April 10th, 2019 / Published in: Interviews
Scale or die. How to master a market platform and creating equal demand to the supply you are building.
Jannik Lawaets is the Founder and CEO of LuggageHero, a growing network of affordable luggage-storage sites. He launched the service in 2016, inspired by a personal need to conveniently store luggage while traveling in cities. He started in his hometown of Copenhagen, and rapidly expanded to London and New York City. In 2019, Lawaetz will further expand LuggageHero into an additional 36 cities in North American and Europe.
A graduate of Copenhagen Business School and a serial entrepreneur, Lawaetz previously helped launch several Danish tech startups, including an event platform for triathletes and a fitness and nutrition portal. He also has many years of expertise working with website software and telecommunications.
These days, Lawaetz divides his time between Copenhagen and various cities where LuggageHero is based, and is thankful that he no longer has to drag his luggage around with him.
Carlos: Hello everyone it’s uh it’s a pleasure to have you here again on DojoLive! it’s always it’s sunny, it’s a sunny Wednesday here in Mexico City, where we’re broadcasting from and welcome to another episode of dull July and we’re gonna have it we’re gonna be having a conversation with someone who’s shaping the future of travel Texas began we like the concept of shaping the future it’s always something relevant that’s especially considering our new motto which is the future from those creating it so you’re gonna be part of this so today we’re gonna be speaking with Jannik Lawaetz he is the founder and CEO of luggage hero and basically what Jannik is gonna be talking to us about is how to scale pretty much scale or die welcome to the show today Jannik it’s a pleasure and an honor to have you here.
Jannik: Thank you, thank you very much Carlos.
Carlos: Absolutely it’s our pleasure and of course last but not least we have Mariel Navarro my fellow teammate as co-host broadcasting from our Chihuahua office, so yeah and it’s a pleasure to have you here to welcome to the show and thank you for for co-hosting with me today.
Mariel: Hey guys, thank you.
Carlos: Thank you so much Mariel, okay well let me go back to Jannik you so okay I understand that you are the CEO and founder of luggage hero, okay so why don’t we start by that tell us about you and tell us about Luggage Hero what is it, talk talk to us a little bit about your company where it came from pretty much what’s behind it what made you think of this so welcome to the show.
Jannik: Thank you, thank you very much Carlos and thank you for that introduction yeah sure so luggage hero oh we do luggage storage and we don’t do it the what would you say the the old-fashioned way where you you kind of try and find a logger somewhere hidden on a station we found that a lot of people are staying in rental apartments and they usually want to have their luggage stored close to it and that’s why we invented the solution that existing businesses such as local cafes, restaurants, the bike rental places, even hotels could work as storage units for storing luggage for travelers and that was actually how luggage hero came about to to actually just store luggage for people on the go yeah.
Carlos: That’is, that’s a really, really clever idea especially considering the number of the increasing number of travelers nowadays and also the way the the halls of the increasing fatalities when it comes to lock is handling rights I think it’s very relevant what you’re doing here so okay I understand you for today’s conversation you chose the topic off let’s see you chose how to scale the 36 cities in 12 months now that’s quite an undertaking so first question why did you choose this particular topic?
Jannik: Yeah, that’s a really good question and I I believe that I’ve been asked that question a lot of times so I’ll try and justify with a really good answer occasion so so first of all within within operating since summer 2016 so we are a fairly young company we’ve survived I would say more than three years which is like the golden thumb rule with in startups if you’ve survived the first three years it’s like you usually die the first three years and especially twelve startups but when we survived and I think one of the reason why we survived was actually that we didn’t scale and that’s a little bit opposite for what I’m about to talk about now but we were actually able to find out what was our core concept and how was we delivering our service in the in the best way in just a few markets so we found what was working in each market and we then replicated it to another market before scaling up as we’re doing now that was a really important lesson.
Carlos: Okay, I totally get it so that that kind of leads me to ask the next question which is in terms of travel tech what is your how would you define your your value proposition and how is it defensible against of maybe other offerings I’d be out there?
