Cape Town co-working community cowork coworking networking Shared Office SouthAfrica

    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

    May 22, 2017
    Business Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Design Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network Internet networking Shared Office Social media SouthAfrica

    I left the house, and I liked it.

    I left the house, and I liked it

    Reflections of a first time coworker…

    This month we asked CTO Chief, Sarah to reflect on her first month (ever) in a coworking space and here is what she had to say. 

    242h

    So, my thoughts on my first month of being in a coworking space: I can honestly say that now that I’m able to look back on my time working from home, I can only laugh at myself in semi-exhausted hysteria. We all hear the stories of entrepreneurs and how tough it is, the sleepless nights and needing to be a jack of all trades. Not to mention that creating a successful business becomes synonymous with how little sleep you are getting, instead of how efficient you are actually being. Now two thoughts come to mind: first, that the jack of all trades is the master of none, and second, a line I remember from Scrooge Mc’Duck: “work smarter not harder.” I am now acutely aware of both in hindsight. 

    So perhaps, before I go on, I should mention what it is that I do for a living (to put this all in perspective). I am an Airbnb host, as well as an interior designer for Airbnb spaces and vacation rental homes. The focus of my interior design company is offering e-design packages, and while I’m based in Cape Town most of my clients thus far have been based in America. Sounds ideal, right? Airbnb host and designer, working from the comfort of home with an incredible view of Table Mountain, earning in US dollars.

    No, No No. Let me elaborate. Airbnb guests, as incredible as they are, are more interested in discussing the tourist attractions the city has to offer than your design conundrums (or, more importantly, acknowledging your looming deadline). The two roles become very blurred, and it’s hard to distinguish which one is the most important to nurture in that moment, as both are in fact income-generating. The human desire to be “likable” wins, and you find yourself negotiating how many hour of sleep are necessary for human survival while answering trivial touristy questions.

    The fallacy that I am living the dream of living in Cape Town while working with American clients and earning US dollars needs to be right sized, and quickly. Why? Well, I have two reasons, but both come down to the same frustrating issue: the internet. Firstly, have you ever tried having Skype consultations while you are trying to troubleshoot your WiFi connection? Let me tell you, it is most unpleasant. Secondly, the Design software I use is available online, which has two benefits: I don’t have to pay for licencing software, and I don’t have to upgrade my laptop (which solves the start-up’s ongoing problem of managing expenses). Have you ever tried to explain to Americans, a nation renowned for suing the likes of Nike because their shoelace came undone, that you are unable to meet your deadline because the internet has stopped working? There is not enough Prozac in the world to prepare you for that WhatsApp conversation.

    So five consultants and a few twitter posts later I realise that I need to “cease fighting” and get on with the designs that are now very overdue, as Uncle Sam is a bit hot under the collar. The only problem is that the WiFi still isn’t working, and the technician is only due the following day. So the only solution is the WLAN cable (which is too short to reach the desk) and I end up setting up shop on the kitchen floor. My Airbnb guest is strongly advised that cooking dinner is a really bad option given the current state of affairs, and is thrust a takeout menu.

    The other conundrum one faces is the design of your interior space: Is it that your bed is too close to your desk, or your desk too close to your bed? Both are true. There are days when you just seem to be in the flow and the ideas feel endless and you really want ride the wave, so to speak. So as you climb into bed and the next idea hits you like a lightning bolt, the desk is just too close to resist jumping up and switching on the laptop to start beavering away again till the early hours. The following day is generally when your motivation and your concentration are at an all-time low. Then it the bed that is too close to your desk. It would be so easy to just jump in and have that refreshing nap, the only thing stopping you is guilt. If it weren’t for that feeling of guilt and the fear of missing that one email that is about to change your destiny forever, you would Nike it (or said another way, Just do it). 

    275hSo instead you convince yourself that to carry on working is the best option. You spend hours researching whether a WordPress or Wix website is the best option. So the journey into the internet begins, and suddenly I am wondering when it was that I started caring about Brad and Angelina’s divorce? And just as I am arriving at a point where I am about to make a decision as to whether I am team Brad or team Jolie, the internet bombs out on me, again. 

