Coworking Trends: Interview with Kevan Halliwell, CEO of Our Space

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Coworking Trends: Interview with Kevan Halliwell, CEO of Our Space
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Coworking maybe the best option for individuals and companies, especially startups, to cut down on cost. However, these dynamic environments offers more than just a workspace and connectivity.

Our Space, a global coworking brand, has recently opened its flagship workspace in Dubai. Pioneering a new approach to productivity and well-being, Our Space hopes to boost creativity and enable entrepreneurs to focus on their passion.

We interact with Kevan Halliwell, CEO of Our Space to find out more.

Here are the excerpts: 

What inspired you to start Our Space?

We identified a gap in the market for a differentiated coworking space that offers more than just a workspace and connectivity. We wanted to move coworking to the next level and be at the forefront of a huge global shift in the way that people work.

We witnessed the success of the dominant players in the market such as Regus and We Work and realised the potential to deliver a premium workspace experience centred on connecting humans, nature and technology. These have become our brand pillars and allow us to focus on a model of coworking that goes beyond providing the modern entrepreneur with access to everything they could possibly need, when they need it. We are creating dynamic workspaces, where we enable individuals to be the best that they can be. We do this by addressing not just their need for a phone line and a mailing address, but everything from the quality of the air that they breathe, to their wellness, to the beautiful, inspirational interiors that surround them.

As humans, we are intended to be connected to nature and we wanted to bring that into the workplace with living walls and plenty of greenery. It was also important to us to raise the bar on the technology front. These days, not only can we not work without technology, it’s something we take for granted and just expect to work seamlessly, and that is what we deliver to our members; technology that just works.

We also identified that multinationals are adopting the coworking philosophy. A “Big Four” multinational consultancy might house 300 consultants from only 50 to 100 desk spaces, which creates huge cost efficiency benefits. But it’s not just about cutting costs and desk spaces, many multinationals are looking to coworking spaces to run temporary project teams to mobilise faster, foster innovation and attract new talent.

In short, we developed Our Space to enable businesses to thrive in premium coworking centres that combine nature-inspired, state-of-the-art workspaces with dynamic, innovative communities.

Our Space was first launched in Spain in February 2017. Can you share the journey and where do you stand now? Why is Dubai chosen as the HQ? 

The site in Marbella, Spain was intended as a pilot location where we are able to test concepts. Our global ambition is to put Our Space in gateway cities around the world and develop a global community of connected entrepreneurs and businesses.

Aside from it being our home, we chose Dubai as the headquarters because it is not only a gateway to the UAE and the Middle East, it is also a major hub city that connects Europe and Asia, making it an ideal location to start our global journey.

With a fast-moving, cutting-edge business community; Dubai demands a higher quality of work space. And we are very proud to be leading the future of the coworking market in the region with a concept that didn’t previously exist.

According to some estimates, 7 million people is predicted to be working in coworking spaces by the end of 2018. What are some of the reasons why Entrepreneurs opt for coworking space?

Firstly, efficiency. The whole idea of coworking is to allow people to use only the space that they need, when they need it; whether that’s a seat in a café, an office, a boardroom for 20 people or an event space for 100 people to host a seminar.

And because it’s a flexible space, you can grow with it. For small companies, we can take them from inception all the way through the growth curve from our Any Space hot desks, to a dedicated desk to an office space.

Bigger companies can run teams out of a very cost-efficient space, whether that is motivated by a need to go “asset light” and reduce inefficient office space or to get project teams into innovative environments without impacting existing workplaces.

Secondly, Connectivity – for new businesses, coworking locations often have hundreds or even thousands of like-minded members. For a new business, saving cash is very important and in a coworking environment it’s very common to see members finding similar start-ups to themselves and bartering or trading on the services they offer. For example, a one-woman social media expert might offer her services for free to an accountant in exchange for him doing her accounts.

There are many established coworking spaces in the UAE. What is your USP and how do you differentiate your business?

