Beyond the square meter
As the host, or operator of a coworking space, I field a lot of enquiries from people who have never worked in one before. The most commonly asked question? “Can you tell me what’s included” and “How many square meters does this buy me”. For those of you who are familiar with the concept of Share Economy, you’ll understand just how 1990’s those questions are.
Coworking or Shared Offices spaces like Cape Town Office are as much a disrupter to the traditional office space business model as Air B&B is to holiday accommodation or Uber to taxi services. It challenges the belief that one must engage with these operators in the same manner as you would back in the 90’s when an office space meant square meters tied to a 3 year lease. Coworking is so much more than just an office space. For example, how do you quantify or place a monetary value on the networking potential a well run community provides? How do we as coworking space owners and operators even begin to advertise or sell the value of what it means to be part of such an interactive community means? The short answer for me, is you can’t. You can wax lyrical about how great it is, post photos of your social activities and use formats like a blog to write about the amazing projects your members are involved in, but until that person standing on the outside steps in, you’re wasting your time.
There is of course the monetary value that you can highlight, such as Enterprise level internet or fully kitted kitchens they get to enjoy, included in the membership fee. Which in itself is something, especially if you consider the cost of proper uncontested, unshaped fibre internet in South Africa.
But for me, 6 years in, it’s the deeper questions I most welcome. Questions like, how social the community is or asking what the best way is for me to engage my services with the community. The value each of my CTO Chief(ette)s bring to the greater community, is exactly what makes it the most valuable asset and also the most difficult to market. It’s what helped Cape Town Office achieve quite the accolade in 2016 by being ranked in the Top 10 “Best Coworking Spaces on Earth”. It had very little to do with how fancy our light fittings are, or how many arcade games we have (we have 2 by the way), but it had EVERYTHING to do with our community and their interaction with their space. You see its not owned by any one member, but instead it’s a Share Economy made possible for all. They all share in the spoils of amazingly fast internet and on Fridays when we have beers on the balcony, we share the work in carrying up sound system so we can have some tunes. It’s about signing for a delivery when a coworker just popped out and keeping it safe for them till they return. It’s about rallying around a member who falls ill and take hospital visits in turns, so everyone gets a break. It’s about community.
And so yes, it’s far beyond the square meters you get when joining a coworking space like Cape Town Office and now that we’re expanding, yes we’re adding more of them squares to our space, you’re very welcome to join us!
If you’d like more information on who the top 14 players are in Share Economy, check out this piece on Forbes.com