Even if you don’t have a massive office budget, there’s no reason to sacrifice an uplifting and comfortable working environment thanks to ROOM’s flagship product Room One. It’s a soundproof and affordable in-office booth that resembles a modern, sleek telephone booth. It’s the perfect size to create a customizable, soundproof, creative space that offers privacy for your team when they need to get away from the open office environment. ROOM delivers directly to the consumer in a flat box and it is easy to install and set up.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and cofounder Brian Chen about the possibilities for ROOM’s expansion after its recent Seed round.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We closed a $2M seed round that was led by Slow Ventures.
Tell us about the product or service that ROOM offers.
Our flagship product is the ROOM One. Using sustainably sourced materials, we created a soundproof and affordable in-office booth that gives people the space they need to think, create, and get work done.
Both Morten and I were inspired to start ROOM from our own personal struggles working in open offices. We were tired of the constant noise and distractions endemic to startup offices, but existing privacy solutions were either too expensive or inconvenient. We actually tried to build our own booth before ROOM came to life, but it quickly became clear that we hadn’t thought through all the details – like air ventilation or acoustics. The makeshift booth got pretty warm, and it was coined “the sweatbox”. Since then, we’ve worked with acoustics experts and significantly improved our design to create a comfortable space that reintroduces privacy into the workplace.
How is ROOM different?
We’ve created a product that businesses need and coupled it with an innovative direct-to-business model. This keeps costs low for our customers without compromising quality. We wanted to create a solution that is first and foremost accessible—our booth is significantly less expensive than our competitors’, it ships flat, and it’s easy to self-install. We’ve thought about the customer experience from beginning to end and kept this principle of accessibility in mind throughout.
What market does ROOM target and how big is it?
Our product caters to everyone from Fortune 500 companies to emerging startups. Any company that has recently migrated to an open floor plan or has struggled with the distraction of noise in the office, can benefit from our booth.
What’s your business model?
We’re taking a direct-to-consumer approach to a B2B industry. Unlike a lot of other office furniture, customers are able to purchase our product online, get free shipping with transparent pricing, and have our product shipped directly to their office. We aim to make the ROOM journey as hassle-free as buying any other consumer product.
Are there plans to expand the offering beyond the booth?
Definitely. It is our mission to make room for better work environments. A soundproof privacy room addresses an urgent need in today’s offices, so it’s a great first step, but our belief is that you shouldn’t need the budget of a Google or Facebook to have an inspiring and healthy workplace. So we see several areas and product categories within the office that are desperately in need of innovation and accessible solutions.
What was the funding process like?
The fundraising process was surprisingly fast. Going into it, we were wary of how much fundraising can be a distraction to building a business, and how the process can drag for several months. We were fortunate to meet Slow Ventures early on in our process. They quickly developed conviction around our vision, and we enjoyed working with them right off the bat.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We started our fundraising process at the end of June. We thought VCs took August off, but it turns out that holiday schedules pretty much start by the Fourth of July! Kidding aside, we approached investors from both coasts, and it actually did prove difficult to coordinate with everyone’s travel schedules.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our traction to date – reaching a $10M sales run rate in a matter of months – made it clear that we’ve stumbled pretty quickly upon product-market fit. That certainly helped. Another factor that resonated with our investors is that we are truly a mission-driven company. We are passionate about creating better and more inspiring workplace experiences. We are in this for the long haul, and this is truly just the beginning of our journey.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
With this round of funding, we will be focused on further scaling our operations to meet customer demand, and generally supporting the expansion of the business.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Start by building a product that solves an urgent problem—whatever the industry may be. If you build something that people need, investors will take note, and the funding will follow.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
In the near term, we are motivated by the idea that there should be a whole lot more spaces for privacy than exist today. Nearly every office we visit, no matter the size of the company, deals with the problem of noise and lack of privacy, so we are laser-focused on growing this new category and creating awareness around the need for privacy in healthy and productive work environments.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
This is almost impossible to answer since we live in one of the world’s greatest cities for food, but an old favorite of mine is Village Taverna. It’s an unassuming neighborhood spot that features traditional Greek food. They always use fresh, high-quality ingredients, and the place somehow always has just the right amount of buzz.