What’s the best coworking space for entrepreneurs in South Africa?

Image Source: Unsplash

A fairly recent, but increasingly popular trend, has been the emergence of coworking spaces around South Africa. These spaces allow small businesses, entrepreneurs, and other freelance workers to operate from shared spaces that offer all the benefits of a traditional office, but at a fraction of the cost. This is largely thanks to the common use of things such as equipment, utilities, joint reception, and others. 

As the world looks to put greater emphasis on work-from-home and working remotely, even the biggest companies are considering downsizing their offices and if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, coworking is a good place to start when you need to set up “shop” for the first time. 

There are several other benefits that come with utilising a coworking space, including networking and collaboration opportunities, enhanced productivity compared to working from home, greater rental flexibility in terms of length, and beneficial amenities that allow the space to scale with your business’s needs.

With various international and local coworking space providers operating in South Africa, entrepreneurs have a wide variety of options with different costs, locations, and communities to choose from. To make it easier for you to choose the best coworking space for your needs, we’ve compiled a list of features that are important to consider before making a decision.

Which features are important for entrepreneurs?

Cost: Most coworking spaces offer a variety of monthly memberships at many different price points,  ranging from lounge/boardroom access to hot desks or even a private office allowing you to easily scale the space to the needs of your business.

Locations: The right location is important for many reasons, including convenience for yourself, staff, and your clients. As such, the best coworking space needs to offer a number of different locations allowing you to pick the perfect one for your business. A variety of locations also allows you to work while travelling more efficiently, with national/international coworking providers offering the opportunity to take your work to locations around the country and world.

Community: One of the biggest benefits of coworking spaces is the variety of different people you are able to network with, increasing your ability to connect with entrepreneurs and businesses that you otherwise would not have met. Good co-working spaces encourage these interactions through community and networking events, training and development, and the use of technology and online platforms.

Flexibility: As an entrepreneur, you’ll want the ability to use your workspace as frequently (or infrequently) as you require, and this will change as your business and team grows. When starting out, it’s important to consider a membership that isn’t too restrictive on your access and duration in the space you decide on. 

Amenities: Most coworking spaces provide similar features and services, but the difference is in the detail. A coworking space is about much more than an office and four walls, fast internet, and trendy furniture. It comes down to the features that enable members to run their businesses more effectively. Great coffee and food on-site, sufficient parking, an on-site generator and printer, cleaning services (Covid-19 compliant), business address usage, and features that enhance productivity (like a shared receptionist or private spaces for important phone calls) are some of the difference-makers. 

Atmosphere: Since you’ll be spending most of your working hours here, it is important that the environment of the space suits your style. The space is meant to inspire you to do your best work, so being comfortable and conducive to work is prime. 

Reputation: If you’re going to be operating your business from a coworking space, you want to know that you can expect professionalism and quality no matter the membership you have. If a coworking space has been recognised by industry awards, you can rest assured that they’re putting in the effort to make it a premium work environment for their members.

Image Source: Unsplash

Comparing the best coworking spaces for entrepreneurs in South Africa

Provider WeWork SA Workshop17 TBE The Workspace Regus Future Space
Year Launched

2019

2012

2014

2016

1989

2016

Locations

3 locations in Johannesburg and Cape Town

5 locations in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Paarl

6 SA locations across Johannesburg

10 locations in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg

56 South African locations across most provinces

2 locations in Johannesburg

Entry-Level Membership

Open Workspace

“On the Road”

Platinum

SPACE

Coworking

Coworking

Access type

Hot Desk - No hour/day limit 

Hot Desk starting at 60 hours per month (e.g. 12 days per month at 5 hours per day)

Hot Desk starting at 4 days per month + 2 hours boardroom use.

Hot Desk starting at two hours per day/40 hours per month + 2 hours boardroom use.

Hot Desk starting at 5 days per month

Hot Desk - unlimited access

Starter Price

From R3289 (Vat incl.) 

R1943 (Vat incl.) (Note: R2714 for unlimited hours)

R287.5 (Vat incl.) (Note R517.5 for 8 days p.m.) No unlimited option. 

R1819 (Vat incl.). (Note R3029 for 4 hours per day/80 hours per month)

From R755 (Vat incl.) (Note R 1138 for 10 days p.m. and R1905 for unlimited access)  

From R3900 (ex-Vat)

Min. lease

Month-to-month

Monthly

"Flexible"

Month-to-month

Flexible - per person per month.

