When a group of friends and I successfully Kickstarted a magazine last summer, we had no idea how many challenges we’d have to figure out, from sales tax to distribution. Chief among them was finding affordable, flexible office space to use for a few weeks while we went into full-fledged production mode. Everyone we asked for tips suggested co-working spaces, but we couldn’t find one that was affordable and that suited our needs as a small group: namely, a bit of privacy, a place to leave our stuff, plenty of wall-space to hang pages, and 24-hour access.
We ended up getting saved by a friend of a friend, who let us essentially live in her office’s oversized, and underused, kitchen for two sleepless weeks.
ShareDesk, a marketplace for idle office space, is attempting to standardize and monetize that informal transaction, by letting anyone with idle offices rent them out on the ShareDesk website. As it’s been accurately described elsewhere, the platform works like an Airbnb for office space.
CEO Kia Rahmani broke down the impetus for starting ShareDesk as follows: "The problem is this: There’s tons of idle capacity [read: underused office space] out there. There’s been numerous studies that show that an actual workspace is only utilized less than 45% of the time. That doesn’t only apply for small businesses; it also applies for large organizations and corporates. For us, the goal is to try to help workspaces better utilize their real estate assets, better utilize their idle desks, their meeting rooms."
Rahmani envisions the site being used by companies wanting to take advantage of everything from spare cubicles to conference rooms to office suites, on a very temporary basis. The platform’s been around in beta since August 2012, but just relaunched with new search capabilities tailored to the needs of small teams and startups. The site lets you fill out a form listing highly specific needs and sees if they can find you a match.
While many of the companies using ShareDesk are co-working spaces themselves, plenty of newcomers are startups and other small businesses. "Right now private offices, corporate offices, represent about roughly 30% to 35% of our market of the properties that we have on the site," Rahmani says. "But we think that is where the biggest opportunity is for us: going beyond the co-working spaces to business centers and helping small and medium-sized business better manage and utilize their workspaces more efficiently."
And like Airbnb, I could also see residences taking advantage of ShareDesk to rent out extra rooms or guest houses as offices. I could also see it being useful for people who don’t want the full co-working experience—with organized events and people popping in and out randomly—but would like to team up with other freelancers to stave off isolation.
On ShareDesk’s end, the company charges the host a 15% fee on successful commissions.