Why WeWork’s Founder Invested in a Hotel for Digital Nomads

Selina's Rafael Museri thinks co-working spaces are our future.

Rafael Museri was living and working as a real estate developer in Pedasí, a small fishing town in Panama, when he got the idea for Selina, an international hospitality brand offering co-living/co-working spaces around the world. After Museri and his co-founder Daniel Rudasevski opened the first Selina location in Pedasí, and after seeing how successful it was, they decided to expand the concept to other locations. 

There are now over 40 Selina locations worldwide, and the company recently announced plans to open 15 additional locations across the U.S. by 2020. Selina has raised $245 million in funding, according to Crunchbase — with $95 million of that coming from Abraaj group and Adam Neumann, the founder of powerhouse co-working company WeWork.

Each week, GOBankingRates sets out to discover what makes the people behind top companies tick. We like to call this series “Best in Business” — and Museri really is one of the best. He told us about the challenges of scaling an experience-based company, why he believes digital nomads are worth investing in and ways that you can find (or build) your own dream job, too. Below, find our favorite moments from the story of how Museri launched his business.

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A Trip to Peru Gave Him the Idea for a New Kind of Travel Experience

I was once in Cusco, Peru trying to find a cool place to stay, and quickly found that all the boutique hotels were boring and not experientially oriented. The hostels available were too young, but they had incredible energy — there was an opportunity to create something in between.

I think the biggest fear was that clients wouldn’t trust us. [We wanted] our target audience to consume the product and ask for more. [Then there] were all those questions about how we would be able to scale an experiential product. Experience is something that you can’t standardize, so how you manage to scale it globally — and successfully — is a challenge. To build the right processes that work for different regions and countries, and not just for specific places [has been the hardest part]. There’s a difference between a process that fits a single location or country, versus a global process.

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Read More: 101 Side Business Ideas and How to Start Without Quitting Your Job

When we opened the first location in a country I’ve never visited before and it was financially and experientially successful, that’s when I realized there was something unique about Selina. Success [for Selina] is converting an irrelevant space with no energy into a place that’s full of energy and happy people — the ability to convert [unused] places into happy places where people can connect with each other.

Learn: Why Happy People Earn More Money

He Grew a Team From 20 to 1,700 — Fast

The most surprising thing about [starting a business] is how much time you need to invest in the people you’re bringing on as your team. It’s so important to find people who love the Selina brand, and who are ready and eager to grow. We started with a core group of just 20 and have grown to a team of 1,700, and we’re so fortunate to have such a fantastic team that got us to where we are today.

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Every job that I’ve had was about bringing people together, and I knew that everything in Selina needed to be [based] around community-building.

Get Hired: Recruiters Reveal the 9 Worst Interview Fails — You Can Easily Avoid All of Them

He Learned the Importance of Nailing Down the Basics

My advice [to anyone who wants to start a business] would be to spend more time nailing the first product, and the processes that lead to that product, before going crazy trying to scale it. Be patient before going forward. There are many things that can be fixed during scale — and there’s no need to be afraid of [that], it’s part of the startup world — but take your time to nail the basics in the beginning.

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This interview has been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Gabrielle Olya

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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