Flexible

Benefits and Amenities

*Networking events

*High-speed internet

*Conferencing A/V

*Complimentary refreshments

*Access any location

*Access to We Work Portal

*On-site showers

*Networking events and discounts

*Partner discounts (e.g. AWS)

*Uncapped Internet

*Independent, on-site Cafes/Food discounts for members

*Generator

*Access to the W17 portal

*Networking events

*High-speed internet

*Access to TBE app

*Free use of event space. 

*On-site cafe 

*Networking events

*High-speed internet

*Virtual Office

*Call-answering 

*Coffee and tea-making facilities 

*Networking events

*High-speed internet

*Use of any location 

*Networking events

*High-speed internet

*Bookable meeting space 

*Reception and concierge

Design/Environment

Open Plan - Clean

Open Plan - Modern

Open Plan - High-end

Open Plan - Stylish

Location dependent

Spacious, modern, airy, cutting-edge

Credentials

WeWork has over 800 locations worldwide

*Winner of Best Coworking Space at the 2020 Global Startup Awards. 

*1500 members and 450 organizations as tenants

Best Workplace Solutions Franchise

- Corporate Vision (CV) Franchise Awards

All above data sourced March 2021.

Comparison of intro-level memberships across providers. 

Prices are VAT inclusive.

*Hot-desking refers to a non-fixed and shared office/desk setup. A member is only allowed to use shared space and communal areas. 

And our winner is…

The demand for coworking space has exploded since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, with big corporations downsizing and individuals needing a change of environment from their home office. Given the wide-reaching profile of members that benefit from such spaces, the answer is going to depend heavily on your requirements as an entrepreneur.

WeWork is arguably the most well-known provider in the world, given its huge number  of locations and wide-reaching (but not always good) publicity. With that said, they offer a premium product and as such, charge a premium price. It’s thus no surprise that their South African locations have attracted premium clientele to match. But, with limited locations in SA and a higher price point, they aren’t necessarily best suited for a new startup or entrepreneur. Regus is another global player with massive national reach (the most of any) and has reasonable membership pricing to match. This makes it a compelling consideration for entrepreneurs that need the basics without the “flash” of barista coffee or trendy amenities. Regus is best described as the more “corporate” of the providers out there – with the look and feel to match. But, as each location is particularly large and “corporate” by nature, it may not be the best atmosphere if you’re looking for vibe, energy and community in which to build. Take the time to understand what Regus can offer at each location. TBE is the most affordable coworking offering, but this comes with the limitation of JHB-only locations and coworking membership capped at 8 days per month. Similarly, the Workspace caps out at 80 hours per month, and for the price, one might as well join WeWork if the location is viable. FutureSpace is a good alternative if you want to be in the heart of Sandton, but with limited locations and the highest entry pricing of the batch, they’re unlikely to compete for new entrepreneurs.

The difference from one coworking space to another is often hard to notice, with almost all spaces offering similar amenities and adopting a “startup” look and feel. This means that it’s down to the small things to make the difference. And it’s the small things that urge us to crown Workshop17 as the winner in the local coworking category. Let’s face it – for most South African small business owners or entrepreneurs that are just starting, you don’t need international or countless regional locations. You need a location in a main business hub, flexible membership, value for your spend, and a work environment/community that is going to enhance your productivity and success. You also don’t want to pay for every extra amenity as the need arises. And it’s those things that Workshop17 does best.

With several beautifully-designed locations in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Paarl, a variety of competitively-priced membership packages (from day passes to all-out access), all the amenities to do business, great food and coffee (with special member prices), Workshop 17 makes a very convincing argument as the leading co-working space provider. The most attractive thing is that they have a remarkably strong community and are heavily involved in the SA startup scene, encouraging networking through partner events and community get-togethers. Add to that the fact that they’ve been recognised by a number of different industry awards including winning the Best Coworking Space at the 2020 Global Startup competition, we’re confident that if you’re in Cape Town or Johannesburg, we’re of the opinion that Workshop17 is the best co-working space in South Africa.

About getlion

At getlion, it’s our mission to see entrepreneurs succeed. We start by helping them make the best decisions for their business, and sort through the clutter of offerings out there! Beyond that, we’ve set out to build South Africa’s leading one-stop mobile app for entrepreneurs, boasting education, rewards, funding, an online B2B marketplace, and more. We’ve also partnered with the country’s leading companies to ensure that our users have access to the best (and often discounted) solutions. Visit getlion.co.za and download the getlion mobile app to enjoy offers from leading partners like Workshop 17 and others.