News / Economy

Start-ups Find Collaborative Work Space in Johannesburg

The OPEN collaborative work space in the Maboneng neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)The OPEN collaborative work space in the Maboneng neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
x
The OPEN collaborative work space in the Maboneng neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
The OPEN collaborative work space in the Maboneng neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
In Johannesburg, South Africa, there are a small but growing number of shared office spaces in which sole proprietors and small businesses rent a desk and other services.  For small business owners and start-up companies, this route not only provides cheaper overhead for workspace, but it also helps entrepreneurs network. 
 
The OPEN Collaborative Workspace is on the fourth floor of a building in an artsy, up and coming area just south of downtown Johannesburg, in a neighborhood called Maboneng.
 
OPEN rents out desk space to small companies, entrepreneurs or satellite offices for major companies, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)OPEN rents out desk space to small companies, entrepreneurs or satellite offices for major companies, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
x
OPEN rents out desk space to small companies, entrepreneurs or satellite offices for major companies, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
OPEN rents out desk space to small companies, entrepreneurs or satellite offices for major companies, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 24, 2013.(Peter Cox for VOA)
Inside, it is a large open space, with meeting rooms and work rooms off to the side.  There are dozens of tables and chairs set up as desks, couches for meetings, floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the city outside, a full coffee bar with an on-site barista, and some recreational activities to take a break.

"We are standing on a custom built nine-hole putting green.  The thought behind it was everyone thinks business is done on a golf course.  We could not build a golf course in Maboneng, unfortunately, so we built the putting green.  ...  It is a versatile space, and it also gives a little break away for members and people visiting the space to come and putt along the green, which is quite awesome," said Westleigh Wilkinson. 
 
Wilkinson manages the site and also runs his event planning business from OPEN.
 
"OPEN's philosophy is very much based on collaboration and innovation through shared knowledge ...  We have got a lot of great stories where businesses have grown into the main change [building] and Maboneng as a whole," he added. 
 
There are about 30 members of OPEN, mostly small start-up companies in the technology field, although there are also satellite offices for people who run logistics for manufacturing companies and one member who runs an online casino.
 
One of the co-founders of OPEN, Paul Keursten, says it spawned from three ideas.  First, he says, the founders wanted to cater to people who are self-employed or work part time.  
 
"The other line of thinking is that so many people go to their workplace not feeling that it’s a great place to be. …Most offices are dull, uninspiring ...  Why do not you make it a place that you want to go to? ...  Another line of thinking, is that we need innovation to happen.  Innovation happens in a place where you meet people, where you think of ideas, it happens around the coffee, it happens on accidental meetings …  We wanted to create a place where that can happen," he said. 
 
There are a growing number of spaces like OPEN in Johannesburg.  But there are also coffee shops and restaurants attempting to fill that void for those working the virtual world.
 
The IT Corner in the Johannesburg suburb of Melville is a coffee shop that doubles as an office for many in the neighborhood. 
 
Abdul Kader Bouredji, the co-owner, opened the shop in 2010. 
 
"That's my idea to provide, printer, fax facilities, copies, scanning, offices, for example some ladies here have an office, but don't want to sit between four doors, so they'd rather come here.  They see new faces but they do their work," he said. 
 
Local Ward Councillor Amanda Forsythe sat at an outdoor table Tuesday afternoon with another councilor.  Forsythe said she uses the space frequently for work.
 
"This for me is an ideal working space, because not only do I get to see various people all in one go often, but I also get to know what's going on in the neighborhood….Before I was a councilor I had my own company and working as an entrepreneur that can also be can be incredibly lonely," she said. 
 
Such spaces also provide networking opportunities.
 
Luthando Mfabe works for a company called Digital Voodoo, which does digital marketing.  The company is headquartered in the OPEN space - where he says he’s come across many new opportunities.
 
"You do get a lot of exposure.  If someone wants a web designer, somebody knows us and they refer us to that person.  We do get a lot of business like from just collaborating or just sharing the space," he said. 
 
He's collaborated with another OPEN member on advertising campaigns which they are currently pitching to several international clients.  
 
Mfabe says he's enjoyed working in the space, though sometimes it can be tough not having a door to close when he's crashing on a project. 
 
"That's the only thing, but it’s a negative sometimes, sometimes it’s a positive," he said. 
 
Overall, he says, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8957
JPY
USD
120.93
GBP
USD
0.6393
CAD
USD
1.2199
INR
USD
63.470

Rates may not be current.