Tom Gatzen

Keep staying optimistic – there are plenty of low points or disappointments that you face as an entrepreneur, sometimes on a daily basis, but if you keep focused on a longer term goal and have a positive attitude each day, that will keep you in a good frame of mind.


Tom quit his comfortable PR job in 2016 to launch Ideal Flatmate after becoming passionate about building his vision of a better, more personal flatsharing platform. He is now Managing Director of the company, ensuring the ship keeps pointing forward and that the growing body of flatsharers in the country are engaged with the company.

Tom has a (largely irrelevant) degree in history from UCL. He is a diehard Watford FC supporter, a keen tennis player and actually enjoys reality shows like Ex On The Beach.

Where did the idea for Ideal Flatmate come from?

Ideal Flatmate  is the first flatmate matching platform in the UK which helps flatsharers find their most compatible living partners. The idea came after my university friend (my co-founder) and I had experienced our fair share of nightmare flatshares and thought there had to be an easier way to search for similar minded housemates!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It varies pretty much every day but it usually involves team meetings in the morning, then external meetings with either clients, potential customers or investors and usually some work on the product. My role has changed a lot over the past 2 years. Whereas previously my co-founder and I did absolutely everything, as we have grown and built a team, my role has become more strategic and managerial.

How do you bring ideas to life?

This is the most exciting part of being an entrepreneur – seeing what was just a figment of your imagination brought to life and in our case, used by hundreds of thousands of users. We run a very agile process at Ideal Flatmate, so when I or another member of the team has an idea, we discuss its merits and then if it seems like a good one we work with our developers to get it live and into the hands of users. It is then through feedback and seeing how sticky new ideas are that we decide whether to proceed with the iterations of the platform.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Building machine learning into our software is an exciting development for us. The trend is to more ‘off the shelf’ machine learning products, and the ability to quickly utilise this kind of technology is really exciting and not something we could have done 10 years ago.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am a risk taker and love trying new ideas out. I think this makes me more productive as we can make quick decisions to proceed with an idea and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t matter but we move onto the next idea! That way we get to the best ideas much quicker and learn what doesn’t work.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’m still on the right side of 30 (just) so I’m not sure I could give much advice yet! Things always seem more important than they are at the time, particularly when you are young, so I guess I’d encourage myself not to worry too much about any failures or disappointments because at a young age, they really are not important.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I think Sport is the greatest form of meditation – when I am supporting my local football team or playing sport myself, I may look stressed but it’s the best form of relaxation as my mind is only focused on that one thing.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep staying optimistic – there are plenty of low points or disappointments that you face as an entrepreneur, sometimes on a daily basis, but if you keep focused on a longer term goal and have a positive attitude each day, that will keep you in a good frame of mind.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Hiring talented ambitious people. The biggest step in our journey at Ideal Flatmate has gone from a team of two (me and my co-founder) to working with a team of 10+ people. This was a large adjustment at first but I soon saw how much more could be achieved and how much faster we could grow with more people working together to drive forward the growth in the business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was not splitting my role between my co-founder and I. This led to elements of confusion between us and inefficiencies began to creep in. Since dividing our responsibilities and having much clearer outlines of our specific roles, things have been much easier to manage.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve thought for a while that there must be a quicker system for getting clothes cleaned, dried and ironed than we have at the moment! I’m sure Dyson is looking into it but I’d love him to hurry up!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Recently we spent $100 on plants for the office and they’ve made a big difference to the work space!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

We use Slack to communicate with the team – I was sceptical about the benefits of it at first but it’s been really beneficial to keep in touch with our different teams, to speak quick and directly to anybody and as a way of sharing and discussing ideas.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Do No Harm’ by Henry Marsh is a fascinating account of life as a brain surgeon and the challenges faced by healthcare professionals. It was a huge eye opener of the life and death decisions made on a daily basis by doctors and a reminder that without our health, we are nothing.

What is your favorite quote?

Done is better than perfect.’

Key learnings:

– Being an entrepreneur is about not being afraid to take risks and learning quickly from failure.

– Putting in place a committed, well functioning team is the quickest route to growing a business.

– It’s better to go live with a project, get user feedback and then improve it rather than agonising over ensuring what you have built is perfect.

– Office plants go a long way!


Ideal Flatmate on Twitter: @idealflatmate
Ideal Flatmate on Facebook: @idealflatmate
Ideal Flatmate on Instagram: @idealflatmate
Tom Gatzen on LinkedIn: Tom Gatzen