A new coworking venue in Melbourne’s south-east is the first in Australia to have no staff manning the workplace, and has lofty ambitions to open four venues within 12 months.
Founded by property developer Campbell McLeod, the property Home Base Share, on Cheltenham’s Bay Road, has 100 square metres of “automated” coworking and flexible office space that can be used any time of the day through a smart phone app.
Andrew Kahofer, who steered the project from the beginning, said the business was based on the model of the 24-hour gym.
“Campbell and I work from home quite a bit, but what we thought was we needed to bring more flexibility to the table. We both like going to the gym and the whole 24-hour-gym scenario was a spark,” he said.
Clients are given an introduction to the venue when they first sign up, which is likely to be the only face-to-face time they will get with staff. After that, members install an app on their smart phones which acts as the key to the building, as well as the private office if they have paid for one.
“It’s low maintenance on staff and overheads so it allows us to have a very competitive pricing structure; our rooms are probably the best priced in the market because we don’t have to worry about the other overheads that go with running the facility,” Mr Kahofer said.
The workplace also has wifi, video facilities, meeting rooms and an onsite barista – all of which can be managed, booked or ordered through the app.
IT support is provided through remote access and reserve power in the building is enough to run the company’s server for up to 90 minutes in case of a system failure.
Mr Kahofer claims 80 per cent of the people who made enquiries have signed up so far since the soft opening in May.
“A lot of people are looking for flexible workspace and some of the co-share facilities are a little bit too hip and scaring some of the clients away. We offer a low-fi entry into that market, so you’ve got your own space, you don’t have to play ping-pong and kick soccer balls around,” he said.
Private offices have proven to be the most in-demand among members, which has pushed Mr McLeod and Mr Kahofer to add more of the facilities.
Coworking “going to be the norm”
The pair is already looking at expanding to South Melbourne in October and two more sites in Melbourne between January and June 2019.
“From there, we have the vision to make this a scalable entity, so have multiple versions of Home Base, so if you’re a member at Cheltenham, you can use your membership at another venue,” Mr Kahofer said, adding that they wanted to have a “pretty large footprint in the Bayside region”.
The company would not only be focusing on Melbourne and plans to enter the next market outside of Melbourne in mid-2019.
“We’re starting with small steps, but the reason we’re doing what we’re doing is we’re testing the water with how to scale it, how to set it up,” Mr Kahofer said.
“We’ve got all the systems down pat, we could easily do it in Sydney, Brisbane, New Zealand’s even been discussed.
“Everything we’re doing here is with a view to expanding and being scalable, like the 24-hour gym.
If opened in Sydney, the location would likely be on the northern beaches which Mr Kahofer said would help people avoid commuting over the Bridge.
Mr Kahofer said he was sure that the model would be replicated by other co-working operators further down the track.
“I’m sure (it will happen) once people get a wind of what we’re doing; the technology is accessible. But that’s our secret until they figure out what to do there.”
He noted that co-working in general would become “the norm” in years to come.
“I wish I’d had this opportunity 10 years ago,” he said.
“We’re a little bit slower than say a lot of the European and Scandinavian countries, but the trend’s starting to happen now.
“You just have a look at the co-share (offices) on the north side in Victoria and they’re everywhere. But they’re all of a similar model of ‘come in, rent space, manually managed’, whereas we’re trying to take it to the next step of automating it.”
Prices start at $195 a month, while casual half-day passes are $27.50 and full-day passes are $44.