COVID-19 may have disrupted the growth of coworking spaces in Dubai, but things are getting back on track as auditoriums, cafes, and community spaces gradually open up. According to a 2020 report by the Observer Research Foundation, the coworking industry generates annual revenue of $194K. While various players in the market offer unconventional coworking spaces across the city, WitWork has disrupted the segment in a unique way.
WitWork co-founders Najee Syriani and Cynthia Helena Rif started the company in March 2018 to meet the rising need for access to collaborative workspaces in Abu Dhabi. They believe that the pain point of most first-time entrepreneurs and startup owners in UAE is the lack of support offered to hybrid and remote workforces. Reportedly, flexible space is anticipated to grow to 30% of the worldwide office supply. Research by MIT and Stanford confirms this: Globally, one-third of remote workers prefer working out of coffee shops and libraries rather than working from their home offices.
Syriani and Rif agree that most startups are apprehensive of committing to multi-year, pricey leases on office spaces and would rather have access to a location on demand. The issue transcends the debate of whether workers should return to an offline workplace or embrace a hybrid work life, kickstarting a demand for rethinking the office experience.
Realizing the problem, the duo launched WitWork to provide flexible workplace packages that allow small business owners to set up virtual offices anywhere in Dubai to be used by remote team members during work travel. The platform is easy to use, encouraging employees to discover, locate, and book on-demand workspaces with zero commitment and upfront cost. The co-founders are all set to revamp the infrastructure of Dubai by digitalizing the on-demand office space booking experience to liberate employees from the confinement of a set location and enable them to tap into different spaces, depending on their distinct requirements when they arise.
Witwork believes it provides its members the infrastructure to “work outside the box” by giving employees access to dormant spaces, which they can turn into meeting spaces. This gives them complete freedom to choose where and when to meet up or book a space for socializing with coworkers to avoid burnout. Syriani and Rif also help startups discover real-estate and cafe owners so the latter can monetize unused assets. By processing services in real-time for both space operators and hybrid or remote companies, the platform maintains the ongoing chain of supply and demand.
The co-founders also offer underutilized auditoriums and coffee houses for community events at discounted deals and affordable prices. Their idea is to give these idle spaces a boost by partnering with them to set them up as coworking units. They consider this a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to building more rentals and leasing them out. By partnering with operators, they say they can support many F&B owners in Dubai who struggle with cash flow.
Apart from this, WitWork also offers day pass services for businesses to take offline meetings or presentations in Dubai for a set period. This step allows working professionals to rent a meeting room or a couple of desks for a few hours or days. The coworking startup targets startups, freelancers, and small businesses looking for cost-effective workspaces. Amid the COVID-19 recovery, it is also targeting cafes, venues, and workplaces struggling to get clients through daily, weekly, and monthly plans.
To gauge user interest, the startup first provided its services for free. The co-founders of WitWork only recently decided to charge for the service after confirming the vast scope of the industry. Furthermore, the platform is the perfect choice for Dubai residents because of its easy user interface, which enables one to book a seat or a venue with a few clicks.
Primarily, the startup targets the 21 to 45 age bracket, which includes independent contractors, millennials, startups, and business people on the go. The startup serves over 2,000 users in the UAE. WitWork seeks to embrace the constantly evolving present and future of work and lead the transformation of lifestyles in the area, starting with the workplace and expanding to the greater equation of how the residents of Dubai socialize and network. As a result, the company intends to release a mobile application to make it even simpler for professionals to support regional expansion.
Currently, WitWork competes with existing workplace search engines like Ztartup, but the co-founders think it is well positioned to disrupt the market. They are confident that a workspace requires more than just desks, conference spaces, and facilities. People ultimately want flexibility and liberty, but they also need to be able to communicate quickly when necessary. WitWork meets this need. There is nothing like meeting people in person; an organization’s culture cannot be developed in a vacuum.