are. And I think it’s about making sure that you have people aligned to those values. We’re a value driven company and the people here have a real mentality about professional quality of work, and really focusing on driving the best results.
What is on the card’s product wise for Movebubble in 2020?
We have two main product initiatives this year.
One is to remove the need for renters to go and physically view the property and number two is to be able to instantly transact on a home and have all your referencing and everything done within 30 seconds of finding that place.
We just launched a product called ‘Video Walkthroughs’, where renters can watch a live walkthrough of a property step by step, it’s super user friendly, and we’re getting a huge level of engagement on that. The next development of that will be to make it live, which will be coming further down the track this year. You’ll be able to join a viewing live in someone’s home and watch it there and then. You’ll be able to instantly transact, enabling you to collect all of your rental history and show that you’re a really high quality renter to enable our partners to accept or decline instantly via the platform, cutting the time down significantly to rent a home making it really, really quick and easy.
Our target is that you’ll be able to join a live viewing and then transact and your move is done within 30 seconds.
This seems very poignant given the current climate, is this a reaction to COVID?
No it’s actually something that we noticed in our rental behaviour, especially for core segments of our user base, there was a growing number of renters saying that they don’t want to physically go to view a property. It’s okay when it’s hot and sunny, but you have to commute to the property, sometimes you get there and the property doesn’t look anything like the photos. Sometimes the partners don’t have keys, they show you a different property, there are so many pain points around that whole experience of having to view a property so we were seeing more and more people not wanting to do that. We saw about 1000% growth in our chat data where renters don’t want to view anymore.
The second part of that journey is the referencing process which is usually really painful and slow so we’re using some of the latest technology to enable it to be instant and that will be live in June, with the live walkthroughs coming later in the year.
Most renters today will only go and view five properties before they make a decision. Because there’s only so much time you can spend travelling around London after work looking at properties so we also hope this will enable renters to live a better life because they will be open to much more choice when looking at properties. Also, I think it will hopefully open up the ability to see properties someone wouldn’t have had the chance to look at, because somebody else got that first.
If you look on the app, and you look onto the Movebubble ONE section, there are developments that have outdoor swimming pools, gyms, all built into the complex and they’re designed specifically for renters. So there’s just so much more choice for the renter.
What area of the business are you looking to focus on?
Data. How can we really advance or underline our data to make faster and better business decisions? How do we use the data to bring new products and features to the market?
From a technical perspective, how do we really advance video forward so that we can make it feel as good as going on a real viewing? Making that gap between the physical and the digital I think is a really interesting challenge. One of the most important things for the renter is to know what the property looks like now. With video, you can get a good idea of the size, and it’s great because you can’t really put filters and fisheye lenses on video. I think those kind of things make it much more realistic and renters get a real sense of what it looks like to be able to make a decision to rent now.