    So, given my flair for drama, I think I have painted a fairly accurate picture of some of the frustrations experienced while working from home. It still does not negate that starting a business is stressful, and there are serious and sometimes paralyzing fears regarding expenditure. So why did I opt to join a co–work space? Sanity is the most concise answer I can give you. I based my final decision on this simple formula: Number of chargeable hours lost due to internet issues multiplied by my hourly rate. Viola! It suddenly made sense. 

    In fact I could in all probability rent two desks a months based on my elementary calculation. Why would I even contemplate two desks? So that I had somewhere for my ego and a whole new set of fears to sit while I was trying to get work done. I could not believe that lunacy had returned on my first day at my new desk – it was like my first day at school all over again. What if nobody likes me? What if everyone thinks what I do for a job is stupid? What if they peer over my shoulder watching me as I surf the World Wide Web?

    Honestly, as if someone could even read the words on my screen when they are five desks away. The words are smaller than the last letter on those eye tests that optometrists make you take. The other truth that was hard for ego to digest is that people are not like cats: they don’t hover around my computer watching the mouse dart across the screen. They are genuinely interested in themselves and committed to their daily tasks.

    Having said all that, it does not mean that they don’t care about you – there are plenty of opportunities to engage over the coffee machine, while preparing lunch, or on the collaboration platform. And yes, they may know someone who knows someone who is interested in your services. With such a variety of companies that use the space, I have been fortunate enough to meet someone who has untangled the spider web of confusion I had spun around WordPress vs Wix. So, combined with the advice, step-by-step guidance, and fear of what people will think of me if they find out if I am team Brad or team Jolie, I have managed to focus my efforts and get on with tasks.

    What it really comes down to is – yup, you guessed it – connection, both internet and human.

    Sarah is the founder of Urban Savvy Design, a consultancy based in Cape Town that provides bespoke design services to Air B&B hosts and operators.

    Contact her:

    sarah@urbansavvydesign.com | https://www.facebook.com/UrbanSavvyDesigns/

     

    March 21, 2017
    Africa Business Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network hub networking Shared Office SouthAfrica Start-up

    Coworking; it’s more than just a desk.

    The journey of any coworker starts with a simple request; “I’d like to rent a desk” and usually followed by, “how does it work”.

    I get asked that question nearly 5 to 6 times a day, from people looking to get out of the house and home office environment and into a shared office, where they can come to and get some work done. Of course, I give them all the information such as cost, what’s included and how our membership is structured, but what I can’t tell them (yet), is just how much more there is to coworking than simply renting a desk in an office.

    I mean, how can you? For the most part,  it’s fair to say that my experience will differ from yours as yours will from mine, but in this world of coworking and indeed Cape Town Office, I can tell you this.  Every single coworker that’s come through the door has at one point or another said this to me…”it’s so much more than I could ever have imagined”. The reason for this in 99% (and I’ll tell you about the 1% is in a moment) of cases, is the people, their new coworkers.

    It’s not just someone that they’re sitting next to in an office, it’s someone they go hiking up Lions Head with before work. It’s someone they go surfing with, or surf school because they’ve always wanted to learn and now they have someone to do it with. It’s someone they go trail running with on a Saturday in Stellenbosch. It’s someone they meet up with on a Sunday morning to watch the cricket over breakfast in the Waterfront, because let’s face it, it’s not something my wife loves doing any day, but especially a Sunday.

    ctocrewlionshead

    The other 1%? Well, they claim it’s Pac-Man ….so who am I to argue with that.

    Coworking is a VERB,  the space we do it in is secondary to the people we do it with is how Adam Teterus of Indy Hall so beautifully explained it at CWA2015. And I for one, couldn’t agree more.

    Happy October kids x

    October 10, 2016
    Africa Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Internet networking Not for Profit Shared Office SouthAfrica

    Conservation Coworking

    Coworking unusual

    CSA Ops Team 2016

    January 2016

    I received a phone call from Amanda, head of Operations for Conservation South Africa. They need office space. I was a little thrown by the idea that a “traditional” crowd like CSA were keen to explore coworking, but Amanda explained that they were in a desperate situation as their current office had awful internet and they simply can’t get any work done.

