Col­lab­o­ra­tive workspaces cul­ti­vate en­trepreneur­ship

Finweek English Edition - - ENTREPRENEUR - BY GLENDA WIL­LIAMS

The na­ture of how we work has changed. There are fewer jobs and com­plex so­cial prob­lems re­quir­ing a dif­fer­ent take on the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. One such out­look is co-work­ing spa­ces, where in­di­vid­u­als with a cross sec­tion of skills as well as var­i­ous stake­hold­ers are able to work to­gether in one space. It is th­ese col­lab­o­ra­tive land­scapes that are help­ing to jump-start bud­ding en­trepreneurs and small busi­ness.

Let’s be frank, job se­cu­rity is not what it once was. To­day an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple glob­ally are bat­tling an everdi­min­ish­ing job mar­ket. Those that are per­ma­nently em­ployed make up less than 25% of the world’s labour force, re­ports the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion. With the world’s un­em­ployed no longer able to rely on cor­po­rates or gov­ern­ment to de­liver jobs, the bur­den of job cre­ation has fallen on en­trepreneurs and small busi­ness.

But for ‘solo­preneurs’ and as­pi­rant start-ups, work­ing solo can be a very lonely place. Nor is it par­tic­u­larly stim­u­lat­ing. And it is of­ten very dif­fi­cult to present pro­fes­sion­al­ism ef­fec­tively, es­pe­cially if work­ing from home or out of a cof­fee bar. But to project a mod­icum of this they face the hur­dle of pricey of­fice rents and as­so­ci­ated costs. It’s th­ese dilem­mas that OPEN is tack­ling, chang­ing the na­ture of the start-up ecosys­tem with its dy­namic col­lab­o­ra­tive workspaces.

De­part­ing f rom t he clas­sica l l y ser viced off ice suite en­vi­ron­ment, OPEN founders Paul Keursten, Mark Sef­tel and Westleigh Wilkin­son have cre­ated co-work­ing spa­ces that are more than just workspaces. They are places where in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies, big and small, come to­gether to work, learn, in­no­vate and so­cialise.

First-gen­er­a­tion co-work­ing spa­ces are of­ten very ba­sic. Not so with OPEN. A fu­sion of cof­fee bar, ho­tel lounge, busi­ness club and off ice, its de­signs in­clude a va­riet y of work set­tings, new tech­nolo­gies such as op­ti­cal fi­bre, acous­tic and light­ing tech­nol­ogy and even spe­cially de­signed fur­ni­ture. Its first col­lab­o­ra­tive workspace in Mabo­neng, Jo­han­nes­burg, which opened in 2012, is the an­tithe­sis of ba­sic. And it’s a hip and trendy des­ti­na­tion to boot.

While OPEN’s mem­bers a r e an as­sort­ment of i ndi­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions, there is a def­i­nite bias to­wards SMEs and start-ups. Sef­tel tells Finweek that around 75% of its mem­bers are self-em­ployed. Aside from a stim­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­ment and wal­let­friendly costs, one of the at­trac­tions of th­ese co-work­ing spa­ces is that there is no peck­ing or­der. This, to­gether with OPEN’s plat­form of col­lab­o­ra­tion and in­no­va­tion, is not only ben­e­fi­cial to en­trepreneurs who get to rub shoul­ders with peo­ple they might oth­er­wise not have met; it is as im­por­tant for cor­po­rates and academia – many of whom have satel­lite of­fices in OPEN − as a means of dis­cov­er­ing and work­ing with new tal­ent. “Peo­ple get to net­work in a very nat­u­ral and non-con­trived way, the best type of net­work­ing,” says Sef­tel.

OPEN has not ring-fenced it­self into one par­tic­u­lar type of space; it of­fers hot desks, lab desks (same desks used ev­ery day), ded­i­cated of­fices or stu­dios as well as meet­ing rooms and event space. And OPEN’s mem­bers can mi­grate or move back and forth from one space to an­other depend­ing on their re­quire­ments. They can rent for a day, a week, a month or a year or more. Even cater­ing to the night owl or stu­dent, OPEN spa­ces are ac­ces­si­ble for 18 hours up to 10pm. In­di­vid­ual hot desk rates range from R1 500 per month and in­cludes su­per-

Work­ing, learn­ing, net­work­ing and so­cial­is­ing in OPEN’s col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing spa­ces.

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