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PerchPeek is tackling the pain of relocating with tech | startup interview

Interview with startup PerchPeek, exploring their journey end-to-end. From hiring their CTO to pivoting their entire strategy.

Emil Pruden
15 min read

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In this episode of our startup interview series, we teamed up with PerchPeek. From a complete business pivot to hiring a CTO, this interview gives you a transparent look into the world of a tech startup.

Interview with startup PerchPeek

If you have been watching the last few of our interviews we’ve had a theme around remote work and how going forward employees and employers are seriously starting to be remote first. 

We’ve seen from OmniPresent how remote talent can be hired and maintained legally across borders, and how Remote Social is striving to cultivate a real positive work culture.

The shift to home-working has been accelerated by the pandemic and remote working is here to stay. But what happens to companies when all their high-valued employees are looking to relocate?

Introducing startup PerchPeek

PerchPeek is an AI-powered App that was originally founded in 2018 and was labelled as ‘tinder for renting’ for people living in London. However, they have completely pivoted from being B2C to a focus on B2B.

They have just closed a further £2m to take PerchPeek up a level, and today I’m joined with their founder to talk through the PerchPeek story. It’s full of rich insights for founders, entrepreneurs and business owners.

Grab a cuppa and sit back to watch this startup interview below, or read the transcript.

What is PerchPeek?

PerchPeek is a relocation platform that supports people moving, in theory, anywhere in the world. 

In practise right now about 45 countries. So whether you are moving to Seattle or Singapore or Sydney or São Paulo you can use PerchPeek for everything. From relocation to find your home, setting up your bank account, getting your stuff shipped. We basically combine our platform with a team of local consultant around the world to try and make sure you have a stress free relocation no matter where you are moving to.

What is your vision for PerchPeek?

That ties closely in two that first response in terms of if you think about the process of relocating right now. If you were going to move to Seattle or São Paulo, people generally have no clue how they could do that right?

You don’t even know what you need to know about moving. Every country has different requirements. And really what our vision is that we become that destination for people that are moving around the world. We are quite excited about people having much more ownership in terms of being able to relocate, even if it’s just domestically. We know that it is such a fragmented process at the moment.

You’re going to go Google, your deep in Reddit a thread, you’re asking your mum’s sisters friend who happens to live in Seattle for a bit of advice. It is such a fragmented journey and what we are trying to build is a all in one platform where you can drive that entire relocation progress through. It is quite complicated, but quite compelling in a way,  just because I think most people relocated at some point in their life and it’s universally quite a stressful experience.

Can you tell me how your idea for PerchPeek Started? What is made you turn your idea into action?

Probably not as good a story as we should do, but I think as with lots of founders it was personal pain points. In our case, we were moving to London, and actually, for us, it was before I moved. A lot of my friends moved to London and they were all going on about how awful it was, how stressful it was and they all ended up in a bit of London, saying why do I live here, dodgy fees, dodgy contracts, losing their stuff, all the stuff that everyone has a story about. And then went through it our selves with me and my two co-founders, then moved a couple more times. Never go any easier.

I think for us it was a mindset of can we try and streamline a lot of this moving process so that all of those different verticles within relocation, so accommodation, shipping, banking, utilities, whatever it might be can all be done in the same place and that was really our origin story. It was just such an offline process.

What I find really interesting about PerchPeek is that you recently changed take in your strategy, you’ve gone from serving consumers directly to a more B2B approach. Could you tell me about how things change came about?

Great question because if we think of what we are trying to do and how we started it was very much driven by that consumer pain point of how painful it is relocating. So in our first year, we were targeting regular people moving to London and very much focus on the home finding process. Helping finding people the right hoke and using tech to find them the right area. But we didn’t really do much else. And what we saw and what led to the pivot was two things.

One of our best customers were people relocating who had no idea where to live or what type of property they can afford. That was our best customers and for that customer section, they needed a lot more help than just finding a home. They were saying to us can you help review our lease, what the hell is Council Tax. This is a very British thing. How do I get my stuff there, can I switch my driving license. How do I join the gym?

So we then started to add features to support all of them. So one was a customer-led product drive, from them saying we need more features. And then we had quite a nice platform and supply chain of consultants helping these people move to London. And then what happened, truthfully, we were losing loads of money because it was really expensive to find consumers that were relocating. You can’t just geographically target, we were trying to try and find someone in San Fransico or Mumbai who are about to move to London which is quite difficult and expensive.

We started thinking about how could we acquire customers in a more cost-efficient manner that doesn’t require us to have millions and millions of marketing budget. That was when we started to think we have this entry relocation platform, let’s run a few experiments and business models.

One of them was let’s go-to companies. So we start to learn about the corporate relocation sector and what was amazing was that they then said this is really cool and haven’t seen much tech incorporate innovation love the last 20-30 years. Then what was amazing for us and why we did it initially was companies obviously know when someone is about to relocate, whether it is graduate joining and or a transfer. And so it was kind of initially for us a great source of people moving, so then we were like right, this is amazing. They have our customers exactly there. Let’s started focusing on that and that is when we pivoted to B2B, or B2B2C at the start of last year.

All of these companies are in a race to acquire talent and retain talent and they know the moving process is so stressful and so they want to make that process simple. And relating back to what we said earlier, lots of people aren’t going back to the office every day, might not get back to the office ever, or you know might sporadically. So they have the freedom to relocate and therefore are asking their employer would you mind if I move to Cornwall, or Cyprus wherever it might be. And companies are saying yeah sure, but we don’t really know how to support it.

This is where Perch Peek comes in. It is interesting because we initially started speaking to a lot of big companies and corporates that have relocation departments and had someone on LinkedIn that we could message. We know that they have people relocating because their job title is to do with relocation. But what we are seeing now is that lots of smaller companies and tech companies are entering a world of remote first. So if people want to work from anywhere, go for it! So that has been a very strong trend for companies to support people moving and living anywhere.

