A Chat with Alastair Bishop, Chief Product Officer at Prop Tech Start-Up: Upmo

Upmo is a prop-tech start-up that’s making renting office space easier, fairer, and more transparent for everyone. We’ve started by creating a marketplace for serviced office space that removes the need for agents and brokers and provides our customers with the information and tools they need to move with confidence.

Serviced offices are the optimal solution to address the simultaneous demands for flexibility and a modern and pleasant working environment. With simple contracts, monthly rolling leases, and quicker acquisitions, serviced office space is ideal for agile and fast-growing businesses.

We work with companies across a variety of sectors, ensuring all businesses can find their ideal working space.
 
 
Open Software Design | Upmo
 

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

 
Luke Philpott and Robert Leigh, my co-founders in Upmo, are equity partners at Devono – the UK’s leading commercial occupier-only advisory practice and have been running DeVono since the early 2000s. Over the last decade, we have seen drastic changes in the types of office space coming to market, alongside significant adjustments to the terms associated with these spaces.

Flexible offices provided by the likes of We Work, The Office Group and Fora, emerged, and have proven popular with businesses of all sizes from large corporates through to one-person startups. Despite this, the way people acquire space has barely changed at all. Companies looking for office space still typically go through a broker who makes at least 10% from every transaction. Once Luke and Robert identified the opportunity, they brought me in as the technologist, and from there Upmo was born.
 

 

How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

 
The pandemic hit four months into our journey and, as it did for many people, it forced us to pause and reflect. We asked ourselves what the impact of working from home might be and considered how the way people use office space might evolve.

The pandemic had an immediately disastrous impact on the industry, however we felt that in the long run investing in something squarely focussed on the flexible office market was the right thing to do. As we transitioned to working from home, we understood that the future of work and office spaces must be flexible.

Flexible in term length, flexible in size, flexible in function. And our belief is that the flexible office market is the only market to offer spaces that fits this mold – short contracts, the ability to scale, and the possibility to try new things.

So, we slowed everything down, stopped our hiring drive and focussed on building our product and onboarding the supply side of our marketplace. We’re already seeing that in % terms the number of enquiries for flexible office space, comparative to traditional is up significantly. Although the office market is still recovering, change is on the way.
 

What can we hope to see from Upmo in the future?

 
We want to create a world where workplaces are available on tap, where you pay for what you use and can rent space at the push of a button. We’re not there yet, but as we grow and our relationships with providers of office space deepen, we’ll be able to offer that seamless experience.

We also see Upmo as a global platform. Right now, we only deal with London but we’re working on expanding our reach to other areas and regions in the UK. And our ambitions don’t stop there. We plan to be in Europe within the next 2 years and the US in 3.