The 9-5 office day is becoming ever more antiquated, as growing numbers of people embrace the home-office concept. But working from home isn't without its drawbacks – no one to chat to over coffee, no space to meet clients, and no one to fix the printer when it jams.
Springing up all over São Paulo, co-working spaces cater to the city's growing number of mobile workers – they're a ready-made office solution for freelancers, start-ups and small companies without the hefty rental tag, and with the added bonus of the chance to network.
‘The number of co-working spaces is growing because there are more entrepreneurs,’ Ana Fontes, organiser of the annual entrepreneurs’ fair, the Virada Empreendedora (viradaempreendedora.com.br), told us; ‘Brazil is much more enterprising today than it was 10 years ago.’
One of the speakers at the 2013 Virada Empreendedora, Alykhan Karim, the US founder of online Brazilian wine retailer Sonoma (sonoma.com.br), worked out of Ponto de Contato when he first arrived in São Paulo. ‘Co-working spaces are interesting mainly because you're with other entrepreneurs. And there have been a lot of foreign entrepreneurs arriving here over the last two-and-a-half years. Plus, now there are a lot of really cool Brazilian entrepreneurs doing interesting things as well.’
But it takes more than just a few desks and a wireless router to make a co-working space. Meeting rooms, refreshments and secretarial services usually come as standard, while start-ups seek added extras such as workshops, networking events and even mentoring and investment. Read on for our round-up of the best spaces across the city.
Best for: Help with the lingo, and the Jardins location near shops and restaurants
Popular with foreigners in town for short stints, as well as with longer-term locals, who cover a range of professions from architects to marketing gurus and developer whizzkids, Ponto de Contato is a light and airy space, with a friendly but serious work ethic; ‘people come here to work, after all,’ explains the co-owner Marcus Trugilho, ‘and they know the person next to them is doing the same.’
Trugilho speaks near-perfect English, and if he's on the premises, is usually happy to lend a hand with the odd phone call if a lack of Portuguese is a stumbling block. Fernanda Nudelman, Trugilho's partner, started Ponto de Contato over four years ago after missing the benefits of being with others in an office environment. And while the work space may be quiet, there are plenty of opportunities to socialise over a coffee break out on the roof terrace, or sinking into a sofa in the atrium.
Desks can be rented by the hour, or as part of a monthly plan. Members clock-in and out using a biometric fingerprint system, which keeps track of hours used, as well as opening and closing the door.
Prices desk per hour from R$15; monthly plan R$250 (25 hours) up to R$2800 (720 hours); registration fee R$60 (correct as of May 2013).
Best for: Working in the heart of artsy Vila Madalena
This light, bright space in Vila Madalena is a newcomer to the co-working scene, and still gaining traction. But the space is friendly, attractive and well thought out. The downstairs rooms in the detached house have been knocked through to create a long, open office space with large tables. Outside is a pleasant courtyard-cum-social area and a kitchen, with a meeting room hidden away up a spiral staircase.
Choose from one of eight plans, starting with the basic plan – an hourly desk-hire rate of R$16.50 – right through to a 900-hour-per-month group plan for up to six people (R$5,280). Plans exceeding 25 hours per month include the use of a commercial address, snacks and some secretarial assistance.
Prices desk per hour R$16.50 (R$15 til the end of July); monthly plan R$200 (25 hours) to R$935 (150 hours) (correct as of May 2013).
Rua Groenlândia 808 and 848, Jardim Europa (3372 1717 / b4i.com.br). Open 8am-10pm Mon-Fri; 11am-5pm Sat.
Best for: The all-singing, all-dancing office services, for those able to spend bigger bucks
Opened in 2013, B4i is firmly placed at the premium end of the co-working spectrum – it's a no-expense-spared space in the heart of Jardim Europa. The sister company to communications agency Brain4Ideas, B4i has striking decor throughout, from its plant-covered façade to the exposed brick walls, glass-topped tables and colourful murals.
