Soon Seats2Meet will start offering workspaces provided by individuals in their homes. “It is going to be a type of Airbnb for workspaces at home: if you enjoy sharing your study or dining table with others one or two days a week, you can do so via the website. The platform will match you to other relevant people”, says Ronald van den Hoff, CEO of Seats2meet.

When exactly the service will be available is unclear, but Van den Hoff estimates it will be around April. “We’ve been thinking about it for a while, but we’re now speeding up the development due to the refugee crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people will enter the workforce, they all need an education and they all need to find a job or a place to work as a freelancer. How cool would it be as a journalist to have a Syrian journalist working with you?”

“On the short term we cannot expect too much from the government and so we though: they might be offering crisis aid, but how can we ensure that these refugees integrate in our society?” asks Van den Hoff. The project is meant for everyone, not just to match refugees to independent professionals. Seats2meet will require users to verify themselves online, since it is understandable that people can be weary of inviting strangers into their homes. This verification will probably be done by means of a passport or in some other reliable way, says Van den Hoff.

Connecting People
Seats2meet offers free workspaces in exchange for ‘social capital’. Whoever uses the (free) Seats2meet workspaces or (paid) conference rooms is asked to give information about their skills and knowledge. “We developed a system that connects people with different skills and knowledge based on potential relevance. Imagine your job requires you to work with Prezi (a type of powerpoint). In this case your skills and experiences might be relevant to a software developer marketing a new product since Prezi also requires you to understand the basics of ‘storytelling’. Our system sees these ‘hidden’ connections.”

 

Research from the Erasmus University shows that Seats2meet visitors benefit from these serendipitous encounters. 34% of the 500 survey-participants said that they have been able to improve their products and services with the help of others. They also felt they could ask their coworkers to help develop their business skills such as accounting or creating a website (38%), and finding new customers (30%). “Some people come to Seats2meet locations on a daily basis, others only once a month. The group of people frequenting S2M locations is very diverse: men and women of all ages.”

‘It’s about meeting people’
The flagship office spaces in the Netherlands above Utrecht Central Station are still owned by Seats2meet International, but the largest number of Seats2meet locations use only the reservation and matching-software.  “Companies are starting to realize that if they resist the social-economic change they might become irrelevant in about five years. Some turn to buying startups to gain access to their knowledge, but, by collaborating with the Seats2meet, you can also just create a totally new ecosystem to meet these independent professionals and innovators.”

Various libraries, schools and corporations (such as Achmea and Mazars) pay a monthly license fee of 100 euros and offer a number of open-workspaces in their office. “We are no longer thinking in terms of ‘locations’; it’s not about the number of physical meeting locations but rather about the relevant people you meet. People you don’t know yet, but who are relevant to you.”

‘Five years from now we will have thousands of locations’
“Robots expected to replace some five million jobs by 2020 and companies will disappear due to their lack of added value. As a result of this, people will start forming temporary teams in an attempt to create social-economic value”, says Van den Hoff.

“This trend is long from over, in fact; it has barely begun. In the future every library, government building and company will be a location where you can walk in and make use of the open-workspaces. In five years we will have 4000 to 5000 Seats2meet powered locations in the Netherlands. One will be larger than the other, but they all have the same goal; offering these temporary teams of independent professionals relevant meeting of people, knowledge and events, so these teams can connect, collaborate and grow.”

*This article is translated from Dutch. You can find the original text here.*