“In an open working space you don’t have the worry about hiring tea boys or when the electricity bill is due”
The concept of co-working spaces first began to appear early in the new millennium, drawing in independent contractors and entrepreneurs looking for an alternative environment to work in other than coffee shops, business centres, and home offices.
The arrangement involves employees from various businesses sharing an office space by utilising shared resources like equipment, utilities, receptionist and custodial services, and occasionally refreshments and parcel acceptance services. Conveniently, this enables cost savings for fresh entrepreneurs looking to establish their businesses.
The growth of co-working spaces over the past ten years has been fuelled by startup culture and the spirit of entrepreneurship. Consequently, recent years have seen a rise in the number of shared working spaces in Qatar, a concept that was once foreign to the business scene here.
For locally-owned Flare, an open space in the heart of Lusail, co-working provided a solution to a problem.
“We see a lot of energy and resources but very minimal results to go with that. Eventually we identified the reason for this to be a significant disconnect between different parts of the ecosystem, and here Flare was born,” Saleh Al-Raisi, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Flare told Doha News.
The company says it aims to bring all these pieces together to build an active hub where small businesses can find support from their trusted Community Partners – live on site.
Key model for businesses
This benefits business owners like Mohammed, who has tried multiple co-working spaces in Qatar in the past few years.
“Some spaces give you access to book a meeting room in any other of their location, so if my office is in Lusail I can meet a client there, a week later if he is near the Souq I can meet them there instead for their convenience,” Mohammed said.
“The advantages are plenty, it’s up to each entrepreneur how much they use those advantages,” he added.
For many, various community events available also play a huge role in how attractive a space is. These range from Team Building events, after-work therapeutic art workshops, early-morning yoga classes or business events.
While renting a shared co-working space gives you more flexibility to grow or restructure your expenditure without changing the location, renting a regular corporate office requires you to assume full responsibility for the property you are using to run your business.
In a corporate office, the company is the only tenant, while in open working spaces a company is one of the tenants.
“In an open working space you don’t have the worry about hiring tea boys or when the electricity bill is due; conversely, you might not have control over the background music or the A/C fan speed,” Pedro Caetano, Head of Ecosystem at Vesuvio Labs told Doha News.
Caetano is currently a member of Workinton M7 – a Turkish owned company with 24/7 open working spaces across four location in Qatar.
“Co-working spaces bring people together, positivity, motivation, creativity, and freshness. Regular corporate offices separate people into departments to work on tasks for their max potential, and max potential only,” he added.
People from various businesses and backgrounds often interact and unwind at the communal pantry area in between tasks.
Caetano earned around two direct prospects based strictly on his shared workspace. “They could only know what we do, despite operating in a different sector, due to the fact we talk at the pantry of our shared working space.”
Helping kickstart a business
Coming up with a business idea is sometimes not the hardest part of starting a business, as there are numerous legal steps that entrepreneurs need to overcome.
For SMEs, a typical corporate office is unlikely to be helpful on matters outside of the lease, in contrast to shared workspaces that can assist with legal paperwork and ministry regulations, suggest an always-available PRO, or provide the best cloud solution to launch a business, Leasing Lead at Workinton, Ziyad Selmi told Doha News.
“Even locals may not know the steps, where to go to get a license to start trading or sign a deal. They have to product but they cannot legally do it, like issuing a CR and license, they can do this through us. We help them through this, also when the government asks for the company’s business address, we give them the address,” said Selmi.
Spaces also often provide free consultations for those interested in starting a business, providing extra support to those that are new to the industry and scrapping the need to fork out extra money on consultation servies.
“It was what I could afford. The cost of the rent was still high despite being the lowest in the market, but I could justify it because in the shared space I have access to printing, receptionist, meeting rooms, the whole package,” Mohammed said.
Having tried many coworking spaces in the past few years, Mohammed thinks that some of them are the ultimate place for start-ups. However, “their rent is so high it would sink a start-up.”
He is currently with Regus, who he believes are more affordable than other places that he’s tried in the past.
“They tend to host mostly boring international shipping or construction companies part of a larger mega conglomerate that won’t do a small start-up any good. If you look hard enough, there are some treasures in between offices; smart inspiring businesses and genius individuals.”
However, the companies said the high costs can be justified.
“We don’t want people to think we are a cheap but colourful, funky, brand with a lot of youngsters working there. No, we wanna be aligned on this with everyone so you’ll pay a bit of extra money but you wont have any hassle with anything else,” said Workinton’s Selmi.
Flare’s Al-Raisi told Doha News that many amenities and community benefits and discounts are included respectively in their packages.
While co-working spaces do offer a helping hand, their fate is determined by an increase in businesses being set up in Qatar. However, with Qatari law stipulating that onshore businesses must appoint a local partner who owns 51% of the company’s shares, as well as costs to set up, establishing a company is difficult for many.
“If the government will release some new policies and will make it easier for people then yes, the co-working spaces will be full across the market. If we keep the same strategy then it will be the same and people will always be looking for a cheaper option or a comfortable place,” said Selmi.