Michelle is the CEO and Co-Founder of Near-Me.com, a ‘platform as a service’ powering global brands and small businesses with a customizable peer-to-peer marketplace. Its flagship product, DesksNear.Me, is a website connecting mobile workers to available desk spaces all over the world. Michelle is passionate and heavily involved in the sharing economy — listing her car on GetAround, ordering food from Munchery, riding around town using bike share and hiring services from Zirtual and TaskRabbit. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, She worked as a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley. Eventually her entrepreneurial side could not be contained and she successfully launched her first company called Innercircuit, a Software-as-a-Service company which quickly grew into a national payment and communications hub for residential property managers and renters.
Job: CEO and Co-Founder
Interview: it has been ages (well, months actually) since we first contact Michelle and asked her for an interview, but, as the saying goes “anything worth having is worth waiting for”. As coworking fans, we couldn’t be happier when she accepted our proposition. Here you have the results, enjoy!
Where does the idea of your project come from? Why DeskNearMe?
My last company had too much desk space and I met my now business partner who was looking for monthly desk rentals when he moved his company to San Francisco from Australia. We started DesksNear.Me to solve a problem we had already experienced from opposite sides of the spectrum. People from all sectors of society and business want to share and collaborate and have been since the times of bartering. So, my co-founder, Adam Broadway, and I created DesksNear.Me to connect mobile workers with available desk spaces all over the world for an hour, day, week or month.
What is the strategy you follow in order to contact international coworking spaces?
We manually searched for companies and individuals who were looking to rent their space online. We contacted them and suggested they list with us for additional exposure and payment management. Our international payment options make it easy to use DesksNear.Me all over the world. From there, social media has helped build awareness for new additions to our site.
Which is the country that practices coworking the most according to your experience?
We’ve seen the most traffic from London, England and San Francisco and New York on our site but Berlin, Germany has the most coworking spaces per capita than any other area according to www.deskmag.com.
Do you combine the management of DeskNearMe with other professional occupations?
DesksNear.Me is the first client on our platform called Near Me. We manage a ‘platform as a service’ for brands and entrepreneurs who want to create their own customizable peer-to-peer marketplace. We also offer DesksNear.Me to be white labeled by cities, brands or coworking spaces.
Do space managers have to pay a fee to appear on your listings? How do you manage to make this project profitable?
Space managers or what we call “hosts” do not need to pay to be listed. A small service fee is charged to the guest upon booking.
How do you imagine the coworking sector in the future? How do you think it will evolve?
Freelancers and independent workers are growing in high numbers all over the world. The concept of working remotely or “teleworking” is becoming more and more popular for global companies. It will begin to be a norm for people to seek alternative work spaces outside of the home office for networking, community and work life balance. We hope to provide an easy way to find and book the right space—and to eventually create an inter-connected network of international spaces.
Can you tell us three main features you consider a coworking space should have?
Coworking spaces should have interactive workspaces to facilitate conversation, community events like happy hours, classes and networking events along with proper wifi and COFFEE.
How do you usually make a difference between yours and other platforms? Which is your added value?
DesksNear.Me allows users to find work spaces, not just desks. There are meeting rooms, private desks, coworking spaces and even art and architect work spaces. We take a very small percentage as a service fee compared to some other platforms. We are also in over 60 countries and our customer service, direct chat capabilities between hosts and guests are seamless. Not only can hosts list on our site, but we also offer a white-label option. Coworking spaces can create a free white-label version of DesksNear.Me to help making booking easy. See San Jose Chamber of Commerce or W Hotels as examples. We also work with Balanced, Stripe and Paypal for hassle-free international payments.
Have you ever thought of translating your site into different languages?
Our white-label option can be translated into different languages and is easily manageable.
How do you deal with people who speak other languages that you don’t? Do you think there are cultural differences also regarding coworking around the world?
Coworking is very popular all over the world and is growing rapidly in Spain. The beautiful thing about coworking is that it crosses borders and everyone is doing it. Some areas of the world have coworking spaces that are more community oriented than others, meaning they find it very important to connect everyone. Some spaces are very formal whereas others have couches and look like a living room. So far, we haven’t had any language issues. But if we do, our team is very diverse with staff who speak Spanish, French and English spread across the U.S., Poland, Prague and Brazil.
Can you tell us about any anecdote regarding communication that you have been through?
We’ve learned that the communication between hosts and guests is extremely important using DesksNear.Me because guests will have questions about the location. Our direct chat capabilities are the most popular and any user can start a chat through the website and a customer service representative is always ready to assist. This communication helps us solve any customer issues that arise in a timely manner.
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