    When Amanda and the team arrived for the first viewing I could tell from the expressions and the look of fear on their faces, that this would be a giant leap from what they know. “We have to work in an open plan office?” I overheard someone saying and “But what if they hear us on the phone?” from another. As I’ve done my fair share of viewings, I thought, well this was worth a shot, but clearly coworking is not for them.

    To my absolute surprise, Amanda called me a day or two later; “The rest of the team want to see the space, when can we come for a 2nd viewing?” To cut a long story short, they came and saw and the board approved the move. From day one, due to our rather brilliant internet here, the team were up and running with a tunnel straight to their USA data center, a first for team CSA I might add, and they just blended right in to the 3rd floor.

    At first, there was reluctance from the rest of the CSA crew to adapt to this “new” way of working, but to their credit, the Operations team focused on the bits that worked and before they knew it, they were 21st century coworkers and loving it. Meeting new people over a cup of coffee, bringing in cookies to share with the office and even joining the office lunch at Dias Tavern!

    It was an absolute pleasure having the team here for 6 months. They’ve now moved into their own (bigger office) in a more central location (Southern Suburbs) for the extended team to make use of as well.

    Amanda and I got to chatting a few weeks before the big move and what delighted me most was to hear from her that their time at Cape Town Office has hands down been the most productive time, ever for CSA. They’ve learnt so much from the experience in fact that when they designed their new office, they replicated their work pod from Cape Town Office so that the team can continue to work together, rather than splitting them up into separate offices as they did before.

    Well done to Amanda and the team for being brave enough to try something new & we wish you all the best in your new CSA home.

    I thought I’d share this as a testament to the fact that we do work better when we cowork!

    Photocred to CTO member, David Harris

    September 16, 2016
    Africa APP development Business co-working Collaborate community conference cowork coworking Digital Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network hub incubators Investment networking Shared Office SME SouthAfrica Start-up techhubs Uncategorized

    Coworking Africa, a growing community.

    coworking-Africa-Conference-2015-970X180

    Coworking Africa

    On the 5th of February we had the 2nd meetup of Coworking Africa at the Design Bank, in the East City of Cape Town. Organised by the Coworking Europe crew, this was very much a spur of the moment event as a follow on from the very first gathering in 2015.

    Like the first #CWAfrica conference, the content was rich and the contributors all evangelical about the growth of the coworking movement on African soil. What’s clear is that we [operators / owners] are all passionate about the people we’re creating these amazing spaces for; the freelancers, the entrepreneurs, the lone rangers out on a mission to start his/her own business and desperate to get out of “coffee shop working” and into a community of like minds. We understand how crucial enabling this environment is to the bigger picture, i.e. the growth of our economy and that any part we can play in helping the start-ups and small businesses can only be a great thing for the South African and greater African economy.

    For example, we heard at the meet up that there’s so much good news around the growth of Fintech in Cape Town, be it the vast amount of talent Cape Town has to offer the Tech (global) scene, that could rival any San Francisco, London and Silicon Valley today. And the influx of investment that leads to the creation of more Hubs and Incubators that in turn feeds beautifully into coworking spaces. It’s all very good news!

    Now for the part that’s not so good… YET! A clear message from the unconference part of the day was that more needs to be done to assist those who live outside of our cities, in townships and informal settlements to help become part of our coworking communities. It’s not enough to offer discounted or even free space to these entrepreneurs and freelancers. Paying for a desk is only one part of the problem, what about the nearly R2,000 per month to travel in and out of town on top, not to mention lunch!

    We don’t have the answers to these complex social issues, not by a long shot, but participating in platforms like Coworking Africa brings us a little closer to finding those sustainable solutions. I look forward to the continued discussion around this subject and welcome you – yes you reading this – to put forward any ideas on how we can make this a reality.

    A big thanks to Vanessa and Coworking Africa for putting the day together with the help of Steven from The Design Bank and all the lovely people I met on the day! To catch the presentations and an overview by the organisors, read up about it here, http://coworkingafrica.com/2016/02/15/a-look-back-at-the-second-coworking-africa-2016-meetup/

    Keep an eye out for the next meetup & hope to see you there!