So I have listened to a few of your podcasts, and I heard a little bit about your story of hiring the tech side of PerchPeek. I know that as founders your backgrounds aren’t in tech. Could you tell me how it was for you when hiring your tech partner or CTO?

If I look at these three years we’ve been plugging away at PerchPeek, finding a tech founder was one of the most important things we did. One of the least methodical things we did in a way in and was so haphazard.

We were charging around meetups, charing into groups, messaging people on LinkedIn. Not many of my friends are developers or know developers, me and my co-founder Oli just didn’t have a great network to jump into. So we went just went to try and meet loads of developers, two guys in our mid-twenties that didn’t really know what we were doing but had a vague idea.

On the flip side, there were some people we couldn’t see growing a business with over the next five years. We probably spoke to sixty people and then I think the one thing we did that was definitely a good decision – we paid our CTO to do a small bit of work for us, to basically build a small piece of the platform.

It’s almost like finding a flatmate right. You can have a great experience in the fifteen-minute interview, go for beers, have a great night out with them, but when your pissed off on a Wednesday night because thing aren’t going well, are you going to work well with them?

And actually paying our now CTO to do that little bit of work over a couple of months showed that even when things were going wrong we had respect for each other, he was good at his job and that definitely proved to be a good middle ground.

As a tech-focused digital agency, we are all about being user-focused and bringing good quality tech. Is the combination that makes technology so great. What is your approach to feeding back user insights into future development and decisions?

A lot of companies speak about being customer-obsessed, but not that many companies are, and I don’t think yet we actually do a good job of listening to our customers. It takes a lot of effort to listen to customers and I think It’s a mix of qualitative – actually sitting down with people, but sitting down with a real range of people and not just cherry-picking the people that have had a good experience. We did this for a long time. It’s very easy for us to speak to the people that did an amazing job. So we changed that.

The second thing that has really allowed us to be much more user friendly from a quantitative perspective is building tools within your product to collect feedback almost anonymously at all times. If you are reliant on the qualitative stuff, people respond differently right. So a pop up with a feedback score they are going to respond differently to someone to is over their shoulder from PerchPeek!

The last one that we are also thinking about a lot at the moment is how do we get a diverse group of feedback from the our users. Particularly the nature of our industry is helping people move from all around the world who come from a lot of different backgrounds suddenly leads to issues. For example, our biggest market is the US, but there are loads of stuff that refers to a ‘flat’ rather than ‘apartments’, or ‘lifts’ instead of ‘elevators’. All those little things. Trying to capture a diverse range of opinions is something we want to get better at.

Awesome news about the 2 million funding! What can we expect next for PerchPeek?

It depends on how quickly Coronavirus disappears into the distance. But I think for us we’re on a journey to try and pull all these different aspects of relocating into one platform. And very much a focus right now is on seamlessly integrating as many of the aspects of relocating into our platform as possible. So we are trying to streamline that.

The other one for us that we are really excited about is that working from anywhere is just seemingly going to be quite a big thing now. And we are working with a lot of small and big companies to say, ‘look you are leaning on this remote-first business and actually supporting people that want to relocate is quite a powerful way to do that’. And we are fleshing out this ecosystem, from both a relocation point of view, but also a tax and an immigration point of view.

What do you think your greatest challenge is for PerchPeek going forward?

It’s obviously not ideal for us when people are lockdown, but in terms of macro challenges, there are two for us. 

One is actually the product, we scale internationally very fast, so what that means that we helping not that many people move to lots of countries and lots of places. So we are trying to bring up our level of places at once, and that is hard to scale operationally. If we need to book a property viewing for someone or get a shipping quote for someone, it’s making sure that stuff doesn’t go wrong.

Secondly from a business model perspective, in our business, it is quite hard from a revenue model, and I think sometimes we didn’t think enough about revenue models early enough in our journey. The nature of relocating is that people do that fairly infrequently, every couple of years or whatever. So just in terms of us forecasting accurately and therefore planning our growth is one of the good things about being funded, your not so reliant, but that is one for us mid to long term that is harder for us compared to a lot of SaaS startups. 

If you could relocate anywhere in the world, where would it be?

For me, I would have to go to Buenos Aires. It feels a little bit European in a way, with grand plazas, amazing parks, such amazing food, and I think they have quite excitingly said that they are going to have a digital nomad visa which will make it much easier to work from there.

If you could some up a few lessons from your startup journey so far to tell other entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Number one would be don’t be afraid to pivot quickly. I think that is something we could have pivoted earlier if we were more honest with our selves. I’m generally quite a positive person. So a good framework is that if we were going to be as negative as possible, what are the actual issues we are facing. And for us we almost ran out of cash because we didn’t pivot fast enough. So we didn’t have enough proof points, then we were fundraising, not this time but the time before, with a gun against our head! And I think the difficulty is, particularly entrepreneurs are quite positive because they want to change the world, but that can be to their detriment. 

Another thing is that all of your friends and family say that’s so cool, such a good idea, maybe go try and raise a small amount of funding, you get someone exciting about it. You’re getting all this validation and pressure to say this is what I have said my idea is. Then if that is not working out, it’s quite hard to admit that and actually say it has to change. So many businesses don’t go linearly from an idea to actually how they end up.

Lastly, one from a lesson point of view is to be vigorous when you are hiring people. If you hire the wrong people it takes up a lot of time. Definitely put the effort into when you are hiring, particularly where your early, because no business is created by one person or the founding team. It’s created by your employees. So making sure that you have people that are excited for the journey that you are on, and are excited about the mission. They are going to be the founding bedrock of your culture.

Matt Ville asterisk

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