NearDesk is a digital platform that uses an Oyster-like smart card to bring together users with available desk space, and bills them for time used.
Tom Ball, NearDesk CEO, had a mission to enable 1 million people to work closer to home by creating a network of hubs that connected individuals with deskspace. With a large trend in the number of people wanting to embrace flexible working, there was a gap in the market for this idea, but there was no existing model for this type of service.
With our experience in creating and launching innovative digital products and services, NearDesk brought us on board to develop the idea and take it to market. Today, NearDesk has over 40,000 active users across 250 member venues. With a highly-scalable and future-proof platform, we have enabled the company to deliver on their ambitious growth plans.
We knew at the outset that we would need to look at two critical elements. We would need to combine a robust and flexible billing platform with a technology that offered a seamless user experience for tracking usage. It also had to be simple for venues to setup and operate.
The billing platform
The billing platform would need to handle a number of potential scenarios. As well as individual and corporate membership schemes, we would also need to support affiliate and revenue share agreements and complex scenarios where consultants work on multiple contracts and require separate billing.
To ensure we designed the right architecture from the start, we worked with business and finance stakeholders to map out all the possible ways members, venue staff and businesses would interact with the system.
Smart cards & readers
Nothing like this existed at the time. For tracking usage, our technology team started by testing and validating potential options, to see what would offer the best customer experience.
We realised that in order for venues to be up and running within 20 minutes, we would need to provide our solution in a form that could simply be plugged in, and would work straight from the box. We settled on using Raspberry PI's with contactless, near field communication (NFC) cards and readers.
What we made
The finished platform accurately tracks the usage of desk and meeting spaces across multiple venues. It supports individuals and companies that are on different rate agreements and handles affiliate and revenue share schemes.
The customer experience
The result is a frictionless customer experience where members can touch in and out at over 250 venues. All usage is tracked and members get a single monthly bill.
Paying for usage, membership, meeting rooms, or other related items is simple and fast. NearDesk supports multiple payment methods, including corporate accounts, direct debit and credit cards.
The venue experience
Venues are able to rent out desks and meeting rooms to anybody with a NearDesk card by simply installing the NearDesk pack, which includes a smart card reader, a modified Raspberry Pi and a connected screen. Each venue is also able to issue cards to new members, as and when required.
The system takes only 20 minutes to setup and the venue can immediately start generating revenue, with little need for members to interact with venue staff. The readers are simply plugged into the Internet, with user and billing details entered via a simple web interface.
Building a community
On our recommendation, to improve the member experience and create a sense of community, each venue has a large screen that shows members on-site and their Linkedin profile. This fosters a sense of community and helps members to make business connections.
The NearDesk digital platform is now installed at over 250 venues across the UK, enabling over 40,000 people to work from any location or closer to home. The platform handles thousands of transactions an hour, handling logins to venues, calculating correct bills and handling direct debits and card payments.
Businesses are able to reduce their costs of renting expensive office space by issuing their workers with NearDesk cards and paying for desk space and meeting rooms only when they are needed. Additionally, they get a single, monthly bill for all staff that can be easily settled by direct debit.
Since launch, NearDesk has broken the record for the highest amount raised on the Seedrs crowd-funding platform, raising over £1,000,000 investment and oversubscribed by 165%.
1,000+transactions an hour