Our USP is creating coworking centres geared towards making our members feel and function at their best; through nature, great technology and a premium experience. Our “be the best you can be” focus on wellness is at the core of everything we do, from bringing the great outdoors indoors with an abundance of plants, greenery and natural beautiful interiors, to our Verde by Bystro café with a range of healthy food and drinks options, to our Dyson air purifying technology providing fresher, cleaner air, to offering at-desk massages.

 

We are also pushing barriers by offering the first dedicated Women Only Workspace (WOW) in the region.

How much does it cost and what are the options available?

Rates start at just AED 350 per month for a virtual membership which allows you to host your company with a real mailing address as well as coworking time, access to events and exclusive discounts.

The most flexible package we offer is the ‘Any Space’ hot desk package which is available on a month by month basis with a low outlay. It starts from AED 550 a month depending on the number of days access you need.

‘Your Space’ dedicated desks and dedicated ‘Office Space’ start from AED 3,249 per workspace.

We also operate a fair pricing policy where our dedicated member team help members to

find the right package for their needs and guide them to a more suitable one if their usage is not what they expected it to be.

We will also be launching an Early Bird Summer Special offer very soon.

Apart from providing facilities, how do you support Entrepreneurs?

We have a dedicated Events team who organise a range of events on topics such as entrepreneurship, wellbeing and promoting women in business.

 

Our passion is to help our members succeed. And access to Venture Capital providers is a good example of this.

We will be running regular sessions where funders will come in and everyone will have their 15 minutes to pitch, no matter what their business is. But we will be going beyond the simple yes/no answer from a funder.

Businesses not yet ready for external funding will be offered specific advice and coaching to provide them with the support they need to improve their offering. Therefore, giving them the opportunity to re-pitch their improved propositions at a future date.

If there are weak spots, we will help them identify how they can position themselves better. The idea is to get to a ‘yes’. Even if the business is not a concept that’s suitable for venture capital, which not all are, they will get advice on how to run their business better. It therefore becomes access to mentoring as well as Venture Capital which is just as valuable.

We have also organised hackathons in our Marbella coworking location. We’re very keen to provide an environment for people that are engaging in new technologies.  Crypto currency is a perfect example where hackathons provide an opportunity for resources and individuals to come together as a community. For example, traditionally, hackers operate in isolated environments, often working from home alone. Hackathons enable face-to-face exposure for new ideas, new ways of thinking, new challenges, access to VC and fundraising. We will certainly be looking to bring similar opportunities to our Dubai site.

Your thoughts on the new UAE Visa rules and its effect on Entrepreneurship? 

Ten year visas and foreign direct ownership are major positive steps forward in bringing more stable businesses into the region. I’m sure there are many companies who would have previously been reticent about coming into this market with a 51% partner, but would be very happy to participate with 100% ownership and the added certainty of a ten-year visa for their staff.

More internationalisation of business laws and local rules are also encouraging more entrepreneurship.

The extension of student visas after graduation will also allow young entrepreneurs to stay in the region, which is fantastic. New technologies are often driven by young people and we may see more of that happening locally now. It will also mean more fresh and affordable talent available locally for start-ups to access.

What are some of trends you see in coworking space?

What we’re seeing is the establishment of a global shift in the way people work. It was made possible by portable technology and greater connectivity; allowing us to work anywhere with a laptop and a smartphone. Whilst this may have been the case for some time now; as evidenced by coffee shop working culture over the last ten years or so, we may now be reaching a tipping point.

Coffee shop working has evolved into coworking.  Its popularity is increasing not only amongst entrepreneurs but also larger companies who are seeing its benefits. Add to that the demands and expectations of a younger workforce who want to see everything on tap; from seamless technology to lifestyle comforts, to more dynamic environments; and it’s apparent that coworking itself is going to have to keep evolving and improving to keep up with market trends.

In the same way that there’s no going back from mobile technology, where we are free from the shackles of the workplace, there is no going back in terms of traditional office space either. There’s no question that in five years’ time, there will be significantly more coworking office space in major cities than there is presently. It may even be that some of that traditional office space will convert to shared space.

As with nature, the key to success will be the ability to evolve quickly and easily. And we plan to position ourselves at the forefront of this movement as it continues to grow.

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