    Lizelle

     

    February 15, 2016
    Africa Business Cape Town co-working coworking Entrepreneur Internet Shared Office SouthAfrica

    Internet: how much is enough?

    Learning

    Internet.

    How much is enough?

    South Africa seems to be on its own planet when it comes to internet and in the nigh on 5 years I’ve been back, I’ve had to learn….fast from novice to level expert, well I think so.

    I spent nearly 12 years in the UK and there I pretty much saw the birth of broadband and it was so accessible that our house in the Western Isles of Scotland was gifted, yes gifted a desktop PC, modem and of course internet with it. As a South African, I couldn’t believe this generosity and of course took full advantage of this amazing resource. I surfed and surfed and surfed and no care in the world about data, what was data anyway?

    Well in 2010 that all changed. I was asked the question by the friendly man in the Telkom shop the day I opened my ADSL account, “How much data would you like?” I looked at him with a very puzzled expression on my face and simply replied, quite confidently, “I’d like all of it please”.  He laughed. I soon realised I was in a warped Oliver Twist novel with my bowl out in front of the Telkom man, “please Sir, can I have some more”.

    I now know how much data I need to do my work, so if I’m asked that question today I’ll have a very different answer. Fact is I don’t really use that much for the work I do. Skype (lots of), emails of course and CRM systems is where the bulk goes, so when we looked at options for Fibre

    Bandwidth Bandwidth Bandwidth

    Fast forward to 2015 and the dawn of accessible Fibre. So what have I learnt? A few things actually:

    1. Bandwidth is king
    2. Find out what your contention ratio is
    3. Negotiated data bundles = great value
    4. Have a back up plan in place, even fibre can go dark

    We took our time to find the provider that suited our needs best at Cape Town Office and as we don’t have corporate budgets, we had to be very selective. Early on we learnt about a little thing called contention ratios. What’s this you ask? Well that’s (and this is my understanding of it) the minimum bandwidth the provider can guarantee at any one time. We have a 2:1 contention ratio at CTO, both for local and international traffic which works brilliantly and in real applications does the job!

    Of course you could work from home and sort out your own Fibre, but be warned … it aint cheap. Costs for a 20Mbps line start at R7,000 + VAT without data and in any currency, that’s a fair amount of money.

    Think of it this way – you could rent 3 desks at our office with the 100 Mbps Fibre with free coffee or tea, if that’s your thing, for less than that per month and still have spare change for beer!

    Kinda makes sense, right?

    January 22, 2016
    Africa Business Cape Town co-working community coworking Entrepreneur flexoffice hub Not for Profit Shared Office SouthAfrica Uncategorized workcation

    Time flies

    capetownoffice

    It’s been an exciting couple of months here at CTO. We had the crew from Touch Foundation visit from Tanzania who decided on Cape Town as a go-to workcation destination. They took full advantage of all that the Cape has to offer visitors during their 7 week stay and I dare say the experience is one that will leave a lasting impression. Always lovely to see this beautiful place we call home through the eyes of visitors…reminds us of just how lucky we are!

    It was an absolute pleasure getting to know Karin, Renae, Andrew, Dancho, Sarah, Vallerio and Massi who do such amazing work in the health care sector in Tanzania.

    Never heard of Touch Foundation? Well here’s a little snippet:

    Touch Foundation is a secular, non-profit organization committed to improving the health of the Tanzanian population by strengthening the health system across the different levels of care. Touch expands its impact by sharing the acquired knowledge with the local and international public health community.

    So here we are with less than 5, yes … 5 weeks till the end of 2015 and I can’t believe how time flies. It’s been an incredible year for CTO and there’s so much to talk about that I’ve decided this year to write a proper Directors’ Report with the highs and lows of coworking life at CTO which I’ll publish in the coming weeks.

    If you’re starting or thinking of starting a new business in 2016, get in touch. We’re always looking for cool, creative and inspiring entrepreneurs to join our clan.

    Have fun!

    November 25, 2015
    co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network flexoffice Hot Desk hub incubators Uncategorized

    The growth of coworking.

