How Kickstart started its coworking journey by solving a workspace challenge?
By Hassan Shahid (Co-founder, Kickstart)
“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs”, but when it comes to running a startup in Pakistan, the stairs are on fire and you’re in hell!
The early days of any startup are the most challenging and nerve-wracking, so were ours at Kickstart coworking space. I vividly remember how clueless yet excited we all were the day we launched our first co-working space back in 2016. We had no idea whether it would be a successful business or an utter failure. We were 23 at that time, just out of college, had zero work experience; no money, no investor, and no hard skills.
At that time, I was working on an ed-tech startup and after graduating from Plan9 Incubator, I needed a cost-effective office space where I could host my small team and start working immediately without having to go through the expensive process of furnishing an office space. But Lahore offered nothing like that.
I visited several buildings in DHA and Gulberg but could not find a suitable office in my budget. All of the places I found required high furnishing expenses and landlords showed no flexibility in lease terms. Back then, Saad and I used to share an apartment, and he was waiting for his full-time job to start. In the meantime, he decided to help me out with my startup and office problems.
I am not going to lie and tell a flawless story where everything unfolded as neatly as planned. Running a startup in Pakistan is a tough nut to crack. You don’t get easy access to capital, banking system, skilled resources, ancillary services, and in our case even office space was a challenge.
Despite trying restlessly when we could not find a suitable office, we thought of creating a co-working space where startups like us could share their office with like-minded people, form a community and kickstart their business (That’s how we picked the name for our coworking startup).
Since Lahore had never seen a coworking space before, people had no idea what it was like. There were doubts like; was it even a safe place to work? How would they be able to operate alongside multiple businesses under the same roof? How would coworking cater to the needs of multiple businesses? etc.
It was not just the people who had doubts. We also had many, but we had a hunch that flexible coworking spaces have the potential to disrupt the conventional office market.
In order to test our assumptions, we posted a coworking advertisement flyer on the Pakistan Startup Facebook group that said,
“Get your flexible office space & kickstart your business”
We did not have any office space to show at that time, but we wanted to talk to potential customers to understand their needs and determine if there was any demand for our co-working idea?
In response to our advertisement, we got some serious leads who wanted to visit the space and hire our offices spaces.
After this, we had a clarity that we were not the only ones in need of flexible workspace. It was indeed the need of many other startups like us!
So, we decided to solve the workspace problem by using the principles of sharing economy business model (Efficient sharing of resources to reduce costs).
The next 3 weeks were crazy! We made our business plan, arranged finances, rented out a commercial floor in DHA, painted the walls, furnished it with desks and chairs, arranged a conference room, installed internet, and were up and running on February 1st, 2016.
Just within a month’s time, we got from mere idea to full-time operation!
For our first location, I, Saad, and Raza (Co-founders) pitched in PKR 100k each. PKR 300,000 was all we had for space buildout and rental payments.
We could not afford to pay rent on a vacant property, so we started our sales process even before launch. On our 1st day, we reached breakeven on monthly costs by converting some of the leads that we got from our pre-launch advertisement (co-working flyer posted above).
Despite several doubts and problems in our first product (like we did not have ACs, and UPS when we launched), people signed up because we offered an innovative office solution that provided 10X more value compared to the traditional office space.
Started from scratch, today Kickstart has 1000+ active members and more than 40,000 sq. ft. office space under management. We have 5 locations in Lahore and 2 in Karachi. Our Flagship location at Kickstart 62-C2 Gulberg hosts some of the most exciting startup companies in Lahore. The location offers meeting spaces, desks, private offices for different team sizes, a podcast room, gym, and outdoor event space on flexible pricing plans.
Kickstart has come a long way from the initial business plan written on the whiteboard picture below. But, it’s still relevant because it sowed the seed of flexible shared workspaces and helped us launch the first-ever coworking space for businesses in Pakistan.
Coming from this journey their are certain values ingrained in our company:
- We prioritize our customers and deliver value. For us, it’s Member first, Employee second, and shareholder third.
- We believe in ideas and help people achieve them.
- We believe in creating ecosystems where entrepreneurship thrives!
- We believe in ‘genchi genbutsu‘ (Go out and kickstart!)
I am really thankful to our early members and teammates who trusted us, believed in the idea of co-working, and helped us grow the coworking community in Pakistan.
P.S: Below is a picture from a startup event help by Kickstart early members back in 2016.