Amsterdam: the perfect means to expand

Creative office rental concept Spaces opened for business in September 2008, just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global economy plunged into chaos. The timing, it seems, was perfect. In the five-storey Spaces project on Vijzelstraat, they’ve hacked through big chunks of prime real estate between the ground and first levels, leaving bare concrete and a free flow of air. ‘One of the starting points of the Spaces concept was the architecture,’ says founder Martijn Roordink. ‘We talked to a lot of people about creating a dynamic flow.’ The result is bright and modern, with pine shelving and artfully minimalist furniture by the likes of Vida and Fritz Hansen.

The Vijzelstraat branch is the newest of the four Spaces sites. At its core, it is a simple office rental business. Renters take either a private space with a lockable door and 24-hour access, or a membership fee that gives office-hours access to communal work areas. 

Along with the fancy architecture, the Spaces twist is the community it builds, which sees one-person start-ups rubbing shoulders with the Dutch offices of Uber, Facebook, Guess and Citrix. ‘Our audience is looking for its own identity. Their own presentation, social dynamic and other high-quality users. I think it’s within the DNA of the person who wants to get into Spaces,’ says Roordink. 

That DNA is becoming more common, Roordink believes. ‘When Lehman Brothers fell, we were in the biggest crisis ever. People became more concerned with sharing and participating. The starting point of Spaces was sharing and participation, so that moment in time was perfect.’

The original Spaces site is in a Herengracht town house and opened in September 2008, just before Lehman went bust. ‘We didn’t know if it would work,’ Roordink says, ‘but my background was real estate for ten years and I knew our research in the demographics. The average company in Amsterdam is about seven people and the company age is five years.’

Along with the dynamic new firms, the city has also attracted hundreds of European and global HQs for large corporations, and Spaces counts Twitter and Facebook among its clients. Expansion plans include three more sites in the Netherlands before the first step abroad. ‘We haven’t settled on a country,’ says Roordink. ‘It’s about the right mix between investors and the dynamics of a city, where the mix of one-person companies and smaller companies is right. Where the mix of high-end business users looks like Amsterdam.’ 

Spaces, in short

Spaces started in 2006, with Martijn Roordink and a group of co-founders who believed that ‘the world of working was changing and could be more fun and effective by creating an inspiring social place for people to go to and interact’. The first site opened in September 2008, coinciding with the global financial crisis. One upside to this catastrophic shudder of the markets was that people did indeed begin to look at new ways of working. Spaces rents out flexible office space to small- and medium-sized businesses. 

Tenants can take a basic membership, which gives access to the communal working areas of all four sites from 8am to 6pm during the working week. Prices for membership with a locker start at €245 ($278) per month. Or they can take a private office at a fixed location, with their own lockable
door, 24-hour access and the option to personalise the place for their own needs. Along with the usual ICT support and reception, each site has a cafeteria (open to all) and meeting rooms (bookable by the hour).

Current office tenants include the Dutch offices of Facebook, Twitter, Uber and HBO. The firm now has 42,000m2 of space across four locations: Herengracht and Vijzelstraat in Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed Canal Belt, the Zuidas business district in the south of the city and The Hague. The ethos today remains as it was in the beginning: ‘offer energy and inspiration for entrepreneurs to be successful in what they do best.’

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