Campus - 03.10.2022 - 00:00
3 October 2022. The coronavirus pandemic was devastating for many companies - but for the St.Gallen startup, deskbird, the social and technological upheavals caused by it were a "stroke of luck", as co-founder and HSG graduate Ivan Cossu says: He and his co-founder, Jonas Hess, had actually launched an app for booking co-working spaces at the end of 2019. "Then came the first lockdown and it became difficult to test our offer with users," says Cossu. However, the customers with whom Cossu and Hess were already working at the time then asked for a solution for managing office occupancy in the course of 2020. Hybrid ways of working in the home office and normal office were also a new organisational challenge for many companies.
In April 2021, deskbird therefore launched a workplace management software based on its original app: Employees can use it to book desks, workrooms or other resources in the normal office - and they can see who from the team is on site and when. "The realignment of our startup took courage, but we were and are convinced that the world of work has changed forever," says deskbird CEO Cossu. This can also be seen, for example, in the longitudinal study "New Work & Culture" by Heike Bruch, HSG Professor of Leadership: According to this, mobile and flexible working is crucial for employer attractiveness, especially among the younger generation.
"We want to become indispensable"
In the one and a half years since its market launch, deskbird has gone from strength to strength. The app is now used in more than 20 countries, and over 50,000 people use the software regularly. Customers include, for example, the automotive supplier Schaeffler, the large brewery Heineken and the industrial corporation Georg Fischer. In addition to employee satisfaction, customers are likely to be interested in the potential for cost savings that can be achieved with smart office space planning. According to deskbird, the infrastructure for an office workplace costs CHF 8,000 per year on average.
Today, around 50 employees work for the startup across Europe; by the end of 2023, this figure is expected to rise to over 100. This expansion is possible thanks to, among other things, a financing deal in which deskbird raised five million US dollars in August 2022. "We have around 20 competitors across Europe, and there is also a lot of demand from companies," says Cossu. "Our goal is to become the indispensable software solution for modern workplace management in this highly competitive environment."
Studying at the HSG strengthened the desire to start a business
Cossu, whom is from St.Gallen, met his co-founder, Jonas Hess, at their previous employer’s. Hess is an electrical engineer and information technologist, Cossu has a Master's degree in Economics from the HSG. "I have always had entrepreneurial drive. And my studies at HSG, where I was able to exchange ideas with many startup founders, strengthened this even more," says Cossu.
deskbird exemplifies his conviction for hybrid working: The team works remote-first, but the startup also has physical offices on site in St.Gallen, Munich, Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest. "We have employees in Switzerland, Germany, Portugal, Serbia and Romania. In terms of working location, anything is possible with us," says Cossu, whose team members are on average 30 years of age. However, deskbird also takes building a team spirit very seriously: The startup has therefore also hired a "culture manager" now and introduced, among other things, a regular "virtual breakfast". There is also a budget for employees who wish to meet their colleagues in other countries for work projects.
Employees working across Europe also come together twice a year for an event, most recently at a four-day summit on Malta. "Those are always highlights for everyone in the team," says Cossu. He is convinced: "Planned and used wisely, hybrid working can strengthen agile collaboration and culture in companies - even if employees work more often in home offices."
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