Short-term desk rentals in Vancouver bring mobile workers in from the coffee shop.
Decked out in plaid shorts, sneakers and a black zipped-up microfleece, Florian Guhr looks more like a backpacker than an entrepreneur. But this young, thin, blond and bespectacled German is the head of technology at Green Tech Avenue Consulting Inc., a German company specializing in connecting Canadian firms with European sustainability projects ranging from landfill methane storage technologies to micro-hydroelectric turbines. When the Hamburg-based firm recently expanded into Vancouver, Guhr wanted more than a lifeless cubicle in a rented office.
Instead, he spends several days a week at HiVE Vancouver, a new 9,000-square-foot office space with exposed brick walls, large windows and high ceilings on the second floor of three renovated and interconnected heritage buildings in the 100 block of West Hastings Street. Hive offers something lone entrepreneurs can’t get sitting around the kitchen table or at a Starbucks counter, even in these days of mobile productivity: a place to share ideas and feed off the energy of other professionals.
Tables are spread throughout the room, some long and narrow, others irregular in shape, each large enough to accommodate a small group. Guhr points to his open laptop and the cell phone next to it, both resting on a plain countertop, one of several arranged in a pod that can accommodate four or five workers. “With tools like Dropbox and online project management, you don’t actually need a permanent office space,” says Guhr. “I’ve met some very interesting people here,” he adds, explaining that it’s not only cheaper than leasing office space, but “it’s also good for the environment and productivity and creativity.”
Others sharing the space include architects, photographers, industrial designers, programmers and software developers. On Monday, Guhr might be sitting next to an entrepreneur tired of meeting clients in coffee shops. Come Wednesday, his desk mate might be a competitor, or better yet, a collaborator.
Prices vary, but $7 generally buys an hour at any available desk or low leather sofa; longer-term prepaid packages can shave the hourly rate to around $4. Rental includes 24-hour access, Wi-Fi, storage lockers, a postal address, mail slots and use of kitchens, lounges and meeting rooms.
Hive is just one of dozens of shared-office services springing up across the city, from the franchised The Network Hub to Gastown’s tony glass-and-leather Water Street Profile, to the just-opened W2 Media Café in the Woodward’s Atrium.
Barely open four months, HiVE Vancouver is the brainchild of Eesmyal Santos-Brault, a young inventor and social entrepreneur who was inspired by Toronto’s Centre for Social Innovation, a non-profit that believes social change – which it defines as “ideas put into practice for the public good” – starts with a physical space to bring like-minded people together.
“It’s about creating a culture and social connections, but ultimately, it does drive business,” says Santos-Brault, co-founder and director of Hive. “People share their clients and their networks, cards get exchanged and sure enough, I see them working on jobs together.”
And it’s more than just shared office space. On select evenings, Hive transforms into an event space, with projector screens, music, catered parties and cultural programming.
“This is an incubator for sustainability and innovation,” says Santos-Brault. “We want to mix people up internally, but also get them collaborating with the external community.”