When to quit and when to stick

You’re succeeding with your startup, and are outgrowing your office in the co-working space. What to do? CEO Martin Raknes Holth shares some valuable lessons from when his company EnkelEksamen.no was in that same position.

In 2012 EnkelEksamen.no saw the light of day, with a mission to help every student to reach their full potential. After proper establishment in 2017, the startup now offers educational exam courses online for college and university. With 13 employees, where 3 are full time and 10 are part time students all over the country, they were working from MESH in Oslo from April 2017 until June 2018.

Martin Holth og Andreas Frøyland copy
F.l: CEO Martin Raknes Holth, and Product owner Andreas Frøyland.

What made you want to become a part of a co-working space in the first place?

– We heard a lot of good things about it, got recommendations from friends, and thought this was a good place to be. It was great to work so close to so many skilled companies who had already done what we were about to do. It seemed like a good deal, and it really was. You get to meet other companies a little more informally. It’s a little community, you get advice, tips and new friends. One of the absolute pros is the social, it really is a community.

Then what made you move out?

Holth describes how they grew fast, and got too big for the office. 4-5 people sharing a 10 square meter office space is tight, and they thought it would cost too much to expand in MESH.

– Just when we realized that, we got a tip about an office of 180 square meters. It was a lot bigger that what we had, and we got some furniture along with the deal, so we decided to go for it to have some more space to grow into in the future as well.

That sounds like a logical next step, what happened?

– We learned that you don’t really know what you have until it’s gone, or you have to do the job yourself. A couple of things I would like to mention is operations. It takes a lot of time to operate an office, what do you do when the printer malfunctions, who cleans the toilet, what happens if the network cable needs changing? Those were questions we never really asked.

– We had been quite comfortable at MESH. And when we first got the new office we realized there’s a difference between square meters and effective square meters. In the new office we didn’t think about that the square meters written on paper includes toilets and meeting rooms… That was all a part of MESH, and we didn’t think about all the things that actually were included.

“We didn’t think about all the
things that actually were included.”

Founder of DIGS agrees that you have to look at the big picture

– It’s easy to forget about what’s included and not. Whenever operating your own office space you’ll have to add operational costs on top of the lease, in most cases ending up with total costs higher than what’s the case when being a part of a coworking space. And this is without considering the value of the flexibility you have in terms of a short contract, enabling you to upsize if needed, says Mats Mathisen.

Back to Holth: pros and cons?

– Pros now (by moving into a separate office) is that we have a lot of flexibility to customize the office just the way we want it. It’s fairly cheap for its size, and that was the main reason we moved.

– The pros about a co-working space is that you don’t have to think about operations, and that’s a big pro. It’s social, and we realized how important the community was. We’re not that many full time employees, and in a separate office we get isolated in more ways than one. Now we know how much we appreciated playing table tennis with others, just to relax. All of the sudden you see how many networking opportunities you get. You meet a new supplier on the rooftop deck at MESH, and then you start talking. It might not lead to anything, but maybe you get the inspiration to do a few things different.

– Something we didn’t think about before the move was the flexibility (regarding our contract). We are much more locked to one space now than what we were in the co-working space. I think we underestimated that before we left. Now I see that we might have room for 20 people in the new office, but what happens when you run out of space? That has turned out to be a pretty big con, and we didn’t really think too much about that.

“we underestimated that
before we left.”

Would you do it all again?

– If I’m gonna say if it was right for us to switch offices, I would say no. At the time we should kept growing in a co-working space. But one thing I am very proud of with our culture is that we dare to admit when we make mistakes. This combined with our eagerness to learn makes us much better equipped for other complex decisions in the future. We learned a lot, but if I could reverse the process I would. All of the cons of leaving were much more clear when you’re in the middle of it all.

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