Primalbase is offering an alternative to WeWork, Regus and other companies that rent shared workspaces to business professionals by offering a way to do the same thing using cryptocurrency and blockchain.
Based in Amsterdam, Primalbase celebrated its first anniversary in June. It has already launched on-demand desks and offices in Berlin and London, with New York and Singapore planned for later this year.
“The blockchain technology that “underpins our shared workspace has been around for a while, but what has changed in recent years is public understanding of how it all works,” said Primalbase CEO Ralph Manheim.
As with WeWork and others, the idea is to allow entrepreneurs, freelancers and other “gig economy” workers to avoid buying or leasing their own dedicated offices and letting them use common locations only as needed for a recurring membership fee. According to a report last year from the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, the coworking sector is forecast to reach 30,432 spaces and 5.1 million members by 2022.
Whereas traditional coworking memberships might be paid through traditional banking services, however, Primalbase lets members buy its tokens through the Waves or Ethereum blockchain platforms. Using tokens offers the benefits of blockchain-based security, as well as a way to easily verify who uses spaces and for how long via the immutable nature of distributed ledger technology.
A Well-Informed Target Market
Primalbase CEO Ralph Manheim declined to reveal specific membership numbers or usage to ThirtyK, but said the concept offers considerable appeal to the technology-savvy kind of professionals and startups that make use of more traditional coworking services.
“The blockchain technology that underpins our shared workspace has been around for a while, but what has changed in recent years is public understanding of how it all works,” he said via email. “People understand the significant security, flexibility and financial benefits.”
There are already a number of coworking spaces dedicated to specifically hosting blockchain startups, such as OrchardBlock and BuroHQ in New York, but they don’t offer their services using cryptocurrencies and blockchain itself. A Beijing-based coworking provider, Ucommune, has authored a white paper on the potential of blockchain but, like WeWork and other firms in this sector, did not respond to interview requests from ThirtyK. Manheim, meanwhile, said he isn’t concerned about competitors or imitators.
“I would be surprised if other coworking companies switch to a blockchain-enabled tokenization system in the very near future,” he said. “It would require a complete retooling of their approach and business model.”
Beyond sharing, selling or renting out spaces, Manheim said there are many other areas where blockchain technologies could be applied to improve the efficiency and profitability of coworking, or even traditional real estate.
“I believe that some of the most important applications of the technology for the wider property industry will be within data analytics,” he said. “You’ll be able to use blockchain to create highly accurate, deep insights into exactly how properties are being used. This will allow developers and landlords to maximize the layout, amenities and services provided to tenants.”