It started with a coworking space. Of course.
2014. Desk Union, Edinburgh.
Like a meet-cute in a J-Lo film, Steve and Michael got chatting at the coffee machine and instantly hit it off.
Not that long after they started a business together: a commercial property survey company.
This was very much not-your-traditional-surveyor. They used cool tech like lasers and drones and quickly landed some pretty sizable clients, like Amazon, the NHS and Marks & Spencer.
Ro (another passionate coffee drinker, introduced by the community manager) became their first drone pilot - while moonlighting from his job as a developer.
And then one day, Desk Union - the coworking space that had first brought them together as friends and collaborators - shut.
Suddenly they were forced to work from home. It was all lonely lunches and kitchen table desks. They missed the companionship. They missed the serendipity. They missed the coffee.
So they decided to do something about it. After much tinkering, tampering and tweaking, they came up with a product that would enable people to access flexible work spaces across the UK - we’re now in over 30 countries!
Instead of having to take a membership with your local space, you could book a desk with the touch of a button - as quick and easy as ordering an Uber.
This had the potential to change the way people worked.
From their forays into the corporate world (from past lives and through their survey business), they knew that a seismic shift was inevitable in the world of work.
Presenteeism was rife. Employees were commuting for hours every day. Open plan offices had failed to deliver on their promise of increased collaboration.
At the same time, the dominance of long-term leases was being challenged and employees were desperate for more flexibility.
Something had to give.
The only question was whether the solution would be better than what had come before.
Steve, Michael and Ro believed that Desana was that solution.
They raised investment, wound up their survey company and started having some really exciting conversations with global heads of real estate.
And then of course, COVID hit.
It is difficult, to say the least, to sell access to workspace during a lockdown.
Yet it also led to a massive cultural shift. The idea of large swathes of the population working remotely had seemed sometimes like a pipe dream. Now it was a reality. Now everyone was experiencing what they had done so many years ago: lonely lunches, kitchen table working, isolation.
Attitudes to remote work had switched almost overnight. This was the chance to improve on what had come before - for both employees and employers.
Over the last year they’ve grown the team (even including some non-coffee lovers and *shudders* some instant coffee drinkers) and seen demand for Desana skyrocket.
But it all started with Desk Union, bringing three people together.
And despite the fact that the world has changed a lot over the past year, Desana’s mission remains the same: to change the way the world works.