Finding affordable office space in central London
Our goal was to expand Improve Digital throughout Europe as quickly as
possible. The nature of our business requires an in-depth knowledge
of each specific local market and the best way to service this is
to have a team 'on the ground' in each key country (the UK, France
and Germany). But paying rents at London level would impede our
growth strategy for Improve Digital.
New technologies meant that, like most start-ups, we did not
initially need an office when we started out in The Netherlands.
Working from home achieved the same results and was cost-effective.
And when the time came to rent work space, we got a good deal.
Empty offices are popular with squatters in Amsterdam, so the
government runs a scheme to prevent this by offering them at
rock-bottom rates to start-ups. (We have a space large enough for
200 employees for €125 per month.)
But when we expanded to the UK in 2008, we were in for a shock. We
visited various places in London, but landlords were asking in the
region of £55,000 annual rent - often for very small premises that
were poorly serviced. Not only that, but as we were a new company -
and so difficult to credit check - they required three months' rent
upfront, as well as two months' worth as a deposit.
We believed there had to be an alternative and putting our heads
together as a team we came up with the idea that, initially, we
would rent a large apartment in central London. Not only did this
serve as office space, but it provided accommodation for when any
of the team visited from The Netherlands - so we also saved on
hotel costs too.
This was ideal for our early days in the UK, as it enabled us to
control our costs tightly as we established the business in a new
region. As customers signed up to use our services and we needed to
take on more staff, we expanded, and today share a large office
space in central London with another company.
We had to think creatively and be enterprising to find solutions
that that were not immediately obvious.
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