Disclaimer: I am just playing here. I am not committing to anything, and I have not even touched base with the Edgeryders board. This is just me thinking out loud.
Our friends at fo.am heard we had started considering a permanent space and got in touch. They will soon be leaving theirs, do we want to take it over? I went over for tea and had Nik and Maja give me another tour of the studio. I had seen it before, but it's different looking at it when you are considering moving in.
- It's in Brussels, right on the canal (map). It's a 15 mins walk, or one metro stop, away from Grand Place, perhaps 7 mins to Place Sainte-Catherine. Tram 51 takes you to Gare du Midi, the city's main transport hub, in 5 stops. It is also on the wrong side of the canal – the Molenbeek side, not the city centre side. It does not have direct access from the street: you need to enter a courtyard and go up to the fourth floor.
- It's big – about 600 square meters.
- It's visually striking. It used to be a mill, and it shows: large undivided spaces, some mezzanines... some photos are here.
- Nik and Maja claim that the landlord is cool with rearranging the space. At the moment, it has three bedrooms, two bathrooms + two toilets, one kitchen/dining/living area. Most space is used for: a library, "playground", meeting room, office, tool workshop...
- Rental is 3,000 EUR per month.
So, what could it become? I thought I would do an exercise to help me get my head around this Reef conundrum. It is based in part on my own co-living experience, now in its fifth year.
A living space
In my mind, there is no way The Reef is going to be sustainable if it is not a home. We can work from almost anywhere, but we have to have somewhere to live. For most of us, the rent or mortgage is far and away our biggest expense. If some of us live in The Reef, we can make a big contribution to its sustainability. In return, we get a bigger, more beutiful and more lively home than most people live in.
This means The Reef must have, in my opinion, at least four bedrooms, preferably with bathrooms en suite. Five or six would be better. Bedrooms can't be too small: permanent residents need a place to retreat to when the common area gets too hectic.
On the other hand, the kitchen/dining/living should be unique. This nudges permanent and temporary residents to meet and mix.
Residents would be: permanent; temporary, guests of Edgeryders; temporary, with Airbnb.
One or two rooms for guests would allow Edgeryders to be attractive to temporary collaborators. People could come and work with us on a project (or just visit), and they would have a place to stay. We could have "hacker residencies", etc.
A working space
In an ideal scenario, the working area of The Reef should be three things.
- Edgeryders' office. Easy.
- A co-working space.
- A space for events.
2 comes almost for free. We have no secrets, and in fact we go out of our way to increase our contact surface with the rest of the world. It just makes sense to open our office and invite people in. On top of sharing the expenses, we could explore opportunities to work together.
3 also makes sense. Organizing events (most of them small, < 50 participants) is part of our work. Again, given the right conditions we could share the events space, renting it out to others.
Nadia ran some numbers and came up with three scenarios for The Reef: small (10 residents or fewer), medium (30-50), large (200). Let's think about a small scenario for now. I am basing the following on fo.am, or a space like it. I assume a fourth and fifth bedrooms are possible.
At the moment, we live in a 200 square meter space. It has four bedrooms, one living/dining, one office (two/three people capacity), two full bathrooms, two toilets. It costs about 2,200/2,300 EUR a month, divided among three families. The fourth room is used for visiting friends and family. We occasionally host on Airbnb, but not much – we are not in the centre.
The Reef would have two sources of revenue. Let's call them "internal" and "external". Internal sources draw money from Edgeryders and the people in the core Edgeryders team. External sources draw money from selling services that at the moment we do not sell.
- Nadia and I could contribute to The Reef with about 1,000 EUR per month. We would have to be allowed to take up residency there, though.
- Another 1,000 (conservative) could come from renting out two more rooms to permanent residents. This could mean two singles, two couples, or one/one.
- Another 1,000 could come from Edgeryders itself. This would pay for the office.
- This scheme allows Edgeryders to pay for the space, and give people in the team living space as a benefit. For example: it would pay me 12,000 EUR a year less, but it would save me 12,000 EUR a year in rental costs. This has a significant tax advantage, because I have to pay my rent with my after-tax money. This would save at least 2,000 a year, depending on how much money I am making on that particular year.
- Co-working space. There are plenty of co-working spaces everywhere. This one would be different: it centers on Edgeryders, a company where everyone is encouraged to hire themselves. This would be small money. Let's say five desks, 500 EUR a month total.
- Airbnb. Where we are now, this is not much, perhaps 1-1,500 a year. But close to the centre, we could get more traction. Also, we could target the people coming to town for business dealings with the European institutions. It could be attractive for them to have access to an office, meeting facilities, and the metro to Schumann. This would also bring more relationships to the company. Let's say 8 days a month, 60 EUR per day, about 500 EUR
- Event space. ViaVia, a café in Sainte-Catherine, has a meeting room upstairs, and it is always booked. Again, European institutions magic. No idea here... let's say another 500.
2 and 3 only work in Brussels.
Conclusion: this space would make about 4,500 a month. This includes Edgeryders paying rent to itself for the office. A space that cost 3,000 would be quite sustainable, even if we hire (as we should) a part-time office manager (1,000 per month?). On top of that, we would get tax advantages, higher productivity from working together and more relationships with more people.
As always, feel free to poke holes in all this. Does it make any kind of sense? Can you translate the thinking to other spaces and other cities?
Ping: @Nadia | @Noemi | @Matthias | @johncoate | @ireinga | @Alex_Levene