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Orbit – Putting unused commercial real estate to good use

Helping to bring Orbit from an idea into a company rigged for scaling and growth represents the essence of how we love to collaborate at Kodebyraaet; All committed, always adapting and improving – and perhaps even changing the world a little bit in the process too.

open office space

Orbit is a new service that turns unused commercial space into on-demand workspace, enabling a flexible and more sustainable workday. Connecting this unoccupied workspace with people - and converting them into potential tenants – may seem like a straightforward task. Turns out, all it takes is creating a highly performant technical team, providing all the hardware and software required, alongside a strong commercial organization!

The irresistible idea

Railway, a design-driven startup studio located in Oslo, pitched the fresh and exciting concept that is Orbit to us in March of 2020.

We learned that 50% of all commercial real estate is empty at any given time, and were instantly captivated by the ambitions of the project and its possibilities. Kodebyraaet loves working on projects that can impact everyone’s day-to-day lives in a positive way. So, creating a service to better utilize unused resources and connecting people with a more flexible and sustainable way of working, while allowing property owners to achieve a better return on their investments, sounded pretty good to us!

Getting to work

We put together a highly capable, fast-paced team to explore uncharted territory together with Orbit.

Typically, we work alongside researchers, business developers and designers to develop minimum viable products (or MVPs) to test our assumptions, and to obtain real-life experience with the service or product that we can learn from.

Even from the get-go we are building the product while simultaneously creating a culture based on creative ownership and mutual trust. Throughout the process we work with the startup in order to get to a point where they are ready to move forward independently. At this point, Kodebyraaet takes on a more supportive role if the startup is transitioning towards having its own technical team – or we may provide resources and capacities as they decide on further development.

Orbit was our most complex project to date and provided plenty of experience and learning. Even if some lessons were learned the hard way.
Most of the development coincided with the Covid pandemic and its restrictions. We were impressed with the team and its product owners’ abilities to steer steadily through the uncertainty – firmly believing that the world would someday get back to physical workspaces and social life.

orbit app screenshot

Growing with the product

Initially, the cross-organizational team consisted of one product owner, two researchers, two business developers and one designer, alongside two full-stack engineers, one backend engineer and team-lead from Kodebyraaet. Our first task was to explore the idea and to build the infrastructure required to publish unused commercial spaces onto the platform. We started building a web platform, but eventually pivoted towards an app for mobile devices. A pivot like this mid-process is a natural part of the development cycle as we learn and gain knowledge, solving the tasks at hand.

The first challenge was to grow the user-base. From a technical perspective, this meant solving how the users would access office buildings. Our idea was that if we could recruit all tenants in entire buildings into our ecosystem, then it would be much easier to convince landlords into making unused space available for booking. This turned out to be a good approach, and soon we were piloting the solution with some of the largest real estate companies in Norway.

It was not completely without issue, and there were several challenges to overcome – especially related to access and booking; Most buildings do not have digital locks (yet!), so making the space and desks available in analogue environments included variables like opening hours, receptions and identification of specific desks in large buildings.

Together with Orbit, we quickly evolved and scaled the team. Soon it consisted of seven engineers and one team lead from Kodebyraaet, alongside one product owner, one product manager, one business developer, one sales representative, two designers and one engineering manager, one marketeer and one customer support from the startup. As the team scaled up, we also experienced the inevitable challenges that came with it. In particular, challenges related to timing and role expectations must be resolved without delay to keep momentum.

From the very beginning Orbit has been multinational, developed in Norway and Spain, with several nationalities on the team. We believe that taking different cultural perspectives into account has been beneficial, every step of the way towards a global market.

Bringing ideas to life is rewarding!

Today, Orbit has about 30 employees delivering a quality product to its users, providing flexible access to sustainable workspaces at a fixed price. Our main delivery is complete.

If you are in the real estate business or have commercial space with room to spare, then you should definitely look into making it available on the Orbit platform and turn it into revenue. On the other hand, if you are looking for a meeting-room or office space go check them out! Before you know it, you are ready to check in and perhaps even meet new people!

Many workplace gems are waiting for you – whatever your current need might be. And who knows what the next resource made available through Orbit might look like!

Learn more at Orbit's site.