Beyond the usual services, B4i goes the extra mile with a soon-to-open photography studio which will be available to hire for R$490 per day, as well as virtual office services: a commercial address and correspondence management for R$89 per month, or R$350 for a more personal plan including a telephone answering service.
Members can choose a fixed spot for a R$1,430 monthly fee, or a hot desk from R$780. Private rooms are also available for short and medium rent. Extras such as meeting room hire and event space are charged additionally, as is parking and secure locker rental.
Prices desk per month R$780-$1,430 (correct as of May 2013).
Best for: Round-the-clock access in a central location
There couldn't be a more convenient location than bustling Avenida Paulista for a hot-desking space to dash to between meetings, or to work round the clock in, when deadlines bite. The 24-hour Link2u is about location, location, location, just a stone’s thrown from Consolação metrô. And the view from the meeting room, out over Paulista's towers of power, is hard to beat. ‘It’s not the beach, but it’s the next best thing,’ says Tâmara Ferri Juliani who, together with her father Roberto, opened the first of Link2u's two units in March 2012.
The two spaces, which can each seat around forty, are in the same building, and the vibe is one of lively concentration. Posters and trinkets collected on the owners' trips while abroad add character to an otherwise bland office space. Link2u also runs monthly networking events such as business breakfasts for people keen to share ideas and link up with others.
Plans start at R$180 per month for 20 hours' desk time, which includes the use of a correspondence address, basic office equipment, and an hour of meeting-room time. Plans for two or more co-workers range from R$1,200-$1,500 per month, depending on numbers. Just in town for the day? Hot-desk for R$15 per hour.
During typical office hours – 9am-6pm – a receptionist deals with post and phone calls, though the spaces can be accessed throughout the night, with prior agreement. The building has 24 hour security, too.
Prices desk per hour R$15; monthly plan from R$180 (20 hours) (correct as of May 2013).
Rua Bela Cintra 409, Consolação (3539 8574 / saopaulo.the-hub.net / @hubsaopaulo). Other location Rua Fradique Coutinho 914 (2nd floor), Vila Madalena (2532 1584). Open Consolação branch 9am-8pm Mon-Fri (and Saturdays upon request); Vila Madalena branch 10am-6pm Mon-Fri.
Best for: Start-ups and freelancers with a social or sustainable slant
Part of a global network across thirty cities, The Hub was one of the first co-working spaces to open in São Paulo, and it now has two locations in the city: downtown on Rua Bela Cintra, and the newer space, upstairs at Ekoa Café, in Vila Madalena.
Much more than just a hot-desking hotspot, The Hub goes big on its philosophy of supporting innovation, sustainability and social entrepreneurship – independent financial advisors looking for an escape from their home office need not apply. Talks and events, hosted at one or other of the branches on an almost daily basis, help to foster a spirit of collaboration amongst its members.
Those familiar with Hub venues around the world can expect a similar set-up: large tables arranged throughout a large open space, with playful circular windows and décor that strikes a balance between elegant and informal. Neither space matches the polished perfection of The Hub in London’s King’s Cross, however.
The Wi-Fi connection, as you’d hope, is excellent, and bonus facilities include a kitchen, a separate dining area and a library of sustainable-themed reads. To eat, head round the corner to Sujinho for a meaty lunch, or nip across the road to the Nova Cintra bakery (Rua Bela Cintra 388) for something more modest.
The atmosphere at the downtown location is dynamic and focused – there's a sense of purpose about the people working here. Use of the space can even be arranged on Saturdays for special events. Expect to share desk space with local start-ups like the bike courier company Carbono Zero Courier, and Samba Pix, who specialise in printing Polaroid-style photos.
The success of the Bela Cintra space – membership numbers are up 25 per cent since the beginning of 2013 – sparked The Hub to open its second space, in Vila Madalena, which is open for Bela Cintra members to use as well as being the focal point for events, workshops and courses. ‘Vila Madalena is such an important neighbourhood in the city for creativity, sustainability and culture that we wanted a presence there,’ João Vitor Caires, The Hub's communications manager, told us.
