The startup helping you get away to get it done
Ashore targets ‘builders and deciders’ with productivity-boosting travel
Today we have a startup with an interesting twist on a familiar model.
But have they identified a market, or do they need to create it first? Scroll down to read all about Ashore.
First, news very much in our wheelhouse is the new role for Gerard Grech, the former head of Tech Nation (and my ultimate boss when I was at Tech North a few years ago).
He’ll be heading up a new University of Cambridge programme offering accelerator programmes to seed and pre-seed companies. That’s one we’ll keep an eye on.
Ashore helps business ‘builders and deciders’ get away to get stuff done
Have you ever rented a house via Airbnb for a work trip and found it totally unfit for working in?
Maybe the wifi is unreliable, there’s nowhere suitable for sitting down and doing a bunch of calls, and perhaps you end up wishing you booked a hotel instead.
If so, you’ll understand where Ashore is coming from with its vision of being able to “work from anywhere”.
“Ashore is a platform that easily lets managers, companies, and employees book stays in homes that are designed for productive and creative work,” explains co-founder and CEO Aled Maclean-Jones.
In practice, this means Ashore is a place to book homes around the UK that are kitted out for getting work done while providing a useful change of scenery.
So you might find yourself in a cottage in a fishing village in Devon that’s kitted out with gigabit internet, multiple workspaces, high-quality chairs and desks, and the like.
“They're designed to be the best spaces for people to get away and do great work,” says Maclean-Jones.
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Building a market
So who exactly is Ashore for? You might have heard of an author getting away for some silence and inspiration while writing their next novel, but is there really a business market here?
Maclean-Jones says Ashore has seen three main use cases from its customers so far.
Individuals book work trips away from the usual grind so that they can focus (“imagine a CEO has just finished a fundraise and wants to go away and figure out what to do next”); couples book working holidays where they continue their regular jobs from a nicer location, and then small teams book trips together.
“The way we like to describe it is ‘we're for the builders, and the deciders’. The builders will go away to work on really important specific projects, and deciders are going away to make the big, needle-moving decisions that are going to shape the future of whatever they're working on.”
So Ashore is essentially Airbnb crossed with an office, to meet a very specific set of needs.
Maclean-Jones says more than 300 nights have been booked on the platform since he began working on it last year. He says tech and professional services workers in cities like London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol are attracted to the platform. The startup is now beginning to target the companies these kinds of people work for.
As for the other side of the market–the owners of the homes Ashore lists-Maclean-Jones says it is an attractive offer.
People focused on work are unlikely to be troublemakers; they often want to book during the midweek period when leisure bookings are quiet, and business bookings are less seasonal than the holiday market. This means scenic cottages get bookings in usually unappealing times of the year.
But how much of this is about fulfilling an existing market need, and how much of it is about creating a market? Maclean-Jones says it’s a mixture of the two.
He points to YouGov polling earlier this year that indicated an interest in mixing work and travel among remote workers as an example of existing demand.
“We see ourselves part of a broader wave in terms of the changes in how kind of people live and work, and particularly relate to their work.
“I think lots of people now will naturally do this; they do blend work and travel over the course of the year. For us, there's a bit of an element around showing people that there's a better way to do it.
“You always want to choose markets where there are lots of products that have second-order quality. We hear lots of stories about people hacking their way around it, and trying to do it themselves. But they just get a lot of anxiety and they don't get the productivity unlocked.
“We hear quite a lot from chiefs of staff saying ‘Oh God, next week me, the CEO, and CTO going away for four days to work on this thing that we really need to sort or we're not going to fundraise, and I have no idea where to look, so please help me on that.’
“So I think it's about finding our ‘burning platforms’, and really fulfilling that niche, and then using that to tell a broader story about why we deserve to exist as a company.”
The story so far
Maclean-Jones started his career as a media lawyer before a stint as a government special advisor for the Treasury and the Cabinet Office.
But a love of traveling around the UK led him to experience the pain of working from unusual places.
“I was always trying to have my cake and eat it a bit. That meant tethering off an iPhone, it meant working off kitchen tables… And so I thought there might be a better way.”
And so last year, just after the birth of his child, he left his dayjob and got to work founding Ashore.
“Back on day one, it was me, a four-week-old baby, a Squarespace page, and some Facebook ads. We're now a long way from that.”
Over the next year, Ashore plans to ramp up its coverage of the UK, build out the features of its platform to help customers have as productive a stay as possible, and build partnerships to grow the business.
“Building relationships, particularly with the kind of companies that our users are working for, is the third limb of that big-priority roadmap for us.”
Go deeper on Ashore
More on their funding, vision, competition, and challenges:
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