Michael Bleby, BRW
Co-working is not just for penniless start-ups. The latest vision for the future of work replaces cut-price camaraderie with designer furnishings and offers exclusivity guaranteed by vetted membership – with a price tag to match.
Despite membership prices that double – and even quadruple – those of the more established co-working sites such as Hub Australia, the providers of new Sydney venues Gravity and Work Club say that even experienced and successful entrepreneurs can benefit by avoiding the overheads of owning their own fixed space and by working in a community of equally successful people.
“There wasn’t a co-working space for those third and fourth-time entrepreneurs who weren’t just setting up and had successful businesses and maybe they had a need to project a professional image to a potential new client,” says architect Jacqui Esdaile, who in March opened Gravity, on the floor of 50 Carrington Street in central Sydney, just above Wynyard Station. “We thought there was a gap.”
Soren Trampedach, who last month opened Work Club in 99 Elizabeth Street, near Hyde Park, agrees.
“There was missing a place for a bit more established people to meet, interact and work from,” he says. “There are people coming out of corporate life, who may have their own business who won’t feel comfortable in a hub or start-up environment. They appreciate good quality.”
Membership prices of $900 a month at Gravity and $2000 a month at Work Club (cheaper for longer-term memberships) are a step-change above the $450 charged for equivalent unlimited access to its Hub Sydney’s Darlinghurst, site, but as thinking about work space and what makes people productive and innovative develops, these offerings tap a different – and potentially valuable – niche that is distinct from the separate start-up and office markets.
Both sites cap memberships – at 110 for Gravity and 100 for Work Club – and vet applicants, to protect members from competitors and to ensure variety within the community.
It’s a niche that corporate landlords are already getting into.
In June, Lend Lease opened The Porter, a membership-based lounge area for the blue-chip corporate tenants leasing in the 1 O’Connell Street building in the CBD. Gravity and Work Club, in contrast, target individual members and businesses. Of course, the early movers in the market are taking pains to differentiate their offering from those of rivals.
“We can sell ourselves not only as the premium first to market but as a space where we can have number of members as part of the Gravity community,” Ms Esdaile says. “Whereas Work Club is about a desk and an office people can work in. It’s on a different scale.”
Mr Trampedach, who used to work for furniture company Haworth, which collaborated with Lend Lease on The Porter, has his own response to Gravity.
“It’s got nice-looking products, but I don’t understand the way it’s put together,” he says.
Work Club has a range of working styles, from private offices to open areas, permitting people with different working styles – whether chief executive of a private equity firm or architect – to work comfortably in a way that rivals such as Gravity don’t offer, Mr Trampedach says.
“Most of them may look great, but most of them don’t work great from a functionality perspective,” he says.
Both Gravity and Work Club intend to set up a network of offices, so that travelling members can easily use sites in other cities. Gravity intends to open in Melbourne early next year, while Work Club is aiming to do so by mid-next year.
“Space today is no longer just an office or home,” Mr Trampedach says. “It is beginning to blur.
“Work Club is an example of the blurring lines between office, home, retail and hospitality.”