Improving access to flexible office space with Jules Robertson, co-founder of Tally Market

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In this episode, Legislate meets Jules Robertson, co-founder of Tally Market, a platform which provides on-demand workspaces all over the world.

Jules shares the lessons learnt building Tally Market, the importance of growth experiments and key things to watch out for when leasing an office.

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Charles Brecque: Welcome to the Legislate podcast, a place to learn about the latest insights and trends in property technology, business building and contract drafting. Today I'm excited to welcome Jules Robertson to the show. Jules is the co-founder of Tally Market a business which allows companies to offer their employees the right type of workspace as and when they need it. Jules, thank you for taking the time. Would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself and Tally?

 

Jules Robertson: Sure. Thanks for having me. Background about Tally is we started the market 2 years ago. Essentially we are a transparent marketplace for workspace. We try to make it easy as possible for teams to find a workspace to meet their needs, but also to compare workspaces. Whether that's a full-time office or hot desk or a meeting room, it can help you out basically. Anytime for workspace, you need anywhere across the world.

 

We started, as I said, during COVID and we originally started with an on-demand workspace. If people wanted very much like ad hoc meeting rooms, hot desks, part-time offices, and office shares. As people have returned to the office, we now have lent and do a lot of full-time offices as well. Anything from a more out-the-box solution like work-life or a WeWork right up towards very custom offices. You want it to your branding and have a very custom-your-own team. So yes, we do a nice combination of both on-demand and full-time spaces. That's about it.

 

Charles Brecque: How has your business evolved? You said you started during COVID and now there's been this return to the office. Has that shaped or changed the vision for Tally and what you offer?

 

Jules Robertson: Yes, a lot. I guess before we saw as much more Airbnb for workspace, so completely supported teams that were remote or didn't have a full-time office and now we completely support hybrid teams. A lot of teams that we work with, we do a full-time office and we supply them with on-demand space at the same time. A good example would be the team that we have. We find them in an office in London for 50 people who say they have a distributed team throughout the world.

 

They might have a few in Manchester, and a few in Barcelona and we can also support them with space as well. There's especially at the moment like a fairness thing in a workspace where different team members on different contracts, they want to be able to provide them all with equal level of working and perks and amenities etc. For us the ability to provide both those products to the same team in an easy way is like should be good for the employees of that company.

 

Charles Brecque: What's been your favourite moment in those 2 years of building Tally?

 

Jules Robertson: The channel I love, basically on Slack we have a channel where all our bookings pop up and that's my favourite channel in the world because I love to know that today hundreds of different people are sitting in workspaces because of us. For me building tally is all about ranging people's behaviours. We have teams that'll be like, 'Oh, we went on and off-site to France and needed a workspace while we were there, so we just used Tally and then we did this and like love the actual utilisation of it. For me that's the exciting part about building, like a product is actually changing behaviours.

 

Charles Brecque: We have a Slack channel as well for sign-ups but also for payments. I'd like it if it was a bit more active. Yes, every sign-up always creates a bit of adrenaline.

 

Jules Robertson: Yes, especially (audio distorts 03.43), don't you, as a founder I remember the day where I was like I can't wait till this automatically happens and now it's automatic. You just want it to be like bigger and bigger, so always pushing the Go Post Out button.

 

Charles Brecque: What do you wish you had known before starting Tally?

 

Jules Robertson: I wish I knew more about growth marketing. I would say my background is very mixed. It's like from banking and then I did an MBA and then I joined another startup in the payment space. I like any startups and a bit of everything but I didn't do much in terms of marketing and I wish I knew how to run growth experiments. I didn't realise how much growth as its own concept and the way to like structure growth within a company is really important.

 

I think that's something we've only just come to terms with and now we have very structured growth sprints to test different parts of the funnel and I think that experimentation mindset is something that I wish we had started with from day 1, whereas I think it was a little bit more the founder vision at the beginning and I think we needed to be a bit more structured about it.

 

Charles Brecque: Growth is a bit of a chicken-egg problem where it only makes sense once you've worked a certain amount of volume and until you get to that volume, it really just is running around trying different things and seeing what sticks. But it is better to do growth now than never.

 

Jules Robertson: Yes. I think also nothing beats being a hustler, does it? Like essentially any start-up, you just have to hustle. That's basically growth in the beginning.

