Zoku: combining AirBnB and WeWork
Zoku is a hotel concept aimed at the ‘global nomad’: the professional who travels the world for business. The flexible lofts merge living and work space and are also designed for long stays. The common rooms are the perfect place to meet other guests or locals from the neighborhood. Zoku’s first location opened in May 2016 in the center of Amsterdam. Another forty-nine locations will open in the coming decade.
Create a hotel concept for the modern business traveler, combining accommodation with work and meeting new people.
Involve customers in designing the hotel, including the rooms and common rooms. Furthermore, find out which services they need.
Spending some time abroad for work seems like fun, but staying in a hotel for weeks often ends in disappointment. It’s difficult to get in touch with other guests, leading to loneliness. Hans Meyer and co-founder Marc Jongeruius address this issue with his hotel concept Zoku, combining accommodation with work and meeting new people. The first location in Amsterdam is hugely popular among the so-called shortstayers.
The ideas for a new hotel concept were already in Meyer’s head long before Zoku opened its doors in Amsterdam’s city center. He ran a consultancy firm in the hotel business at the time. “I was looking for a place were people who work and live in Amsterdam for long periods of time could meet. I discovered there was no such place.”
Before even starting, however, he wanted to test the waters and see if there was an actual need for such a concept. Meyer gathered 150 potential customers, like a Microsoft employee who commutes between thirty five different countries. The initial research resulted in a clear overview of the modern business traveler’s needs. Meyer: “The main frustration of staying in hotels or apartments stems from feeling ‘disconnected’. People start to miss their social environment.”
To find out what it’s like to live like a ‘global nomad’, Meyer left the safety of his home for six months to stay and work in various locations throughout the world. He ran his business from Washington, Bali and Buenos Aires. “I wanted to experience what it’s like to run an international company, disconnected from time and location”, says Meyer. “It was a very interesting experiment. Doing the work wasn’t the problem, apparently you can do that anywhere. What I did notice, however, was how difficult it was to find kindred spirits in a strange city. The way backpackers find each other in hostels. I was looking for a similar place, but without the bunks and the hallway bathrooms.”
After finishing his extensive research, Meyer was convinced his concept had potential. He joined forces with Business Models Inc. and a large group of potential guests to work out his business model. In the meantime, co-founder Mark Jongerius had joined the project. Meyer: “We all went to Bergen to work on our ideas and hone them. The goal was to make a blueprint on which we could build.” The sessions were very valuable, according to Meyer. “We focused our questions. What is our value proposition, exactly? This lead to different business models. We then decided to pick the business model which would create the most value for our customers.”
Involving the target audience
According to Meyer, the key to success has been the close involvement of the target audience. “Our customers were involved from day one. This enabled us to completely attune the concept to their needs. We built various hotel rooms as prototypes and asked the guests to evaluate them. That’s why the current rooms meet their exact wishes and demands.”
What makes the Zoku concept truly unique, is the social aspect. Guests meet each other in lively, open spaces. They can chat or exchange business ideas. An appointed community manager organizes inspiring social events. Meyer: “The meetings help to create a social and business network. Its main purpose is to get people and ideas together in an informal way. The guests have to be happy and relaxed.”
Meyer has already won several awards with his innovative hotel, including the Radical Innovation Award in New York. Also, the hotel features in Forbes’ list of ‘coolest hotels in the world’. Zoku’s success works as a catalyst for expansion. Another forty-nine Zoku locations will open their doors in the coming ten years, says Meyer. “For now, we focus mainly on Europe, the United States will follow in due time. We know there is an international demand for this concept. Finding suitable locations remains the biggest challenge. In many cities, the good spots are already filled with hotels. They’re not really competitors, though, because Zoku is a unique concept.”
Business Models Inc. is proud to be part of Hans Meyers’ early journey exploring this new longstay concept.