The story of London’s acute housing crisis is a familiar one.
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This has a drag on London’s and the country’s productivity, as the ambitious next generation are unable to work where they can have the greatest impact.
As Dumitriu explains, the long-term solution isn’t rocket science. As with housing, we need to make it easier to build offices where people want to live and work. Planning restrictions in London impose a ‘tax’ on office developments of 400-800%. In contrast, New York’s ‘tax’ is 0–50%, Amsterdam’s 200% and Central Paris’s around 300%.
But wherever there’s problem, you’ll find entrepreneurs looking for solutions to make better use of limited resources. Flexible working and co-working spaces are clearly part of the fix, but there are other underutilized spaces which could help keep entrepreneurship in London flourishing. I caught up with Saeed Al Ghurair, whose business is aiming to better utilize unused high-end hotel and restaurant space.
Engineer and entrepreneur Saeed Al Ghurair is the CEO of Al Ghurair Commodities and a board member of the Al Ghurair Group.
He recently founded Spacemize with Saleem Arif, co-founder of QualitySolicitors and Zain Dhareeja founding partner of a leading immigration firm.
Philip Salter: What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and start this specific business?
Saeed Al Ghurair: Entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in my family. We have many businesses, but Spacemize is the first one in the tech sector. This idea was born out of necessity. I travel from Dubai to London quite a bit for work and have struggled to find a good place to work many times. Renting an office in London didn’t make financial sense to me, so I’ve dealt with the usual problems while on the move – such as my PC running out of battery with nowhere to charge it and inadequate WiFi.
I also wanted to network with people relevant to my line of work. My co-founders have also experienced similar issues when travelling for business. and we noticed that the lounges of the hotels in which we stayed were often nowhere near capacity and could be used more efficiently.
Salter: How does it work in practice?
Al Ghurair: It is quite simple. Our members can book a workspace or meeting room at any of our central London locations on a weekday. They are all conveniently located near tube stations. Upon arrival at the venue, members are checked in by staff and guided to a designated area to receive their membership perks such as complimentary tea and coffee and exclusive discounts. Members also receive invites to our private networking events.
Salter: Who do you expect will use your service and what will you do for businesses that grow too big?
Al Ghurair: New founders and remote workers with busy, changing work schedules will find an office solution. Large firms are also using our venues to supplement their head offices. We anticipate we will be able to accommodate requests for large numbers of workers from a single firm by providing them with their own exclusive venues.
Salter: What problem does it solve that isn’t solved by other options?
Al Ghurair: It’s hard to find convenient, productive places to work from in central London. Working from coffee shops on a regular basis can be challenging – spaces that are sufficiently quiet, with requisite privacy, enough plug points, fast WiFi and presentable enough as a potential meeting point are thin on the ground. Coworking providers can be too costly and don’t always match the flexibility of statups or remote workers.
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