Thanks to a growing line up of coworking spaces, incubators, hot desks, and shared office space, the workspace revolution has steadily found ground in the Middle East. Fluidmeet, a Dubai-based enterprise for workspace booking, is the latest to join the set.
Calling itself the “Airbnb of shared office spaces”, it is a platform for individuals to find workspaces and for offices to list available workspaces.
When founders Suli Salloum and Jareer Oweimrin were at a boutique management consultancy in Dubai together, they frequently looked for meeting rooms around the city to host clients, run workshops or train junior consultants. The mechanics of this search were “challenging and time consuming,” Salloum said.
Though they left the consultancy at separate times, the need to simplify the process of zeroing in on the right workspace brought them together.
Described by Salloum as an “online marketplace for work meetings and event spaces,” it is also catering to those with space to share.
Now a year old, they offer same-day, last-minute bookings with hourly, half-daily, monthly and annual options for their hosts and customers.
“The sharing economy was picking up steam in the Middle East [when we started],” Oweimrin told Wamda. “There were a lot of people looking for workspaces on demand in real time…mobile professionals as a target market were increasingly significant.”
Workspace seekers can filter their results down to geographical area, amenities, pricing, and time period. For monthly and annual deals, the host and the customer can also set up a time to meet for viewing and price negotiation.
Along with mobile professionals, Fluidmeet has also proved useful for entrepreneurs and startups.
“Before you come into the market, you want to see if the market is ready for the idea you are pushing out there,” Salloum told Wamda. “Rather than renting out office for a whole year, you can get it for a couple months and leave whenever you need to.”
The convenience and the filters are the exact reasons why Amr al Sayed, a partner at a restaurant in Media City, continues to use Fluidmeet.
“As partners we meet on regular basis, but it’s sometimes hard to do so onsite with employees around us...we prefer to do offsite meetings,” he said. “I personally don’t have time to find places, to check hotel rates...I want something convenient and narrowed down to my geographical area.”
The founders wanted a database of at least 70 to 100 diverse “settings” before taking the platform to market. When it came to finding hotels as venues, the enlisting became a bit of a challenge.
“Hotels have the inventory in terms of workspaces,” Oweimrin said. “But, their process in terms of finances and accounting requires an upfront payment or at least a payment upon the competition of the transaction.”
Oweimrin had to explain the different payment process of Fluidmeet where “there’s a payment cycle, we receive the money and then we pay you within a certain period” before getting hotels onboard. Along with hotels, users can book cubicles, meeting rooms, desks in incubators like Impact Hub or in offices with space to spare.
Fluidmeet’s revenue model is based on a “sale” and a “lead”. While it’s free for hosts and customers to sign up, Fluidmeet takes 25 percent of the revenue from hourly/daily bookings - a sale - and 10 percent from the long term monthly or annual bookings - a lead.
Fluidmeet’s offerings are unique to the region. While Oweimrin acknowledges the work of global workspace booking services like Sharedesk and Wework, he maintained there was no direct competition for their model yet.
Two months into launch, Fluidmeet had over 6,000 sessions per month (more than 200 visitors daily) and approximately 30 bookings. Bookings have also come in from travelers from UK, Egypt, and India.
When Zuhura Sartaj joined The Change Initiative as events specialist earlier this year, she was looking to promote the space.
“I thought giving it to search engines like this would help me,” Sartaj said. “It’s [been] a really good experience. If I don’t have availability or if my venue is not suitable for a client, I give them Fluidmeet’s details”.
Currently, users can book spaces in Jordan, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Salloum said the plan is to keep expanding and bring “funkier spaces” into the mix like yoga studios and catered workspaces.