Select Page

Talking to strangers pays off

by | Coworking, Public Workspaces, Remote Working, Workspaces

Why it’s good to talk to fellow remote workers

Since 2012 I’ve been talking to many complete strangers while I was working from cafés and coworking spaces. Even though I’m fairly shy. At first I did it, because it was part of my market research, but it didn’t take me long to see the real value of these conversations. It’s hard to say which of all those conversations has had the most impact on the growth of the Flexpackerz app and community. Maybe the future will tell. However, there’s one encounter in particular that I would love to share with you. Not just because the outcome was pretty amazing and completely unexpected, but mostly because it embodies why I encourage people, especially entrepreneurs, to “talk to strangers”.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to save the showdown for last, meaning you don’t have to read the full article to find out what I’m so excited about. I’m just going to drop it, cold turkey style, right after this sentence, in the hope that you are hungry for the whole story behind it.

Flexpackerz and it’s founder (that would be me) are mentioned in the best read newspaper of Taiwan!!

Now, I can almost hear you say it: “How the #### did that happen?” I mean, the Flexpackerz app has definitely a growing community in Rotterdam, but it’s not even near going viral in the #Netherlands. Then, how did we end up getting mentioned in the best read newspaper of #Taiwan? Well, the answer is pretty simple; I talked to a complete stranger…

Breaking the ice

This stranger, named Wei-Hsuan Su (Dutch friends call her Su), was sitting across the table at NOC NOC, one of those hipster coffee bars in downtown #Rotterdam. We were both working on our laptops, while enjoying our coffee. Usually, remote workers stick to the short and practical conversations, like “Do you know the wifi password?” or “Can you watch my laptop for a minute?”, but not me! No, I always ask if they often work remotely and how they find the best places to work from. Obviously this is the perfect conversation starter for me, because it opens the door to introduce the Flexpacker app.

By the way, Flexpackerz is designed to help you break the ice. Go check it out when you’re done reading!

Of course I hope they will download the app. Arguably, it seems that I’m only breaking the ice to sell my #product, but that’s only half true. I’m also genuinely interested in other people’s professional lives and I strongly believe that opportunities are everywhere. That is why these conversations tend to last for at least 15 minutes up to over an hour, if there’s mutual interest. From a sales point of view, convincing one person to download a free-to-use app would be considered a terrible result and a complete waste of time. But that’s not the point! I gladly invest this time for 3 reasons:

  1. to get to know my #customer and test my assumptions;
  2. to create devoted ambassadors, by telling the vision behind Flexpackerz;
  3. to find out if there’s an opportunity to do business, #collaborate or help each other.

Testing assumptions

In the case of Su I got lucky to hit the maximum score. Let me quickly walk you through all 3 of them. First: Su told me she’s studying at the Erasmus University and doing her thesis. The fact that there’s simply not enough space at the #university campus, is the reason why she started working from cafes. She even made her own list of good places to work and study from. Su also confessed that she would love to get in touch with locals, but finds it hard to get through to the Dutch people. Bingo! That’s 3 assumptions confirmed!

Creating ambassadors

Second: I remember Su already downloaded the #app way before we finished our conversation. So, we were off to a good start. But Su is so enthusiastic about Flexpackerz, that she’s now using the app on a daily basis and tells all her study friends about it too. If she continues at this pace, she will soon beat me as “most active user of all time”. Clearly I can now check the box for “devoted ambassador” too.

Exploring opportunities

Third: “Exploring #opportunities”, I always consider this a bonus. I don’t put any pressure on it and I have no expectations. Nonetheless, I dare to claim that nine out of ten times there’s something I can help the other person with or vice versa. Su turned out to be looking for locations where she can host meetups for her reading club, Readerland. Since I happen to know many venues including the owners or managers, it was my pleasure to help her out.

But the real bonus for me came one week later…

She texted me to ask if I wanted to do an interview about #startup life in the Netherlands. I said ‘yes’ right away, thinking that she would use it for her own blog or something. Not knowing that she’s actually a reporter for a Taiwanese newspaper, which only became clear to me at the time of the interview. Afterwards, when my curiosity was finally awakened, I asked her if she could send me some more info about this newspaper. That same day she texted me and said: “I couldn’t find the exact numbers, but the newspaper is called the #Apple Daily. It’s the best read newspaper in Taiwan, with around 2 million daily readers.” WOW… now that’s what I call a pleasant surprise!!

The payoff

So, to summarize it all; what did I gain by talking to this stranger, called Su? Well for sure a new and very active app user, a dedicated ambassador and a huge spike of Linkedin profile views by Taiwanese readers. Maybe even a few extra downloads, which is always good for statistics.

Okay, that’s nice and all, but what’s in it for the long run? Well, that’s hard to say, but probably a pretty good entry to the Taiwanese #market, just in case Flexpackerz is ready to go #global. And last but not least, a damn good story that hopefully inspires you to talk to strangers more often 😉

Curious about the column that Su wrote? Here’s a translation of it:

The Netherlands – A New Startup Cradle?

Read more about coworking & remote working