 

Charles Brecque: You mentioned offering workspaces around the world. What's the vision for the next 5, 10 years?

 

Jules Robertson: Yes. I think it's to continue to grow in terms of the products that we offer in terms of being able to have a full suite of workspace products for everyone. Essentially, that means providing larger offices for people doing multiple locations for the same business. I think we geographically grow as our customers grow, so as we work with bigger companies, we work in other geographies as well. I would love to build out our team internally to have workspace designers, to have workspace to be able to provide more value add for people in terms of (a) building out, like, hybrid policies and that side of things, like actually helping shape the hybrid culture. Also, more functionally in terms of being able to provide more in terms of, as I say, workspace design and branding etc. Because at the moment we outsource all that, I'd love to be able to like bring that in-house to be able to provide more value to the customers.

 

Charles Brecque: As a founder you interact with contracts quite a bit. What are the key legal agreements that you come across and are there any areas of friction that you encounter?

 

Jules Robertson: Yes, we do come across a lot of contracts essentially. We obviously have like on 2 sides of it for the on demand. We have contracts with the workspaces in terms of how that function happens. The problem with that is that they change a lot. The way that the workspace want to provide their on-demand spaces change a lot, the percentages changed, etc. There's a really high turnover at people within co-working spaces, so it seems that every new employee that comes in, they want to review the contracts and you have to start from day 1 again. They're obviously working with multiple platforms.

 

They try and align it be the same with all the platforms they work with. Then we are trying to align it to make it the same with all the co-working spaces that we work with. Definitely it can be trouble within that. Then I guess we also primarily work. When someone does an office lease from 3 months up to 5, 10 years, there's always contracts involved in that. Normally there would be a lawyer on my side who would review the contracts but the first person that reviews the contract from the office space would be us because we know what to look out for, or yet increasingly having to become a lawyer which can be a struggle.

 

Charles Brecque: You mentioned key things to look out for. What should a new founder taking on an office lease look out for?

 

Jules Robertson: Yes, I guess the big things is like obviously your headline costs. The big thing is what is included within your contract monthly amount. There's obviously to include like rent rates, utilities, Wi-Fi, cleaning, who provides teas, coffees, all that stuff. A big one is like meeting room credits, if that's something that's included. Break clauses within that 12 months use of other buildings. A lot of the workspaces obviously have like multiple buildings around the world. A huge one is obviously at the moment no one would be taken on an office for as many people they employ. Normally it's about like 50 to 60% of the people of the company.

 

If you have 100 people you get offers for 50 to 60 people essentially. Big one is the number of passes, the number of people allowed in an office at the same time, etc. Because there's also health and safety regulations based on that as well. Yes, a big thing is actually working out how you are going to work your company in a hybrid way in terms of who's in on what days and making sure that the contract will support that in terms of number of people in the office who's allowed in if you are allowed guests. Yes, I think it's basically mapping out how you would work and making sure that the contract relates to that.

 

Charles Brecque: It seems like there's an awful lot of things to keep track of and I imagine this is where a tally can help founders.

 

Jules Robertson: Yes, when you're negotiating for an office, it's all the parts that you negotiate, you then have to look back into the contract for. Yes, we would always recommend that for larger spaces, if you are doing like a lease hold you would always get a lawyer to look over it as well. But yes, I'm sure there'll be a very clever legal tech company that makes it all online soon.

 

Charles Brecque: (TC 00:10:00) Yes, definitely. You actually are quite active in property but more on the private rented sector as opposed to national. But yes, every contract will be a legislative contract one day.

 

Jules Robertson: I'm going to ask you the closing question we ask all our guests. If you're being sent a contract sign today, what would impress you?

 

Charles Brecque: That is a really hard question. I wish I'd listened to some other people's answers. I think what you want is a dictionary because I never understand the legal words, so I think I need a dictionary related to every single word that you can click on.

 

Jules Robertson: It's very, actually that's the first time anyone's ever said that out of 50 plus episodes. Well done.

 

Charles Brecque: I need like where you just hover your mouse over it and then it would say what it actually means.

 

Jules Robertson: It's a great suggestion and definitely I add it to our product roadmap. But what we offer now is for certain terms we have explanations but we don't have something as general as a dictionary.

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