Jannik: Yeah, that’s another really good question I think we touched upon it just in the beginning I mean luggage is such a big part of travel and it strikes me as a a weird thing that no one has really set up to solve that issue I mean you always have something to carry when you’re on the go and it always holds you back in some ways I mean either you’re trying to get rid of it at your hotel as soon as you get there or on your topology day trying to find someplace to store it so you can just use your extra time before departure and it’s actually just a struggle on on your travel from the very beginning where you start packing it until you’re on the in the airport checking in in taking it out going to to your apartment or hotel and actually to the very end date when you’re leaving and and it strikes me as really weird that no one has really set up to solve that whole journey and we are actually just solving a very small piece of the puzzle and and and and the pain from this but I mean it all starts from the very home to the very end so I wouldn’t say that we’re a tech company solving it all but I’m just saying there’s really room and space for improvement I was.
Carlos: Right, okay, yeah and would you say that you experienced the same types of challenges so to speak in different for example in the case of you have business travelers you have leisure travelers you have adventure travelers so all these groups of travelers all these spaces have different challenges when it comes to luggage handling how do you how do you how do you tackle these challenges or how do you solve their unique problems in each situation what is your offering to each one of these unique dishes?
Jannik: I think the key word is convenience and it’s been the key word from the very beginning because I didn’t find it convenient to ask any of my guests staying in my home I was doing a rental on Airbnb back in 2016 and I didn’t find it convenient to to to ask these people to go to one Central Station in Copenhagen to leave their luggage down in some basement trusting that would be a logger free and they would have the change ready for it I didn’t find that convenient so when I started luggage hero in in Copenhagen I started out with having 30 locations spread out in this city and Copenhagen is a fairly small city but further locations whether it was a good start when we expanded to London and New York City is where we are now we we expanded with more than 100 locations so what which I would say is the minimum in these cities but but the key word is convenience bringing convenience in in in every angle of it yeah.
Carlos: Thank you so much, Mariel let me pass on the mic to you.
Mariel: Okay, right now the number of travelers is increasing there are a lot of type of travelers and also the places where they’re staying whether is it an Airbnb or a hotel I think they’re offering the same a drop-off place for your luggage does it represent a real competitor for you or hotels or AirBnb’s who are offering the same?
Jannik: I wouldn’t say that hotels is a competitor to us because we are not bad much catering the exact audience for staying in hotel we are kidding mostly people who are staying in rentals and especially people like staying in Airbnb or renting their apartment on booking.com, HomeAway, VRBO, whatever there’s more than 70 different platforms out there but but people who usually stay in an apartment doesn’t have the same conscience service as they have in a hotel so it don’t see the Airbnb fees making any competition for me they’re they’re more making it easier because they’re kind of struggling on having people getting out of the apartment or waiting to let them in and it’s usually because people just want to get rid of all the backs because who want to enjoy any city you just arrived you with a couple of bags no one will they want to have them safe and then want them having indoor and we and we can provide that in their convenience.
Mariel: Okay, technologically speaking are you facing any challenges or were you but challenges we you say it’s aren’t the most important like you know entering a new technology or in regards of the performance of your site.
Jannik: I think one of the challenges we have all the time is staying focused that is one of my my most important tasks as the CEO and in a critical startup in the beginning of a startups life to stay focused and and not letting you distract as I was talking about before there’s so much things involved with luggage and and and just to give you an example with and asked several times by multiple providers and people guest that would would we be offering a transportation and and and that’s why we need to stay focused because we found something that works people go and drop the luggage and they pick it up the same place it’s very very simple don’t try and complicate things so if you found something that works, keep on doing that until you’re done and you’re finished and and you’ve done a good job scaling it and then you can look into other vertical or horizontal integration and I think that’s a challenge that as recently as today we were discussing this that my team with my co-founder and and and and one of the guys from the team just to stay focused and and not let a self distract or attempt to go into new things all the time.
Mariel: Yeah, definitely get it done first and then go to the next thing right now with what you have you know the mobile platforms they’re getting like very very strong do you guys have an app or it’s like everything directly to the site?
Jannik: Yeah it’s a really good question I mean when I when I started this company I was one of the first LinkedIn posters I made I recall was who can make me an app and and a lot of people could make an app for me and I went out and I talked to a lot of these guys and they were like yeah you want IOS, you want Android, you want Windows, you want this and this this and and I was like yeah yeah sure sure and and I just got that number on the sheet they were looking at and that number was true how oh that was the expense of making this but then I met a guy who said you can make web app and and he showed me an example of how it works and it works so seamlessly this is an app, and and it actually had all the features that I would like to have from the beginning and what I find found out later was actually the fact that there’s a lot of apps out there but people don’t use them right so people either don’t want to download them because they think I’m never gonna use this or if they download it they don’t use it again so there’s only very few apps you actually use again and again and again so for us to stay really lean and and and and fast in the development we decided to stay on the web app as it is now.
