Relative newcomer, AndCo, fits this theme perfectly. Founded in 2017, the AndCo digital platform uses AI to match members with hot desks in spaces that are often underutilised during the day, such as hotels, restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Membership costs a mere £20 a month (or £99 for the year). It includes unlimited use of AndCo’s partner spaces as well as access to regular meetups, events and workshops. Unreliable WiFi isn’t a problem either – AndCo install their own networks in all venues.
We caught up with Founder & CEO, Sanj Mahal, and Marketing & Partnerships Director, Tom Wordie, to find out more about how it all works.
“It’s a pound a day to have the advantage of reliability, certainty and flexibility.”
Allwork.Space: Hi both. First off, how on earth does an AndCo membership cost only £20 a month?
Sanj Mahal: Good question. One of the most common phrases we hear is: “it’s so cheap”!
In the original beta testing phase we trialled different pricing models. At the end of the day, the decision we came to was simple: it’s a pound a day to have the advantage of reliability, certainty and flexibility. We thought it was probably around the right price.
Allwork.Space: Are most of your members freelancers?
At first we thought our target market was going to be freelancers, but a year of beta testing revealed that the people who utilise us most are professionals on the go. A lot of our members rent coworking space during the week but actually spend a lot of time in meetings across different parts of London.
Research shows people who rent coworking space only spend about 35% of the week in their space. We’ve generated over 26,000 hours of bookings already, we have +1200 active users and we’ve had over +30,000 sign ups.
A number of large corporates have also expressed an interest in offering AndCo to their employees. The human need for flexibility and collaboration has always been there.We’ve just formalised it through our platform.
Allwork.Space: Do you only operate in London currently?
That’s right. We wanted to make sure that the appetite for this type of product was out there first. Also, for us, it’s all about the user experience: if we can’t get that right, we’re going to fail pretty quickly. We’ve worked hard with focus groups comprised of AndCo members (and external focus groups) enabling us to refine our service and growth.
Allwork.Space: Are the venues you work with generally eager to get on board?
Tom Wordie: It’s a no brainer for venues, really. We’re essentially a marketing machine for them: we drive foot traffic and enable them to do what they do best, which is to provide the hospitality side of things and optimise up-sale. We have a broad range of venues on our platform.
“Why do people spend hundreds of pounds on a membership when they could be using existing space?”
What’s really positive is that over the last year or so hospitality venues’ mentality has shifted. Many pubs don’t want to be called “pubs” anymore; they prefer to be seen as social places where people can hang out during the day and have a coffee, rather than a pint and a burger. They’re becoming much more focused on how to attract new demographics – and that’s where we come in.
Allwork.Space: Sanj, did you work in the workspace industry before AndCo and what inspired you to start it?
Sanj Mahal: I was a hedge fund guy before this. I have to give credit to my wife, Nicole, for the idea. She works in the development business managing building projects and found it frustrating when she had to meet clients offsite and the only option available was a busy Starbucks. One day she came home and said, “why on earth aren’t we using all these empty bars and restaurants?!”
And that’s how it started!
Tom Wordie: We then started checking out how coworking spaces were really interacting with this new demographic of people working remotely. Essentially, they were taking empty buildings and dressing them up to look like food and beverage buildings anyway.
Our argument was that all this underutilised space already exists, so why do people spend hundreds of pounds on a membership when they could be using existing space?
Sanj Mahal: We’ve got all this capacity, we just need to be smarter about the way we utilise it.
It’s all in plain sight.
Allwork.Space: How much do you invest in social media, and is that were most of your enquiries come from?
Tom Wordie: Social media is definitely the biggest channel for us, but we don’t spend a huge amount on paid advertising at the moment. That said we know that every time we spend a little bit more on social we see more members come through the door. For us it’s a nice tool to be able to show off new venues and events.
Allwork.Space: What was the thinking behind your brand name?
We’re called AndCo because we want to be a co-brand; anyone associated with us can sit alongside us as a brand, venue or remote working partner.
Allwork.Space: We spotted your Mental Health Day post on Instagram – tell us a bit more about your events.
We run weekly meetups and monthly workshops and events. The meetups are really casual – we’ll work from one of our venues and our members can join us if they want to. Most of the time everyone just sits and chats rather than doing any work because they miss the interaction with people!
We do a lot of collaborations with brands and venues. For example, we recently facilitated a Finance for Freelancers breakfast with Killik & Co. We also ran a coworking popup with a company called Working Not Working the other day.
“If you’ve got an open profile and there’s another AndCo member in the venue with an open profile, you can see who they are and what they do.”
We have a lot of community-run events too. For example, one of our members runs an iPhone photography workshop, another led a digital marketing course. Access to events is part of the membership price.
Sanj Mahal: If you’ve got an open profile and there’s another AndCo member in the venue with an open profile, you can see who they are, what they do, and so forth. It’s very much about trying to create that community feel. Removing both the feeling of isolation and intrusion of work within home life.
Allwork.Space: What are your growth plans moving forward?
We’ve received a lot of partnership requests from businesses as far away as New Zealand! But before we look at becoming global, we have to get the experience right here first. But the growth strategy is to create an open source solution to coworking; as the cloud and crowd are so agile and everything in the hospitality sector is converging, the timing seems right.
Tom Wordie: We’ve started looking at five or six territories to kickstart our expansion across Europe. Based on our focus groups findings we’ll also be launching a couple of new products soon.