14-10-2021 14:23

Start-up found solution for unused office space

A new Finnish startup called Spacent has created a platform to bring together workers and workspace providers.
Co-founders Antti Tuomela, Anssi Salonen and Eetu Ristaniemi at Slush.

Office buildings have been left empty in cities across the world following the coronavirus pandemic, and this trend is expected to affect the office market in Finland, too.

A new Finnish startup called Spacent has created a platform to bring together workers and workspace providers. Spacent works with real estate companies, providers of shared workspaces, educational institutions and hotels which have listed their unused spaces on the platform. The company is a Nordea customer and it’s expanding overseas with the service now available in Stockholm, Shanghai and Toronto.

Spacent believes that headquarters will become places where people mainly go to meet each other, while the need for spaces focused on individual work will decrease. This change will be reflected in the office market, when companies look to reduce office space once their leases are up. Spacent wants to quickly expand its business to the world’s largest cities where the change will likely be more drastic than in Finland.

Spacent

Founded in 2018. Co-founders Antti Tuomela, Anssi Salonen and Eetu Ristaniemi have a strong background in real estate and Jarmo Suominen is a professor of architecture at the Aalto University.

So far, Spacent has raised EUR 3.2 million for the development of its service from indoor air company Halton, technology company Reaktor and venture capital firm Lifeline Ventures. It’s now seeking additional finance for its growth. The company has been a customer of Nordea from the start, and we have been on a journey to expand to new markets together.

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One recipe with local flavours

Spacent COO Antti Salonen says that the company is looking to the future through the lens of strong growth:

“Our service is available all across Finland, and new locations are being added as we speak. In Sweden, the next step is to expand the service beyond Stockholm. Our business model is very easy to scale up and it works in the big European markets despite competitors offering listed workspaces for a fixed monthly fee. Right now we want to grow faster and need additional finance to expand overseas.”

Although Spacent’s basic platform works in the same way in all markets, local expertise is definitely needed.

“You have to understand the local flavours and differences between countries. In Toronto workers only commute to the city centre from certain neighbourhoods, whereas in Helsinki people are more spread out. Compared to the rest of the world, we have no segregation and very little inequality between the different residential areas,” Antti Salonen points out.

The hybrid workspace model provides workers with the flexibility to work wherever they are most productive: in the office or from home or another remote location, or a combination of these.

COO Antti Salonen

Hybrid platform combines traditional offices and remote working locations into one solution

Spacent provides the broadest network of remote working locations in the Nordics. Its business is based on 10 years of research into the flexible use of space and hybrid working models at Aalto University, MIT and Tongji University.

“Our technology supports employers, employees and workspace providers in a fast-changing world. The hybrid workspace model provides workers with the flexibility to work wherever they are most productive: in the office or from home or another remote location, or a combination of these. The ideal model will look different for each organisation, team or individual. We can have a positive impact not only on the employees’ well-being but we can also reduce the carbon footprint of commuting,” Antti Salonen explains.

The business idea first emerged when the founders thought about the low occupancy rates of offices and educational institutions and whether it would be possible to share the unused space. A new model for renting workspace on an hourly basis was developed as an alternative to traditional offices and monthly rents.

“Once the pandemic hit, office workers found themselves working remotely. Consequently a lot of people realised that you can work from different locations and commuting to the office isn’t always necessary. Offices are a big cost to many organisations but working remotely might not always be the best solution either, as you may struggle to find the peace and quiet to work, poor ergonomics or have a spotty Wi-Fi connection. Having a suitable working environment available near your home makes life easier,” Antti Salonen says.

Spacent uses its own service

Spacent currently rents work and project spaces as well as meeting rooms for its own staff only when needed. Later, when it’s time for the company to have its own offices, it will use the platform to share some of the premises so that it can test its own solution.

“The hybrid workspace model is our present and our future. We are able to track our occupancy so that there are no empty desks at the office. Our integrated service allows providers to list their space, and you can also book them in real time.”

Security is always a hot topic when it comes to shared workspaces but people are already used to working at airport business lounges, for example. Going paperless also helps with the transition.

“Workers are used to moving around with their laptops and phones. Processes are in place to ensure information security in locations where you can rent a workstation. There are also booths for making confidential phone calls and other private spaces available. The workplaces are cleaned thoroughly and we communicate our hygiene, health and safety measures to the users so that everyone feel comfortable about renting our spaces.”

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