2017 will always be defined as a year of massive change.
Not just here at Convene, but for the entire world. Not only has the global political, economic, and social construct been fundamentally altered, but the way people work has changed forever. Enabled by technology, inspired by purpose, and driven by experience, this new generation of workers has become a catalyst for industry wide disruption—forever changing the way workplaces are designed, built, and serviced.
As the year comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what an incredible and historic year it’s been for Convene, and express my gratitude to our partners, customers, and employees who made it all happen. Where there is change, there is opportunity, and over the past 12 months Convene’s business has experienced a transformation of its own—giving us much to be proud of, and even more to celebrate.
More than a “Meetings” Company
After initially building our business on being “the easiest place to host a better meeting,” we made a conscious decision to become more than a “meetings” company in 2017. By responding to the larger shifts happening in the real estate industry and staying true to our “more places, more ways” strategy, our mission has evolved to focus on building the world’s leading workplace-as-a-service platform.
Through strategic partnerships with the largest landlords in commercial real estate, we now design and service the next generation office building—one that feels more like a full-service, lifestyle hotel. Our integrated workplace-as-a-service platform gives building tenants and enterprise clients access to a growing network of premium meeting and event spaces, flexible workspaces, hospitality services, and curated community experiences, all connected by a proprietary technology platform.
We made great strides to achieve this mission over the past year, as we scaled our business in new and existing markets, expanded our core competencies to include design and technology, developed partnerships with the world’s leading commercial landlords, hosted thousands of amazing meetings and events, and hired many talented individuals. We’re blessed to work with a team of passionate, values-aligned real estate and hospitality professionals and the absolute best clients in the world. With the continued trust and support of our team, clients, strategic partners, and investors, we’ve grown stronger and wiser in 2017.
Let’s look back at some of the most memorable moments from the past year.
Proudest Moment of the Year: Recognition as an Employer of Choice
We were so proud to become certified as an official Great Place to Work in 2017, and to be named the #11 Best Workplace in New York City by Fortune Magazine.
Our values-driven culture and “1% better every day” mentality permeates discussions and decision-making at all levels at Convene. Nothing makes me prouder as a CEO to see that 96% of our team is proud to tell others they work at Convene. Convene was also named #30 on LinkedIn’s Annual List of Top Companies | Startups Edition, a list of disruptive companies most in-demand by today’s top talent.
Sharing a list with industry-leading innovators like Lyft, Slack, and Airbnb was a humbling moment for all of us at Convene, and makes us even more driven to show the world in 2018 that we are poised to tackle the ongoing disruption in the commercial real estate industry.
Sound like something you want to be a part of? We’re hiring like crazy—you can learn more and apply for open positions here.
Biggest Win of the Year: Series C Financing
Entrepreneurs around the world know that raising a round of funding is no simple task. But in May, Convene proudly raised our largest round of funding yet for our Series C financing, securing an additional $68M to accelerate the growth of Convene’s business. With our new funding, we were able to expand into new markets like Boston and Los Angeles, acquire a design firm, invest in top talent across all levels and functions of the business, and begin building out our technology platform.
We now operate 15 locations across four cities, and are planning to scale massively next year—opening 12 new locations (one new property a month) in 2018 including new markets like Los Angeles and Chicago, and existing markets Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. We are also preparing for a Series D raise, where we hope to secure additional funding to support our growth, talent acquisition efforts, and new product lines—including our Workplace and Technology offerings.
Our Word of the Year: “Systematize”
The engineer and scholar W. Edwards Deming famously said, “94% of problems in business are systems-driven, and only 6% are people-driven.” To that end, we spent a lot of time in 2017 putting robust systems and processes in place to ensure we can deliver a consistent, smooth, and magical experience to our clients. Consistency at scale is no easy task, and without the right systems, processes, and standards in place, we won’t be able to maintain our winning culture and support our rapid growth in 2018 and beyond.
Some of our notable “systematizing” efforts included the creation of an internal project management organization and critical path process for all new location openings, a standardized research-driven process for global site selection, and the upgrade of our core IT systems for finance, HR, sales, and operations. In addition, we redesigned the organization to be more decentralized and added new capabilities to the organization including software development, research, design, and construction. The acquisition of Assemble Design Group earlier this year was a key milestone, bringing architecture and interior design capabilities in-house and making design a core competency of the organization.
Lessons Learned: “The road to perfection is paved with progression”
While 2017 has been an amazing year it has not been without its fair share of challenges. Building a high growth company in a complex world is a challenge, and the pressure on the company and our team has felt overwhelming at times.
We talk a lot about the “zoom-in, zoom-out” thought process, and its more important now than ever. We can’t let the stress of the moment prevent us from seeing the bigger picture, and we must get comfortable making ambiguous decisions. Acceptance of failure and the willingness to learn from our mistakes is integral to achieving success as a company over time.
Success is a lousy teacher, and it’s in our hardest moments that character is born. You don’t win or lose, you win or learn. Thankfully at Convene, we were able both in 2017.
Here’s a few key things I learned:
There’s no such thing as too much communication. The majority of the issues we dealt with this year were due to a lack of understanding, communication, or clarity. There is a difference between listening and “hearing,” and as a team we need to be more deliberate and clear in our communications in 2018.
Innovation is challenging. Convene is not just scaling our business into new and existing markets, but we’re also launching new product lines at the same time. Through the launch of our Workplace offering and Technology platform, we’ve learned that innovation (like everything else) requires a structured process to be done successfully. I am very thankful for the teams working on both of these launches as they had to deal with a lot of volatility.
Culture is a two-way street. Convene’s co-founder Chris Kelly often says, “Culture requires both offense and defense.” My top priority is to ensure we successfully scale our culture as the company grows in 2018. Companies don’t build cultures, people do.
What’s Next for Convene in 2018: More Places, More Ways
We currently have 13 locations under construction in five cities, and dozens of active deals in our pipeline, all in partnership with our incredible landlord partners. By the end of 2018, we’ll be in most major U.S. markets and will be setting the stage to expanding internationally in the years to come. We plan to serve our clients in new and exciting ways, with the launch of our Workplace business and our “smart building” technology product. We’re truly at the cusp of a massive shift in the real estate industry, and we can’t wait for the world to experience how Convene is leading that change and pioneering a new way for our clients to meet and work.
Within a period of tremendous change in the world, we are beyond fortunate to have such an incredible team of talented professionals and the best clients in the world to keep us anchored. The companies that thrive in this Age of Accelerations will do so because of ingenuity, culture, GRIT, and a relentless commitment to the needs of their customers—the core principles that Convene was founded on, and those that we believe deeply in.
The political, economic, social, and climatic challenges of our time will not be solved without a deeper commitment from businesses and the citizens of the world. Building a great company is about more than profitability, it’s about improving society, and creating a better world for the communities we operate in. While we’ve given back a lot to our communities in 2017 we plan to do more as a company in 2018—we can do good and do well at the same time.
We’re eager to conquer the challenges, and embrace the new opportunities that lie ahead in 2018. Thank you to our hard-working team, partners, and clients for a successful 2017, and cheers to an even better year ahead!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all, and don’t stop!
CEO and Co-Founder, Convene