Part of Y Combinator’s current batch, Deskimo wants to make finding coworking spaces easier. Its on-demand booking app is currently available in Singapore and Hong Kong, with plans to enter more markets after Demo Day. Its founders are former Rocket Internet executives who say that their main competition aren’t spaces like WeWork or other hot desk booking apps. Instead, its Starbucks, since Deskimo caters to people who usually work from home, but occasionally need a place nearby where they can get away from distractions or take meetings. Deskimo partners with employers and charges them by the minutes their workers spend at space, instead of a monthly or yearly fee.
Deskimo was launched in February by Raphael Cohen, Rocket Internet’s former head of Asia, and Christian Mischler, who co-founded Foodpanda and served as its global chief operating officer. After Rocket Internet, the two started HotelQuickly, an on-demand booking app they sold in 2017.
The pandemic has quickly changed attitudes toward remote work, with a McKinsey survey finding that 62% of respondents said they only wanted to return to the office a few days a week, or not at all. As a result, many companies, especially startups, will continue offering flexible arrangements.
Mischler and Cohen already have experience watching peoples’ behavior shift after Foodpanda was launched. “Back in 2012, people were saying that food ordering is not going to work online, people just order on the home or in person,” Cohen said. “What we learned from on-demand restaurant delivery, the shared market-based model, is very similar in that case to setting up with workspace partners.”
Deskimo now has about 40 properties in Singapore and 25 in Hong Kong, and wants to expand in both residential and business districts, since many remote workers prefer to find a space close to their homes. It works with several different types of property owners and is approaching each group step-by-step. The first are office spaces that are already set up for coworking and see Deskimo as an additional distribution channel. The second are hotels that are converting some of their space into coworking areas. Finally, Deskimo plans to partner with spaces like social clubs and event venues that usually sit empty during weekdays.
On the client side, Deskimo contracts with companies, who then offer the app to their employees. Each person gets a monthly budget on Deskimo, and their employers are only billed for the time they spend at a space. The Deskimo app generates a QR code that workers use to gain access to one of its spaces, and they also scan it when checking out to record how long they were there. Pricing ranges from about $2 to $4 USD per minute, with desks in central business districts typically costing more. Aggregated invoices are sent to clients each month and revenue is then shared with coworking space owners.
“Many companies realize they can save a lot of costs by having people work from home so they can reduce their office space, and instead of adding more fixed costs, they just add variable costs,” said Mischler. “They provide their employees with the ability to go to an office, but if they don’t want to because they have a great home to work from, employees are also more than welcome to work from home.”
In Deskimo’s current markets, other on-demand coworking space apps include Switch, Flydesk, WorkBuddy and Booqed. But Mischler says its main competitors are large F&B chains like Starbucks, since they are easy to find. He adds that Deskimo is more efficient for workers, who are guaranteed a table and don’t need to worry about finding outlets or the quality of Wi-Fi. Besides expanding into more markets, Deskimo also wants to add other services on top of coworking to give it a competitive edge.
“Once we have the company relationships and their employees use Deskimo for their bookings, there’s a lot of different things we can build on top of it, whether it’s employee engagement or workforce management, not just workplace management,” says Mischer. “But we’re focused on the transactional model right now because that’s the biggest pain point.”