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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8896
JPY
USD
119.26
GBP
USD
0.6475
CAD
USD
1.2451
INR
USD
61.816

Rates may not be current.