The Hub’s policy of requiring members to pay an annual membership (R$530) plus a monthly plan (prices start at R$75 for 10 hours desk time to R$800 for unlimited use) may not suit the needs of the more casual hot-desker. But there’s no clocking-in and clocking-out, however: the honesty policy relies on members to keep track of how many hours they have used.
Prices monthly plans from R$75 (10 hours) up to R$800 (unlimited use); annual membership R$530 (correct as of May 2013).
Best for: Start-ups looking for investment and business mentoring
There’s something of an entrepreneurial spirit to the warehouse set-up at Plug N' Work. With networking events, business advice, coaching and mentoring services all on offer in addition to the standard desk-rental, the space has become something of a hub for start-ups.
‘The idea behind Plug N’ Work is to create a network of people – an ecosystem of businesses and individuals,’ explains Jorge A. J. Pacheco, one of the co-founders of the Brooklin space. ‘We really believe that people and relationships are the key to good business.’ Pacheco and his two partners look for interesting start-ups in which to invest, making this spot an interesting draw for start-ups looking to take their business to the next level.
There are nearly 50 workstations in the vibrant, colourful, former warehouse space, with more than 26 companies, individuals and start-ups currently plugged and working. Brooklin lacks the creative buzz of neighbourhoods like Vila Madalena, but it’s a thriving business district nonetheless, with bars and restaurants nearby and even a Bike Sampa bike rental rank just a couple of blocks away.
Bonus facilities include a 50-seater auditorium, and spacious meeting rooms. Grab your laptop and sit soft in the lounge area or out in the garden – which picks up the Wi-Fi signal – when the sun is out.
‘Most people who work here are on longer-term contracts, which helps with building a community,’ Pacheco tells us. Hot-desking is available, however, and a desk will set you back R$45 per day. Monthly plans start at R$750, which includes four hours of meeting-room use. Should you want a more private place to work, there are glass-walled suites available upstairs, with space for up to three.
Prices desk per day R$45; monthly plan from R$750 (12 hours, includes 4 hours of meeting room use); private room for up to 3 people from R$1,850 (correct as of May 2013).
Best for: Affordable co-working in the north of the city
Set on a quiet residential street, just a few blocks from Santana metrô, and conveniently located for Shopping Center Norte and the Expo Center Norte convention centre, MyHub Coworking is a pioneer of co-working spaces in the north of the city, and counts PR and film production companies among its varied roster of professionals.
Regular networking events and talks are a draw for some of the regular co-workers here. Patricia Kashima, of KSH Filmes, has been working at the space for more than a year now, and told us, ‘networking with people from all sorts of areas is, a massive advantage of working here.’
Plans start at R$50 for ten hours, all the way up to the full-time plan of R$600 with access to a fixed desk in the office, five days a week (the space opens on Saturdays if there's demand). Head just a few doors down for post-work drinks at the low-key bar-cum-craft-beer shop, Empório Laura Aguiar (Rua Doutor Gabriel Piza 559, Santana (2977 0471/emporiolauraaguiar.blogspot.com).
Prices ten hour plan R$50; monthly plan R$600 per person or R$1600 for up to four people (unlimited hours) (correct as of May 2013).
For some start-ups, working out of a co-working space brings valuable networking opportunities. If you're looking to connect with other entrepreneurs, the following events may be a good place to start.
- SP Night Connect monthly networking. Read more
- InterNations Small Business Owners monthly networking in English. Read more
- Girs On It inspiring women entrepreneurs. Read more
- BR New Tech monthly technology meet-up. Read more
- Campus Party 2014 date TBC (campus-party.com.br)
- Social Media Week September 2013 (socialmediaweek.org)
- Startupi Camp 2013 date TBC (startups.ig.com.br)
- Startup Weekend 2013 date TBC (saopaulo.startupweekend.org)
- DevFest Women 2014 date TBC (devfest.info/devfestw)