COVID-19 closed business school campuses and forced thousands of MBA students into studying online. But it has also been a trigger for innovation. Some of the world’s most exciting startups have come out of the pandemic, and many of them have been started by MBAs.

Edward Tsim from INSEAD's MBA Class of 2020 shares how the pandemic has sparked a business idea and launched the next step of his career as a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur.


INSEAD MBA startup

What is your business, and what does it do?

Out of Office Spaces specialises in crafting bespoke hotel-based workspace solutions for professionals in metropolitan areas who cannot or don’t want to work from home, traditional offices or co-working spaces. Today, our services offer a seamless, on-demand booking experience for hotel-based solo-working and meeting spaces in London.

How did the idea for your business come about?

The pain points of working from home became obvious during the lockdown in France when we were no longer able to focus deeply or collaborate at school. My teammate Anna addressed these challenges by proposing to repurpose hotel spaces for office use.

Hotels are conveniently located across cities and offer idle capacity during the daytime. Professionals—especially those living in small studios or large house shares in metropolitan areas—often need to leave their house to conduct focused work in solo-workspaces or collaborate with teams or clients in meeting rooms that are located close to their residence. 

How has your MBA helped you develop your business? 

The venture sprouted from an ideation workshop during the INSEAD COVID-19 Innovation Competition, a student-led initiative during lockdown to help channel MBAs’ energies to solve problems created by the pandemic. 

The unique diversity of the INSEAD MBA greatly increased the ease of assembling a team with complementary skill sets and diverse background. 

During and after the competition, the team benefitted from constant feedback from INSEAD Alumni, faculty members, and INSEAD Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. In addition, the founders were able to make use of what they learned in core subjects and strategically select electives that help their entrepreneurship journey.

Where are you with the business right now? What are your plans for the future? 

In London, we have already established strong initial partnerships with hotels, incorporated our business and received paying customers. In the future, we will expand our services to other areas (e.g. restaurants) and cities (e.g. Singapore). We are confident we have created a new market that will shape the future of workspace.

What are your tips for staying positive during the pandemic?

We believe it is incredibly important to focus on the aspects of live we can control and create small but meaningful routines. 

Therefore, we are so excited to support so many professionals by offering an on-demand workspace whenever and wherever they should need to avoid distractions at home or meet with essential team members. 

In addition, we also want to shape the way of working beyond COVID-19 and love to immerse ourselves in strategising of how we will be playing an important role in the future of work.

This article was originally published on BusinessBecause's "MBA Startups To Look Out For | 2021 Coronavirus Special".

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