A team of French entrepreneurs has set out to ride the wave of the burgeoning collaborative economy by launching a platform for renting out space in homes for use as offices during the day when they are unoccupied.

Office Riders, the Airbnb for Office Space?

Renting out your apartment, not for people to sleep but to work… this is the concept which three young French entrepreneurs were promoting at Futur en Seine, a digital festival which took place in Paris from 12 to 22 June. Their platform, called Office Riders, is based on the observation that apartments are often left vacant for a large part of the day. So the idea of letting out your home for use as an office seemed perfectly logical. “We just felt that leaving an apartment empty was wasteful, the loss of an economic opportunity, and so we thought we would take advantage of the current momentum of the collaborative economy,” explained co-founder Florian Delifer. He met his associates, Jean-Philippe Matz and Thomas Leblanc, in San Francisco at the Startup Basecamp, which provides accommodation – including bedrooms and space to work during the day – for entrepreneurs from overseas. “The owner has transformed his living-room into a co-working space,” Florian Delifer told us. “This hybrid work-accommodation approach is what inspired the idea of Office Riders.”

Halving your office rental costs

Unfortunately the startup recently failed to reach its Kickstarter crowdfunding goal. However, the partners have been testing out their model in San Francisco and it appears that there are many potential hosts who are attracted by this market. “A householder who rents out space to a working person can make some income and meanwhile the ‘rider’ – i.e. the person who uses the place during the day – obtains some high-quality space at a very affordable rent,” underlines Delifer. The business case is pretty solid, as this approach could help to halve office rental costs. Paris is facing a very similar situation, and this trend could well take off in all big cities where rents are usually rather high. By testing the market as they are now doing, the Office Riders team are building a base of available space offers which they will be able to call on when they launch their service for real.

“If it makes sense it will thrive long-term”

Florian Delifer sees the collaborative economy as a good bet right now. “If it makes economic sense it will thrive long-term”, he reckons, though there are a number of “legal issues” to overcome. The Office Riders idea is pretty much along the same lines as Airbnb, the well-known accommodation-rental startup, which has posted extraordinary growth. The main difference is of course that the office rental segment – mainly startup staff, freelancers, consultants, etc – is a smaller target group than the holiday segment, which “covers a much broader spectrum, basically everybody,” he acknowledges. So the Office Riders team are keeping their feet firmly on the ground and there are no ambitions to attain an Airbnb-sized market. Nevertheless, this is a genuine growth sector, which chimes in with the mobile way many people like to work these days and may strike a chord with the growing number of people setting up their own businesses in some regions.

By Lucie Frontière