Stories from Our Community

Alumnus Has Been Pioneering Hybrid Work Models for Years

Nick Iovacchini, MA ’02, is the CEO and co-founder of Kettle, a workplace technology company based in New York City. We recently caught up with him to learn how Kettle has pivoted with the pandemic and how GW and the Elliott School influenced his career.

GW: Tell us about what you are doing now and why it matters to you.

NI: Kettle has been pioneering hybrid work models for over 5 years, having supported more than 50,000 users and over 100 non-traditional shared workspaces. Our “why” has always been focused on bringing win-win-win solutions to all stakeholders in the workspace model – employers, employees, and space providers. When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, we voluntarily closed our 20 shared workspace locations and leaned into a rapidly changing landscape of work. Despite the challenges of losing all revenue and operations in our legacy business literally overnight, we saw the opportunity to pivot into software and emerge from the situation as a stronger company, tackling an even larger problem set than existed pre-COVID.

As a result of the pandemic, 90% of all companies are going to adopt some form of a hybrid work model, yet 70% still don’t have a tool or plan to support a new model. For this reason, we developed a new software platform that provides organizations and their employees with solutions as they transition into new work models. KettleOS is an operating system with intuitive tools for employers and employees navigating the return to the office and hybrid work. Our platform helps companies solve new problems, such as complying with the new federal vaccine verification mandate, coordinating team collaboration with hybrid schedules of time in office vs. remote, and providing access to diverse workspace options. Helping leaders, workers, and space providers successfully reassemble the puzzle of return-to-work and hybrid models is what gives us purpose.

GW: How did GW and the Elliott School influence your professional choices and successes?

NI: I’ve been a founder my entire career, having started a variety of companies, including ones focused on hard goods, hospitality brands, workspaces, and software. My time at the Elliott School helped shape my open-minded thinking about different ways to approach problems across varied problem sets, such as geographies and cultures. Likewise, the concepts and knowledge I learned at the Elliott School helped me adapt to working in other countries.

At GW, I also met the co-founder of my first business, Frank Cerullo, BBA ’00, MS ’01. Frank and I became friends when we were teammates on GW’s baseball team. Together we started a company called GameWear, which sold licensed sports accessories. We overcame some early challenges, but ultimately we made and sold more than 10 million products. Our friendship has been indispensable to my career for the last 20 years.

GW: Are there particular classes and professors who stand out in your mind? Who helped you on your career path?

NI: The class that stands out the most to me was International Business Negotiation. We explored the concept of interests-based negotiation (vs. positional-based) as a way to transcend language and cultural differences. I’ve adopted that technique as a foundational element of how I work with others, and it has served me in many ways as I’m constantly navigating uncharted territories.

Also, my time playing baseball has been an integral experience for my entrepreneurial path. I learned to persevere and maintain my confidence, despite failing 7 or 8 times out of every 10 at-bats. Similarly, shepherding new ideas to market from scratch is full of failures and challenges. The key is being able to stay on your feet and test and learn quickly. Frank and I joke that the things we got right in our first business were the result of learning the hard way through a failure or getting lucky with a guess.

GW: What would you say to current GW and Elliott School students who want to make a positive difference in the world?

NI: As a global community, we’re in the midst of some serious challenges. While government and NGOs are certainly great ways to impart positive change, the private sector is also really in need of the perspectives taught at the Elliott School. Whether it’s through green technologies, global inclusive business practices, or other necessary innovation to support our global community, founders and entrepreneurs are needed. Although entrepreneurship isn’t the “common path” coming out of the Elliott School, it’s definitely a viable way to amplify many of the learnings and insights you’ve gained.