What's your personal background? What motivated you to start your own company?
I moved to Canada from Lebanon when I was 11 years old. After bouncing around a lot I landed in Montreal where I graduated from Mcgill University with a degree in Cognitive Science. While in school I launched my first project called Centerfold Gallery (www.centerfold.gallery) where I was first introduced to no-code tools such as Airtable and Zapier.
I actually did not start Nuage, but joined early enough where I was able to impact the business and establish myself as a member of the founding team. I was motivated to join because I believed Nuage stood at an interesting intersection between hotels and individuals renting on Airbnb, while also differentiating ourselves from the competition by targeting a higher-end segment of the market.
What no code tools did you use to build Nuage Stays and what purpose did each play in the final product?
We’re currently employing no-code internally, to help manage our operations. That stack is:
Trello: reservation manager
Google Sheets: dashboarding/metrics
Notion: knowledge base
I’m also working on a couple others at the moment:
Bubble: direct booking channel
Bravo x Figma: native iOS app
Parabola: to replace google sheets
What were the initial costs to get Nuage Stays off the ground?
The founders invested $30,000 to acquire a couple units and some basic furniture to get Nuage off the ground. From there, profits were re-invested and we were able to grow to over 100 units in 2 markets.
What was the process of building your product from idea to launching?
Although it’s not quite “our product”, I’ll answer this as it relates to the no-code stack we employ. It started on my first day. I had an interview with the founders and my colleague who is responsible for customer service to understand how the business was being managed and to identify major pain points. Right away it was clear that a major obstacle was actually managing our business on Airbnb itself (this was our only sales channel at the time). So I started thinking about how to circumvent Airbnb and build something that was made for our team using their feedback in each step.
We were using a whiteboard to help track which reservations were coming up this week, so I started there. I noticed that all our Airbnb emails were formatted the same way, so I built a tool to parse the email with a series of Airtable formulas, and then send those details to Trello. Each card would go through a “Customer Journey Flow” ( a series of lists) from when they book until after they check-out.
From there, I was able to expand the Airtable base and collect financial information and other important metrics. Once I finalized version 1 of the tools, I then looked at which steps could be automated, and began looking at ways to remove as many manual steps as possible, arriving at the stack we have now, and have been using for the pas 2 years.
How do you attract customers?
At the moment, we depend on our sales channels to attract our customers. We do not really focus on any outbound marketing. We also have a base of recurring visitors that we stay in touch with.
What are the biggest challenges you've overcome building Nuage Stays?
I think our biggest challenges have come with being a bootstrapped business. We’ve had to stretch all our resources to the max, which has been difficult at times. At the moment, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have really put a strain on the business. However, we’ve positioned ourselves to come out of this stronger as ever. Since most of our day to day operations are automated, we’ve been able to focus on the big picture, managing the current situation, and preparing to execute on our growth strategy moving forward.
How much money is Nuage Stays making per month?
Considering the seasonal nature of our business, the amount of money we’ve been making fluctuates heavily month of month. We closed 2019 with $4.9M in total revenue and we’ve been almost doubling every year.
What's your advice for non-technical people who want to start a company?
My advice is as follows: do your research and start building. I’m not technical either. I barely know how to strap a couple lines of code together. We live at a time where you can do practically anything without code and with minimal up-front investment. It’s important to break down what you’re building into tiny steps/blocks. Once you’ve solved one of those blocks, iterate, build on it, add more things, and before you know it, you’ll have a fully fleshed out and scalable product.
What are your future plans for Nuage Stays?
Future plans include continuing to grow the way we have been. We’re expecting quite the shake-up in the industry and we’re posed to capitalize on the new opportunities that come out of this industry climate. Continuing to build with no-code tools and hopefully start a no-code engineering team to expand into new verticals is something I am personally looking forward to.
How do you think the rise of no code tools will impact entrepreneurship?
I think it makes being an entrepreneur more accessible, which is important. I think all the companies that are providing these tools and resources are doing an excellent job and empowering people to take their futures into their own hands and solve problems they are passionate about.