Rodrigo Canas & Raquel Arnaut: How WSS Is Rethinking How The Real Estate Industry Operates

Rodrigo Canas & Raquel Arnaut | WSS

Tell us about yourself?

Rodrigo is a Real Estate & Technology enthusiast with a background in Hospitality and Real Estate, he is also a WiredScore AP. In 2015, Rodrigo joined Aguirre Newman representing tenants in Madrid. After the acquisition of Savills in 2017, he worked as Head of Offices in Portugal – Lisbon & Oporto. Ultimately, his focus is on giving his clients the best tools to navigate through an important decision, the reason why he decided to create WSS. His passion is your property.

Raquel is an architect since 2002, previously working as Associate Director at SAVILLS in Portugal, managing the Architecture team, expanding its commercial network, and following key clients. Also a WELL Accredited Professional from the International WELL Building
Institute™ – the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

90% of start-ups fail after three years, and that’s for a number of reasons.
Some companies fail due to their suppliers, others due to the founders, investors, clients, and so on. It is important to plan carefully when launching a business, but it’s even more important to be able to adapt and pivot your business according to the market, without losing why you are launching the company.

What makes a company different from another it’s not necessarily the products, the pricing, or the velocity. It’s how the company is managed and why is it like that. If we are able to define clearly why we exist, then we can decide how to do it and what to deliver. It is easy to launch a company that has a product or a service. What’s not easy is to find a purpose to make the company work and the people that will be able to believe and deliver that same mission. Without a purpose most likely any project will fail.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

(Rodrigo) My tip would be to don’t lose time and start investing in what you love. There’s no real option on going back in time, as time is the only thing we have to lose – unless you do what makes you fulfilled.

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(Raquel) My tip is to trust in yourself and your capabilities. Most of the time, we are our own real obstacle when it comes to taking a live-changing step.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

(Rodrigo) Honestly, I don’t like to think I stand out from anyone. We all have our passions and interests and for some (like me) being an entrepreneur and designing from scratch our own approaches are what makes it interesting. Without others to pursue this, entrepreneurs can’t achieve what they dream of. Sometimes we can even achieve something higher, that we haven’t even dreamt about. As a person, I try to be positive and always look for new approaches & technologies and I guess some people agree with my perspective, which is a tremendous honour.

(Raquel) I think that what makes an entrepreneur stand out is the willingness of creating his own future, by building a path and not being afraid (or at least not too much!) of the adversities and obstacles on the way.

Work hard, trust yourself, and aim high is my personal mantra. 🙂

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

(Rodrigo) These are the two main habits I try to implement in the teams I work with:
Under-promise/Over-deliver vs. Over-promise/Under-deliver: Managing expectations is one of the most important habits anyone should have. If we see we can do the extra mile, without prejudicing our pipeline & health, we should always aim for it. While at the same time there’s no point in killing yourself doing a tremendous effort when it is not appreciated or necessary on the other side. Time management is the other one: I would rather be doing 1 very important thing very well, rather than trying to do 99 things at the same time and failing on the most important task. It is important to have our teams ready and in shape to deal with the big things and actually spend time on them. For that, we should focus on what really matters and try to free our teams from these types of tasks.

(Raquel) I have learned that Work/Life Balance is really possible and this is a mindset that I will do my best to pass to everyone involved in WSS. We should be focused on tasks, put all our concentration on delivering and be able to organise our time freely, in order to have a balanced life.

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Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

WSS was founded with the intention of helping companies and individuals feel better between their workspace and life, through a workspace strategy that adapts to their needs. As we come from a big corporation of CRE, we understood that not all the companies need the same standard procedures and even though we would sell “ad-hoc” projects, it was very difficult to find flexibility and try new approaches on some specifications from the clients in these types of corporations.

That is why we decided to create a start-up that focuses on the solutions other companies need for their workspace: from Design & Build Strategy or Technology but always with the capacity of testing new things and concepts that are exclusive to each client’s needs.

We don’t want to focus on trying to obtain a certain percentage of market share or sqms. We would rather do the projects that we believe at their core and try to execute them as well as we can – We want to re-think the way Real Estate is designed, executed & delivered. We still have a long way to go.

Where do you see your business in five years?

As long as we keep helping companies and individuals feel better with their workspaces and life, we should be fine. However, it is very difficult to see where we will be… There are many opportunities for flexibilisation of RE, Proptech & Digitalization such as Workspace Apps, Lease Flexibilization Tools, Employee Wellbeing, IoT, VR, Metaverse and so on. We just want to keep learning and adapting to our clients’ needs without losing focus on why we decided to create this company. To empower companies with solutions that help them achieve their workspace strategy goals and make people feel good about their workspace.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

As always, the challenge is going to be…People. As we grow it is crucial to have the right members on our team to take us to the next level. People that believe in our mission and can relate to it so close, they feel this could be their own company. That’s the challenge.

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Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

We only have 1 year of History but many stories we are proud of the work done with our clients and partners. If I would have to choose one, perhaps is the sensation that we not only survived the first year but that we are ready to pursue this for the next 5 to 10 years. That is a big success for a company that was on paper (or PowerPoint) 12 months ago and that was born during a worldwide pandemic.

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

With the background, we both have from CRE some of the clients came through the confidence they had in our past work. Others either find us by recommendation of previous clients (most of them) or our social media. There’s no better marketing than word of mouth and trust. We want clients that trust our vision.

Additionally, if we see a company that has a similar culture and ambition as we have, we try to find them as well 🙂 we don’t rely only on inbound opportunities.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

What we learned the most was that you can do a lot with not much. Meaning that in order to test the waters you shouldn’t go all-in and expect the clients to find you and adapt to you, this will make it very costly and increase the risk tremendously.

If you can test it with less money, even if with fewer features, do it. You will learn what your clients want and then if you need to change or adapt in order to accommodate a request, only then you should spend money and resources.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

As many companies and people we can help feel better with their workspace and life, the happier we will be! That’s all we hope the future brings: happier workspaces, happier people, meaning higher productivity, and of course a more successful business for everyone.

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