Recently launched Tanzanian startup Worknasi wants to be the Airbnb for office space in Africa, connecting startups and businesses with spare working areas.
Launched earlier this year, Worknasi is an online platform for office and meeting room sharing, which connects startups, businesses and freelancers with office owners who want to share their office space and meeting rooms in return for payment.
“It could be a single desk, a cubic or a room, someone out there needs a working space. Companies can list and make extra revenue,” said Worknasi co-founder Edgar Mwampinge.
“Business is all about establishing relationships and learning from one another, sharing with others provides that opportunity to both parties.”
The company has got off to a good start even though it is self-funded and cannot afford any marketing. It has already rented out two spaces and is in talks with various other office owners.
“We don’t have capital for marketing so we depend on social media, whereby I write articles to persuade people to share their spaces. We also talk to potential office owners whom we know directly to persuade them to list,” said Mwampinge.
Worknasi was born when Mwampinge realised he couldn’t find office space space for his other startup, courier service Spid Express.
“I couldn’t afford to rent an office for Spid Express so I asked a friend if we could share his office and I contribute on rent, he agreed and gave me a room in his office,” Mwampinge said. “I realised people could actually share their offices so I decided to set up the platform.”#
“Establishing and building a business takes many dedicated hours in office working. The office serves as a place of business operations, client communications, and idea generation.”
Yet rental costs are usually high, especially for startups.
“As a startup you can’t afford to spend huge amounts of money for an office, that is too risky because you can’t predict what will happen in a year, let alone in three months,” Mwampinge said.
“So many startups and freelancers end up working and conducting meetings from coffee shops, where there is no concentration and no privacy for business meetings.”
This is while other more established businesses often have unoccupied space. Worknasi looks to help both parties.
“By sharing the startups can afford to have a conducive working space and can access nice meeting rooms to conduct their meetings,” said Mwampinge. “This also is good source of generating extra revenue for the businesses with offices. Our aim is to provide businesses with opportunities to generate extra revenue and startups to access flexible and affordable working spaces and meeting rooms.”
Mwampinge is currently funding Worknasi with the money he makes from his courier business, but does not think this is sustainable and is seeking funding.
“From that business I have to make sure I get the basic needs to survive and make sure the business itself survives while building Worknasi as well,” he said.
“And most of my family members and friends doesn’t understand the concept of the shared economy business model, hence getting funds from them is hard.”
Funding is needed to develop the platform, with Mwampinge saying the current one has a lot of loopholes.
“We need to invest in technology to have the best platform for a better user experience and rent payment flexibility. We want to enable users to pay their rent direct through the platform via a mobile money payment system, debit card, PayPal, and other payment methods,” he said.
“The sharing economy in Africa, especially on office space and meeting rooms, is a bit of a new concept, however it is an area which is ready to be explored.”
Mwampinge believes more entrepreneurs than ever are now looking for affordable and flexible working space, something Worknasi can take advantage of.
“We want to be the main frontier of this area in Africa. Most of office owners still hesitate to invite strangers to work from their office, but they are showing interest since we launched the platform,” he said.
“We are getting a lot of enquiries from people who are seeking working space, they are ready to rent the space, and we are working tirelessly to get people to list their spaces.”