Reinventing the Future of Cities

Apartment leaks can bring interesting outcomes… For example the creation of a new business. This was the case for Rémy Lombard, founder and CEO of Alacaza. From urban planning to management, running a startup has many requirements.

ESCP Master in Management graduate, Rémy Lombard is the founder and CEO of Alacaza, a French company which aims to simplify the lives of residents through improved communication. Rémy, with his degree in urban planning, is, as he puts it, an entrepreneur “passionate about creating the cities of tomorrow”. When asked what sparked his passion, he recalls his philosophy and geography classes in university. Applying what he learned during those lectures in real life, he began to wonder what creating public spaces means. 

To Rémy, work is exciting when it is multidisciplinary. “When you are working on cities, you are working on every topic –  finance, beauty, sustainability… It’s a crossroads!”. What’s more, it is a field where impact is visible, palpable. “If you want to have an impact on people, work on their environment,” he says.

Creating Alacaza

In August 2015, Rémy was ready to leave for a trek in Iran. However, life had other plans. The day before he was set to travel, there was a major leak in his apartment. What was already a nightmare only got worse: reaching his upstairs neighbours to inform them of the problem was impossible, the property manager was nowhere to be found and since Rémy was not part of the union council he didn’t have contact information for the various co-owners of the building. But as people say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade: out of this unfortunate situation, the idea for Alacaza was born. The idea was to create a tool to streamline communication between the different stakeholders of a residential community.

The Alacaza app facilitates the formation of positive alliances between all actors in a residence and its neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the team behind the app works with professional stakeholders in order to improve their communication with the residents. The application has been designed for managers – co-owners as well as landlords – but also for property developers, security guards, members of the union council, and service providers.

Alacaza simplifies and enhances the work of stakeholders while giving residents control over information concerning their accommodation at the same time. The app even allows local authorities to reach out directly to citizens. At the same time, the news feed and the marketplace make local exchanges easy and allow businesses and associations to promote their activities.

A peculiar workplace

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire Alacaza team worked from their Paris office. Today, while all team members are still based in Paris (or near Paris), the workplace has turned to a hybrid format. How do they make the best of it? By focusing on what Rémy describes as the 4 pillars of work: Production, Creativity, Sense of Belonging, and Digital Collaboration. 

Production: “We are often much more efficient when alone in a place where we’re not disturbed and feel comfortable. This could either be at home or at the office.”

Creativity: “We are much more creative when we discuss our ideas with other people. Emotional connection is a conductor for creativity!”. Therefore, for creativity to flow, the team prefers to be at the office. 

Sense of Belonging: Fostering unity is essential at Alacaza. Every couple of weeks, the team gets together and goes out for a drink. “This creates a feeling that we are on a great adventure together”, says Rémy. 

Digital Collaboration: Communication and collaboration via digital tools – Zoom, Slack, DocuSign – is now the norm at the Alacaza workplace, and it makes everything more streamlined.

All four pieces of this “distributed workplace” puzzle are essential for the creation of an efficient yet nourishing environment. The challenge for Rémy? Finding the right balance. 

The Challenges of Hybrid Work

Rémy recognises that a hybrid work environment is not easy for everyone on the team. “People have different needs when it comes to human relationships”. For those who find lots of joy in human interaction, it has been tough to work from home. Others, however, find a hybrid workplace more comfortable. “[Some team members] are less social. They could always work from home. One of the big challenges is accommodating everyone’s needs”, he says.

A constant question in Rémy’s mind is “how can we find the right balance between production and creativity?”. Since hybrid work was implemented at Alacaza and its team members are more digitally connected, the environment allows for higher levels of production.

Decreased commute times also help with this. According to Remy, “whatever time [the employees] didn’t spend in public transport, they can spend doing sport. This will release endorphins and make them feel better. And thus there is more productivity… For me, a good day at work starts with a good day not at work.” But with everyone being in their own room, creativity is difficult to foster.

An additional challenge is setting boundaries. Hybrid work has blurred the lines between private and professional lives, creating unofficial expectations that team members will answer messages all the time.  

Life Lessons from the ESCP Master in Management 

Get Involved. During his time as a MiM student, Rémy created Shuffle ESCP, the international student board of ESCP Business School. Through programs promoting cultural diversity, Shuffle’s mission is to foster the social integration of international students within the school. “It was a great entrepreneurship class!” says Rémy. He recalls filling out paperwork, going to the administration and having to figure out how to motivate others to get involved. It was a masterclass in creating incentives and inspiring others to act. 

Take the best classes. And more importantly, pay attention. Sounds obvious, right? Zoning out during class is very common, but apparently, Rémy got the most out of his time at ESCP. “I followed a class simply for pleasure,” he explained. “It was about accounting. It looked boring, but ended up being super useful!”. When he was negotiating with investors, he gave his former teacher a call. When he was creating a brand, he reviewed the textbook and followed the advice of his class materials. “Take the best teachers! Take the most useful classes!” he says, don’t let it slide. 

Alacaza is the first application dedicated to the life of your residence and neighbourhood. It allows you to contact your neighbours easily, report when something needs fixing, track its progress, and find out about local events that bring your neighbourhood to life.

Article written by Arianna de la Cruz Lara and adapted by the Jean-Baptiste Say Institute communication team.