Made in Britain: James Coughlan of Reef.Global

Reef.Global James Coughlan

James Coughlan, founder of Reef.Global, explains how his business is making the new norm of hybrid working much easier for businesses and employees. 

What does your business offer?

Reef.Global creates third workspaces. This is going to be increasingly important as we all enter this new era of remote and hybrid working.

In essence, we aim to bridge gaps between office working and home working. We will connect businesses with hospitality venues across the world via an app. Bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels can specify what space they have available for people to come in and work from (and when). Businesses can then subscribe to the app for their workforce, allowing employees to find appropriate and convenient space to work.

The main benefits are that it aids remote workers/employees mental health and wellbeing, providing suitable places to work, space to socialise and a way to keep home and work lives a bit more separate. I think we forget that not everyone has suitable places to work at home, and for some people it can be very lonely.

It also decreases employer costs and helps transition to a hybrid workforce. There’s no denying that businesses are cutting office space, so this is an easy way for them to help provide alternate working locations to their teams.

As well as this, it increases hospitality footfall – but strictly at times when they know they have capacity.

What was the inspiration behind the company?

The idea came from my own personal experience. I actually had the idea and began creating the app a year before Covid-19 was even heard about. I was fed up having to work from the same, unfulfilling spaces when travelling, so I decided to create an app where people can find their perfect workspaces, wherever they are in the world.

But then the pandemic came along and actually, that has meant this idea is even more relevant and timely. Creating an app like this, and sourcing the venues, isn’t something which is done overnight, so we’ve spent the last 18-months getting everything in place and now we’re ready to launch.

What is your background?

For over the past 10 years, I have worked within sales and marketing, from assistant to C-Level. I have been office-based, worked from home and been a remote worker across these roles, making me a perfect persona for Reef.

What sets you apart from your competition?

Our main USP is our global venue reach, with us already having venues in five countries across the globe, and that will continue to increase. Also, from a hospitality venue perspective, from our research we are the only platform that integrates directly into booking platforms, such as DesignMyNight and OpenTable, to reduce the amount of software used in hospitality. This makes Reef a more seamless experience for venues – which means they’re more likely to use it and see the benefits. We are also putting a heavy emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of employees, whilst helping companies transition into a hybrid workforce. We’ll be running networking events at Reef venues for companies to meet up and there’ll be perks and discounts for members too and an encrypted internal company chat facility.

How do you spread the word about your business?

We are running a few local online marketing campaigns, targeting specific areas where we have venues through a variety of channels. We are also doing PR and social media activity and running offline marketing strategies by attending events and pushing word of mouth.

How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Obviously during lockdowns hospitality venues were closed and people needed to work at home, so due to the nature of our business, we haven’t been able to launch due to Covid-19. But this has given us the opportunity to finesse our product, by adding extra features and improving the user experience.

How do you see your market evolving over the next few years?

We are seeing a month-on-month increase in the UK of the number of businesses moving to a hybrid workforce due to Covid-19, and the trend is looking like it is here to stay. We plan to help these businesses thrive moving forward with hybrid working, so there’s every reason to think the market will only grow. As we gain more venues on the app it will hopefully be helping businesses at both ends – those looking for workspace and those looking for customers.

What’s the hardest thing about running a business?

You have to become an expert in a lot of different areas of business! Which is interesting but it can be tough juggling the different parts of sales, marketing, finance, legals etc, and getting to a point where it is affordable to hire people to aid with this via employing or outsourcing. Also, finding the right people for this is hard.

Have you received any financial support for your business?

We received funding from the BBLS which helped us carry on through lockdown. We are currently looking for investment to help us hit our global goals quicker.

What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?

The team we have in place. We have a great, knowledgeable team in this sector, which has been a great help for us to get to where we are today.

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?

Probably to plan in a lot more detail. I had a plan, but it was very top level, whereas our more immediate planning was very reactive. I’ve learnt from that! We have now planned in advance in more detail and have been achieving much better results because of it.

What has been your proudest achievement so far?

We have brought on some amazing hospitality venue brands in the last few weeks, which has allowed us to cover most of the UK, offering our users more freedom and more choice. We have also signed venues in the US and Europe, which is exciting.

What are your hopes for your business in the next five years?

We want to have venues and customers on all continents across the world, with over £1m in monthly recurring revenue. We also want to be the platform that has helped remote workers/employees improve their mental health and wellbeing when moving to a hybrid culture, by creating collaboration and a space to work from, other than home, that suits their needs.