Shared office space might be the biggest trend in Startupland since cargo shorts. It’s everywhere. According to reports, the number of co-working spaces in the US went from one in 2005 to almost 800 in 2013. That numbers is probably well over 1,000 by now and some forecasts predict that there will be 12,000 fully operational co-working spaces around the world by 2018.
Of course with such a spike in both supply and demand, companies like Breather are jumping into the game trying to be the Uber / AirBnB / <InsertOverUsedStartupAnalogy> of the space; they facilitate on-the-fly (or short notice) matches between vacant desks and nomadic workers in need of a temporary corporate residency.
Here’s the issue with co-working space though: it costs money. Sometimes a fair amount of it. While Breather can get you spots for as little $26 an hour and companies like WeWork offer “Flexible Workspace” memberships for $45 a month, the numbers quickly run thick as the convenience runs thin for entrepreneurs and freelancer trying to juggle air-tight budgets with mobile itineraries.
Those numbers are also a lot higher than the cost of a Frappocandyfat Peppernut Diabetes Latte you can purchase at Starbucks in exchange for 8 hours of office space.
If you’re roaming around – foreign or local – looking for somewhere to work, Workfrom wants to hook you up with any place that will gladly welcome your business and your laptop; coffee shops, bars, whatever.
“Top companies, successful careers and great products are being built from coffee shops and cafes all around us,” says co-founder Darren Buckner. “Every day, remote employees, freelancers, entrepreneurs and business travelers are always looking for reliable workspace. Today, the 9-5 workday and daily office commute is all but extinct for millions across the globe. We’re in the process of building new resources to support the mobile office worker of the 21st century and Workfrom is a fundamental part of this new economy.”
Workfrom has listings in over 300 cities in which they have “Scouts” not only creating and rating venue listings, but filling in profile details like internet speed, WiFi passwords, power outlet locations, noise levels, preferred menu items and more. Using the data provided by scouts (and sometimes the venue themselves for sponsored listings) the interface also conveniently breaks down locations into categories like, “Quieter” and “Open Later”.
The information is only getting better. Buckner told me that they are currently testing out a new feature that provides real-time capacity / density information. Not only does it help determine available space at any venue you happen to be considering, but it also allows you to immediately filter your options by current availability.
When he told me about it, I assumed that they were leveraging a combination of their existing “Clock In” function and manual data entry to do the math. I was embarrassingly wrong. They’re using on-site infrared sensors and algorithms to sort out traffic-to-space statuses. You can see the feature it in action within their Portland locations.
I can see this being a home run for a lot of people who live out of their laptops. And I’m going out on my own here, but mix in some table-affixed wireless charging stations from a company like Chargifi and you’ve got yourself a grand slam.
A basic account is free, providing access to the full directory and all venue details including real-time seating information. A “Plus” account is $5/month or $50/year and gets you access to a community chat forum, deals and discounts and ongoing exclusive access to Beta features.
“We’ve started by creating a valuable network of when-you-need-it locations to get your work done, solving a very real problem,” said Buckner. “Next we’ll tackle new pain points for the people and companies in our community and we’ll continue to help people do good work; wherever they roam.”
Workfrom is currently looking for seed funding.
Ben is a Toronto-based writer and public speaker with more than a soft spot for 90s hip hop. He has spent over 10 years in business & tech, more than 20 in the arts, and an entire lifetime in a state of perpetual judgment (highly recommended). He is the author of the blogs This Is Your Brain on Dating and Love Gone Cray and can be found pontificating on Thought Catalog, Notable.ca, The Toronto Standard, Offline Magazine, Gasm.org and Huffington Post.
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