ShareDesk, a Vancouver-based startup, launches its beta today to bring a bit of extra cash to individuals and small businesses with idle office space.
The rise of the sharing economy is well-documented, but has primarily been limited to cars and homes. By utilizing unused desks, Sharedesk aims to be the Airbnb of office space. The company is tapping into a growing market of entrepreneurs, flexible and mobile workers, and freelancers who need temporary office space.
“You can access a shared office space, sit down, tap into their wifi and start working,” said Kia Rahmani, ShareDesk’s CEO and co-founder. “The social and professional opportunity adds a bit of energy too.”
Currently, there are over 700 free office spaces listed on the site. In cities like San Francisco and New York, on the lower-end, it will set you back about $50 a month, with more luxurious and fully-equipped spots offered for $500 or more. ShareDesk functions in 50 countries; you can book space in Santiago, Vienna, even Kabul.
Rahmani told me that about 20 percent of the spaces listed are spare desks in small and mid-sized businesses. He hopes this number will grow. To appeal to this market, the company is incorporating user profiles, so property owners can pick and choose based on occupation, field and various demographic factors.
Co-working isn’t just a hippie movement to encourage friendship, exchanging ideas and harmonious workflow.
For tech companies, it’s an under-utilized opportunity to tap into a reserve of technical talent. Engineers and designers tend to gravitate toward starting companies, or taking consulting gigs, which would require short-term office space. In Silicon Valley, one of ShareDesk’s largest clients, insisted that only engineers could rent out the spare desks and office space. Already, they can vet potential candidates by browsing their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.
Unlike competitor, Loose Cubes, there are costs involved. Loose Cubes, a New York-based startup, functions as a members-only network for co-working. It’s free to locate an empty desk, spare couch, even a barn on the site.
ShareDesk makes its money by charging a commission for making a match. Property owners hand over 15 percent to ShareDesk for the duration of the booking. If the relationship between the renter and work station continues informally, ShareDesk doesn’t take a cut. Work stations can charge on a flexible basis, whether it’s a monthly or hourly fee.
ShareDesk currently lists more than 1,300 office spaces, meeting rooms and private offices around the world.