Carlos: It’s kind of going back to the basics right that kind of like the idea to.
Mariel: You’re definitely right because I’m thinking right now I do have apps that I have only used once and they’re like in there in my phone somewhere.
Jannik: Imagine you travel and you just arrive to a new city and you’re like I want to store my bag and and and our website pops up and asking you to to login to to App Store and download this app in in in in hopes that we will solve your your pain right now instead of just showing you a web app and showing that there’s a 100 meters to to your newest location it’s right here, right here, so it’s like the whole experience is just so much more seamless this way I think it.
Carlos: Jannik, I have a question for you real quick I know but also I would like to remind the audience that if you have any questions for Jannik or about the company of a nice company luggage hero or about the topic that he chose you can do that on Twitter very simple our handle is @DojoLive! you already know you stood her so I don’t need to tell you that let’s remember @DojoLive! right here or it’s gonna be right there on the website to just keep an eye for that anyway ok back to my question well we’re I’d like to narrow down on again two on the topic the topic is 36 how to scale through 36 cities in 12 months so that’s good that’s the beginning I said that’s quite an undertaking so it’s a very very nice challenge to tackle in that send-up context what would you say that what sort of limitations so to speak are you phasing and how you how are you addressing them in order to scale so rapidly can you talk to us a little bit about that please?
Jannik: Yeah, I think that one of the the main challenges we have when scaling that much is obviously we are reliant on a lot of different things happening at one time and and we’re relying on people we’re relying on relationships and and great recruitment and one of the things that we found working fantastic in in our scaling of this concept is actually our community so we have more than 100,000 registered users on our on our platform in the three years that we’ve been live and in in the way of scaling this concept I found that a lot of these people with used it in either London Copenhagen or New York was writing me personal messages saying I want to open it up in Paris I want to open it up in Rome buzzer the owner everywhere so that made me think could these people really pull it off so we set up an experiment and and and the experiments showed that these people could actually perform and hand and and be of help to to to to scale my concept so we call them brand heroes so it’s we actually made a community for the people who want to be more than just travelers they want to be part of this startup they want to be part of our future and scaling it together and and we call them luggage hero brand heroes.
Carlos: I’m sorry what wasn’t it? How did you call it I didn’t that last part.
Jannik: We’re calling them brand heroes.
Carlos: Oh, brand heroes, okay.
Jannik: Yeah, so if you look at luggagehero.rocks like rocks we made a whole separate domain just for this and this is where they signed themselves up once they’ve tried our service in any of the cities and and they get rewarded being part of this community.
Carlos: Interesting, interesting, cool, Mariel, do you have any more questions for Jannik?
Mariel: Yeah, brand heroes, do you have like minimum requirements to someone to become a brand hero?
Jannik: It’s very different I mean we have a set of procedures once a person signs up as a brand hero and and one of the procedures is someone and an account hero is what we call it from the head is doing a video call with with the person finding out with what are they interesting in and and how much time could they put aside on this project and once we we we kind of set the the expectations we we go to the next stage of onboarding that person so they can be certified on border and and acquire of new shops but we don’t have a like a we don’t say you you just can’t have a job or or anything like that we that we’ve had some of the most successful brand newest we add on board is actually someone who has had a full time job on the side of it yeah.
Mariel: Okay, that’s cool.
Carlos: Here’s something that I sort of wanted to at least touch on while while while you’re experiencing this scaling this growth and it’s a short timeframe would you say that in your space in your vertical would you say that specific technologies for example AI, do you would you say that they have a significant role in order to contribute to this growth or to this um scaling of your product in other words how do these technologies help you wrote in such a short timeframe if applicable.
Jannik: So when we look at a city one of the first tasks is actually determining is this a right city for us and I mean we do a lot of this manually so we sit and and investigate first of all how many how many international tourists arrives in the city how many domestics how many rentals are there in these cities but but most importantly how does this city work in in the infrastructure what ways people moving where’s people going and I think there are a lot of interesting touch points which make up a whole picture for us which is a lot of different data points on the on determining what cities of the right city but also why would we need to have locations around that city and I definitely think that AI would have a excellent spot in that for future for us we foresee that we can be in in more than 4,000 cities worldwide so if we need to scale this and and and you’re saying it’s hard to scale to 36 cities at one time imagine doing thousand cities as Airbnb has been doing, so you need to have a lot of things going on in the background automatically tasking and so on to actually determine a lot of these things and I think AI could have a spot in that for us.
