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The popularity of coworking spaces in SA has soared in recent years as they offer an alternative to working from home or an office block. For entrepreneurs, these facilities also mean affordable places to run their business from, and access to almost anything they need for operations. As Philip Joubert of OfferZen discovered, many of these places aren’t comprehensive enough in their online listings.
In December, both Philip and his brother, Malan, were sharing an apartment, which acted as the base of operations for OfferZen. The two were sleeping on the floor and needed to roll up their beds before staff arrived each morning. The brothers realised it wasn’t a permanent solution and needed something better.
“We wanted a short-term lease for both pessimistic and optimistic reasons. If OfferZen failed then a long-term business lease would have been a liability. On the other hand, if we were very successful then we’d need an even bigger space soon enough,” says Philip.
The two needed to find a place to work from with a short-term lease as well as a fibre internet connection for their needs. They thought a coworking space would be the best solution, but there was a problem.
“Almost every coworking space in the world claims super-fast internet but I found the definition of super-fast varies wildly. For some, it means a 200Mbps fibre connection and for others, it means a 6Mbps ADSL line.”
This resulted in Philip having to call and physically visit a number of spaces to actually test their internet connection for OfferZen’s needs. It was a time-consuming process that could have been easily avoided.
He began recording all of his findings on a Google Sheet and soon realised he had the most comprehensive information about workspaces in Cape Town. It was an unexpected outcome from his research.
“So I decided to turn my Google Sheet into a website!”
Enter, Coworking SA.
He soon met with Lianne Du Toit from Silicon Cape and Lauren Wallet from I Love Malva. The pair had already been talking about implementing a similar website. All three decided to combine their efforts and quickly launched the website, which is built on Middleman.
Since launch, they’ve also managed to capture coworking spaces from Johannesburg and Pretoria as well.
“Currently, it’s the most comprehensive list of coworking spaces in South Africa that I’m aware of, and we’re adding new spaces each month.”
Even with all of the help, Philip says there are still places out there they haven’t captured. As the Pokemon catchphrase goes, “Gotta catch ’em all,” he says.
“I guess it’s true of any site like this, but initially, a lot of coworking spaces weren’t especially eager to spend time filling in a form. Now that they can see other spaces they’ve become a lot more keen to be listed!”
Philip is looking to develop similar websites as well. For example, he says, looking for an accelerator or investor in SA still requires a lot of research to figure out which options are available to entrepreneurs. Even then, those looking may not even find the resources they require.
“In Silicon Valley, you’ll find a comprehensive list with a single Google search.”
“It perhaps sounds silly, but I think the right resources can save a tonne of time for smart people, who would then have more time work on building great software (or whatever it is they do).”
There will indeed a be a “2.0” version of the website, with several features in tow. Philip says many coworking spaces want to be able to show off more images of their facilities, not to mention users also want prices of amenities listed as well. So there is room for improvement.
Those looking to list their coworking space can use the Google form setup by Philip.