Mastering Business Growth – Learn from Flatfox
EO Accelerator and the Swiss Startup Association have partnered up and are working together on the goal of supporting young entrepreneurs in their business challenges.
The EO Accelerator, a programme of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, is the catalyst that enables first-stage entrepreneurs to catapult your business to the next level. Their mission is to empower you with the tools you need to grow your business to more than US$1 million in sales and provide you with the skills to make yourself a better entrepreneur and leader.
Along with structured educational content focused on the core areas of first-stage businesses, the Accelerator Programme affords you the unique experience of learning from and connecting with the world’s most influential entrepreneurs.
In this interview, we talked to Mattia Regi, co-founder and CFO of Flatfox AG, as well as an alumnus of the EO Accelerator. Mattia has shared his insights about the biggest growth challenges during his entrepreneurial career and his experiences with the EO Accelerator programme.
Flatfox describes itself as a prop-tech company with a marketplace and digital platform. What exactly do you understand by “platform”?
Simply put, a place where people meet to trade, socialise, and exchange services. In this sense, we are joined by more than ten independent third parties who offer their services on flatfox.ch. Flatfox strives to make the rental process more convenient and efficient for both tenants and landlords – for example, when re-renting. With the help of the Flatfox solution, as well as these third party providers, many different projects can be realised. Economically speaking, with the Flatfox platform we want to reduce transaction costs when renting. This is what I want to call a platform.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “growth”? Why?
“Human instinct is to create more and more. We have to narrow down in order to focus.” This quote from an EO Accelerator coach describes my view on growth very well. First and foremost, it is about saying “no”. That is, defining the 80-90% that you don’t do. Growth then occurs on the focus of the residual from that. In relation to Flatfox, I, therefore, understand growth as a consequence or a result of the company and product development and not primarily as a goal.
Was rapid growth the primary goal for the founding team from the beginning? If yes, why? If no, when and how did the attitude change?
No. At the beginning, Flatfox’s primary goal was to survive in the market, to persevere, so to speak, and to use the time to optimise the product and the market fit. Growth, which we understand as a consequence of this, then occurred at some point. But I think with the “platform” business model, rapid growth is endogenous and can’t be forced. It’s more about juggling and surviving around the chicken-egg issue. Our market is designed for both sides – the tenant’s and the landlord’s.. The tenant demand results in the landlord demand and vice versa. The growth resulting from the interplay is slower but more sustainable. At least this was true for Flatfox and is in the nature of platforms.
In retrospect, however, it is difficult to say to what extent this was clear to us from the beginning, or what proportion we have learned. But we have definitely never sat down together and decided that our goal is to grow – just to grow.
From your perspective, what have been the biggest growth challenges of your platform to date?
The mentioned chicken-egg challenge – Flatfox is to be understood as a product on a two-sided market. In order to function, our marketplace must always be in harmony between advertisers and interested parties. Especially in the initial phase, where you have limited resources, prioritising and balancing is crucial for further expansion. First and foremost, you have to take care of the basics and then move forward step by step. Just get started, so to speak (laughs). Do it 😉
What have been the biggest growth challenges for you as a founder and your team?
The organisation grows with us. Our company has changed several times at the organisational level. We started with four people. That is, of course, a completely different way of working than when you suddenly have eight people, then 15, and today a team of 30. Other processes and work divisions, as well as flexibility, are required. It can be a challenge, especially for the supervisor, to adapt to the new working conditions and organisational structures. I consider this to be the greatest challenge when it comes to growth.
How did you overcome these challenges?
It is still a challenge – and will remain one. However, it also has its advantages to redistribute and delegate tasks. Especially when a team is growing, we rely on people with the right mindset to complement our skills and help Flatfox expand. Also, we have great people in the team who can deal with the “uncertainties” of the platform and react agilely to the volatility. Enjoying the product and sharing the same values are essential in the workplace. In general, it’s easier to drive your mission with more people.
How can you set the right foundation at the start of a company so that you are well prepared for rapid growth?
Having a good mission and not losing sight of it. To unite a small quick-witted team around it, as well as patience and also conflict willingness. Especially in a team, not being afraid of conflicts and their discussion, and then being able to endure these discussions. Keeping an eye on the cash flow is not bad either (laughs).
You are an alumnus of the EO Accelerator Programme. How were you able to benefit from the programme during the growth phase of Flatfox?
On the one hand, I consider the exchange among like-minded people at EO Accelerator who are facing or have faced similar challenges as enriching. You speak the same language, have similar challenges and concerns and can share them. Furthermore, the Learning Days were fascinating and very instructive for me. I have made many friends here that still accompany me today.
If you could share three tips with founders who have big growth ambitions, what would they be?
First: Act before you are ready – you are never ready.
Second: Keep the mind moving and quickly forget the past. The present is much more interesting.
Third: Keep your eye on the cash flow, because surviving is rewarded!
About Mattia Regi & Flatfox:
Flatfox was founded in 2012 by Bernhard Mäder, Fabian Stutz, Silvan Spross and Mattia Regi. It is the smart choice when it comes to renting – with a real estate marketplace that connects Switzerland and with a digital platform that makes the rental process more convenient and efficient for everyone, whether it’s apartment seekers, tenants or real estate professionals. In April 2021, the company was acquired by Mobiliar. Currently, the team consists of 30 employees, with locations in Bern and Zurich. Mattia Regi is CFO at Flatfox and has been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation since 2018.
Interested to learn more?
The president of the Swiss Startup Association, Raphael Tobler, is also in the EO Accelerator programme Zurich. With his own startup eduwo, he has first-hand experience of the benefits and opportunities that come from the programme. If you have any questions or other enquiries about the EO Accelerator, please do not hesitate to contact Raphael at email@example.com or EO Accelerator programme manager Ramona Lieser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors and Contributors
Ramona Lieser, Mattia Regi, Migle Sabone, Raphael Tobler