Carlos: Okay, yeah, when you have things like AI machine learning things like that of course you get data you get a lot of feedback you get you know the action widens that are gonna definitely going to help you now in this context how do you go about implementing these this this is this particular data or in other words how do you validate new features and functionalities in such a fast pace market or a vertical.
Jannik: Yeah, I mean some of the validation we’re doing now and in speak of what I’m just talking about is actually we can map the whole traction from a whole city and and we can see where all the traffic spots are in in terms of how much traction do we have in this job so and and this is really interesting data for a lot of people because they want to know how people move but we can actually see that in in live mode we can see the booking is made we can see whenever someone is in the shop how many people are they in the shop and when are they picking up the bags and and we can we can have a lot of data points and and movement this way and and we can and we can foresee a lot of action on behalf of these people this way and an AI can help doing that as well.
Carlos: Excellent, thank you so much Jannik, so listen, we’re approaching the final minutes of this conversation it’s funny that time flies when you’re having a fun you’re having a good time in a good conversation so because of this I would like to ask you just one final thing is in terms of your your your space the travel technology and luggage hero pretty much everything we’ve talked about today what keeps you up at night what’s gonna what what comes to mind and says this is this is what’s gonna be a game-changer for luggage hero in the near future what what can you talk to us about that.
Jannik: I mean, what keeps me up at night is not scaling this fast enough that’s it all right simple I mean it’s a field it’s a simple solution to it’s a very common problem and this is about scaling this as fast as possible we we want to be the market leader in this and and to do that we need to scale it if I would just be okay with having like locations in Copenhagen making a profit of it I would have settled with that in 2016 but I want to have this being a worldwide thing and for that we’re also actually doing a crowdfunding right now an equity crowdfunding and seeta’s platform and this is also a way of reaching out to investors around the world actually from Mexico from from anywhere in the world in Europe too so and and and we need that we need a lot of international help on what we’re doing.
Carlos: Excellent, so I’m sure a lot of some of our viewers or hopefully many of them are going to be listening to what you have to say about this and it’ll be reaching out to you to your information that’s going to be right there on the website, Mariel, absolutely, Mariel do we have anything else any final words so, any final questions for Jannik before we wrap up?
mariel: Well, just from my personal point of view, it’s a pretty cool idea, myself as a traveler I would like to have that like here in Mexico hopefully you can scale to Mexico and are you personally social network or so people can find you besides the website?
Jannik: Yeah, I mean one of the social networks I use the most is definitely LinkedIn so you can always connect with me on LinkedIn and and write to me there I’m I’m really connected there so we are also on other platforms but LinkedIn is one of the most used at the moment.
Carlos: Absolutely and and all your contact info is gonna be right there on this landing page of this interview so worry not gentlemen ladies it’s all gonna be in there so keep an eye on our recent upcoming updates to the page for contact one before we go just one quick announcement for about next week and I would like to remind the audience that next week we’re gonna be speaking with Robert Robert Robert Reive the managing director of a company called twind power in Canada so it’s going to be a totally separate conversation I mean topic but it this should be interesting too because it’s about wind power and the technology behind when wind power so remember Wednesday 1 p.m. Pacific as usual as ever here on dojo live now further ado the only thing left for me to do is simply Jannik send out a big heartfelt warm thank you to you for having spent 30 minutes with us and I’m sure all there are you viewers are gonna be reaching out to you soon through the website any final words of wisdom for our audience Jannik?
Jannik: Oh you just caught me there, it’s really hard, it’s 8:30 PM here in Copenhagen I put my two kids asleep one final word would be there’s time for everything you want here in the world I have two kids and and I still manage to travel and and and stay fit and and focused and they’re still having a quick so yeah that’s my final words.
Carlos: Absolutely, then in that case we are well aligned okay thank thank you so much thank you Mariel, thank you Jannik, it was a very pleasure and an honor to have you here on DojoLive the future from those creating it, until next time.
Jannik: Thank you.