    A friend shared this video with me today and so here it is, thanks Marius of Freelance Cape Town.  The growth of coworking in Cape Town has been staggering over the past two years which only proves that more people are waking up to the benefits of working from a coworking space.

    Coworking is no longer an idea or concept or even a thing of the future, Coworking is now.

    Video via Turnstone.

    November 04, 2015
    Africa Business Business Plan Cape Town co-working Collaborate cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network networking SouthAfrica Start-up Uncategorized

    CTO Member Spotlight: October

    AfricanDreams

    African Dreams

    So I’ve decided to dedicate one post per month to a member’s business here at Cape Town Office and so ladies and gentleman may I introduce you to African Dreams.

    African Dreams is the brainchild of Danielle who arrived at Cape Town Office a few months ago after more than 10 years of living and working in Hong Kong. In that time she built up an incredible network of businesses in China through her company, Guanxi Connections, providing Event management | Design | Marketing services, just take a look at what some of her clients had to say, www.guanxi-connections.com/testimonials.html

    But, like any entrepreneur, she quickly saw that there’s an opportunity for her here in South Africa to bring China a  little closer to Africa and indeed bring Africa closer to China through African Dreams. She has carefully selected a diverse range of African products such as Organic food supplements, Specialty teas to Eco-furniture available via the website.

    So spread the news far and wide folks and help this entrepreneur get this business off the ground in style!

    To contact Danielle and chat about importing/exporting goods to China, you’ll find her here.

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/BuyDanielle

    Email:  info@guanxi-connections.com

    WEB: http://www.africandreams.co/

     

    October 15, 2015
    Business Business Plan Cape Town co-working Collaborate community cowork coworking Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Network networking Shared Office SME Uncategorized

    Being social is good for business.

    capetownoffice

    Is being social good for business?

    More and more companies are looking at coworking spaces as a fast and effective way of expanding their business operations. Instead of worrying about signing a lengthy lease, kitting it out with furniture and negotiating the best internet package, all you need to worry about is getting here. That’s the obvious bit, but there’s more to it than that.

    Tapping into the existing social network of a coworking space can play a big part in making sure that your new employees don’t feel isolated while you’re off building the base in the new city.

    Coworking is not just for start-ups

    A good recent example of this is a company from Gauteng that currently employ more than 250 people and looking to expand with an office in Cape Town. When I asked them why they’re looking at coworking the answer was simply, it’s a lot more social and in the short term will help the guys feel good about coming to work! So it got me thinking. Is it good to be social at work?

    For me, absobloodylutely YES. If I’m having a bad day, struggling with a tricky work related issue by simply stepping out of my work zone into the common area, I’m bound to bump into someone there and a quick chat immediately makes me feel better, especially when its random and off topic . Right now at CTO we have a great mix of cultures which also adds to the flavour. Just yesterday in fact a couple of American guys told me they were off to The Spur for the Monday night special and quite looking forward to trying the burgers to compare it to back home. Since I was practically raised in The Spur, like most kids in SA, I was delighted to hear that they had a great experience 😉

    Community

    Of course there are lots of other benefits to coworking, but I don’t think enough is said about the social benefits. A few months ago we had an expat return to South Africa join us after more than 10 years of living in Hong Kong! She’s not from Cape Town either, so you can imagine there was no social circle to jump into, she was starting from scratch. After just a few weeks here she joined up with a few CTO members to go for Sunday walks up the mountain, every Sunday. It’s definitely helped her settle back much faster than had she opted for the work-from-home option.

    We are after all social creatures who enjoy hearing one another’s stories and experiences. Very few of us are designed to sit in a room alone for up to 9 hours a day working, so why do it? I hear it quite a lot that the only reason people would choose to work from home is to save money, but how do you put a price on being happier? Maybe some clever person can design a happiness measuring tool so we can see the results. Wouldn’t that be cool!!!

    So, still unsure about sharing space with other people? All I’d say to you is that once you’ve tried it, you won’t look back. Five years and counting for me and I’ve loved every day of it. So, if your company is looking to set up an office in Cape Town, give us a shout, you won’t regret it.

    October 14, 2015