Officin' Like a Digital Bohemian

BY :GABRIELA BHASKAR

MARCH 26, 2015

Redwing, a tech consultancy in Indonesia, predicts Indonesia will be home to 125 million internet users this year. With major industry players like Facebook and Twitter opening Jakarta offices, we're at last seeing an influx of tech start-ups.

Elsewhere in the world, tech tinkerers have long organized communal hacker spaces that encourage the free exchange of ideas and information between like-minded individuals.

The original "digital Bohemians" were growing, and required a new kind of working space. They need somewhere affordable that promoted innovation where entrepreneurs, designers and engineers could come and go as they pleased. From this need, the co-working space, as it exists today, was born.

As Indonesia is starting to see rapid growth in the technology industry, particularly in mobile technology, affordable office space is getting hard to come by.

Many of the city's best cafes are filled with Jakarta's own "digital Bohemians" in search of a reliable internet connection and a comfortable chair.

In the last four months, South Jakarta has seen four new co-working spaces open up. While still new to the start-up and freelance scene in Jakarta, memberships to these facilities are continuing to grow rapidly.

"The idea of co-working itself is not actually something new," says Reynaldi Latief, chief executive of Conclave, a new co-working space in South Jakarta.

"The only reason we are starting it currently in Jakarta is that a lot of start-up entrepreneurs and freelancers now need space to work."

"In Jakarta and Bali, the price of land is spiking," Reynaldi said. "It's expensive to rent an office that allows to obtain a 'domicile letter' so you can establish your company," Reynaldi says.

The idea seems to be meeting a need. "Because it is one of my job requirements to meet certain amount of people every week, I didn't have a base," said Raditya Pramana, an associate at IMJ Investment Partners and a member of Conclave.

"I was working in cafes, or different places, my room. I needed a place to settle down. It's cost efficient as well. I can have meetings here all the time. I think it's worth mentioning that this place is open 24/7. You can basically spend the night here."

"Sometimes there is an event or a tour but overall it's a quiet place to get your work done," Raditya said.

"All the facilities are provided. Whenever I come in the morning, there is always coffee and hot tea. And I can spend my relaxed morning here and have a fresh day. The facilities ... basically, all office needs are here: a decent internet connection, free computers to use, unlimited paper to print. I mean it's pretty nice."

"It's relaxing but productive at the same time" Raditya said.

Co-working worldwide is much more than just affordable office space. With help from publications like deskmag.com, a site dedicated to all things co-working, managers of such spaces realize that to remain relevant, they also need to add value and help members grow their businesses.

"For me the networking and the spirit of giving back, it's more important than anything else," Cowork co-founder Cynthia Satrya-Hasan said.

She adds that her hope is for Cowork, too be a space where young entrepreneurs can not only work but build their businesses collaboratively.

"I told myself, if I was going to run this place, it would have to have a lot of events and a lot of dialogues, discussions, talk shows, for the young generation."

Cynthia says she wishes she had a mentor as a young professional but didn't know where to meet inspiring and experienced individuals.

"This wisdom can be very useful for young entrepreneurs," she says.

Whether co-working in Jakarta is worth the investment is up for debate.

"I feel like it's expensive," freelance copywriter Athina Dinda says.

"It only makes sense if your activity is only there and you can get your clients to come there to meet you. As a freelancer, sometimes you have to meet your clients in different places. I think that price in a month itself, I'm not sure if it's worth it because you're not there for the whole day. You are not working there for eight hours straight."

Aldeo Plato, a freelance designer, video editor and founder of Life Behind Bars, an urban cycling apparel brand, agreed that price is a barrier.

"I am intrigued to try it but the fee kind of restrains me from doing it. I like the idea," Aldeo said.

"If I'm not mistaken it's Rp 50,000 [$4] for two hours, and usually I work more than three hours. With that kind of money, you can buy three coffees -- three expensive coffees. So that's the only thing holding me back."

"It depends on your line of work, obviously. I see it most beneficial within the digital creative space, stuff like websites, e-commerce, the kind of start-ups that thrive on digital," Aldeo says.

"It's obviously beneficial but in my case in particular, I don't think that benefit that really justifies the cost."

Whether or not co-working spaces are the right fit for all types of entrepreneurs, it's apparent that the concept is fast taking off.

Many of Jakarta's young professionals and enterprising entrepreneurs are choosing this type of work environment.

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