DUBAI – The digitalisation of the economy has changed the nature of work in the United Arab Emirates, giving rise to services on demand, a gig economy and a co-working community that embraces young and old entrepreneurs.

Letswork, with headquarters in Dubai, is the largest network of co-working spaces across the Emirates and has helped start-ups and entrepreneurs to “rethink their workspace.”

It was founded by Omar al-Mheiri and Hamza Khan and was the first start-up rolled out by the E25 incubator programme, introduced two years ago by Dubai’s developer Emaar Properties.

“Emaar’s chairman, Mohamed Alabbar, wanted to invest in start-ups and have people under 25 come up with new ideas that synergise with the core concepts of Emaar — hospitality, entertainment, real estate and commercial leasing,” said Mheiri, who has a degree in electrical engineering.

Mheiri joined E25 after university where he met Khan, a British-Pakistani corporate lawyer and graduate of the London School of Economics.

“Letswork was launched because it was tough for people to find affordable and flexible space to work, especially for small start-ups; the rent and operational costs can be prohibitive,” Khan said.

“Working from home or a coffee shop was also not an ideal solution, while Dubai had many beautiful venues spread across the city that were sitting empty during the day.

“So, instead of us spending millions of dirhams building a new place, we thought why not make the most of all these existing venues and activate them as workspaces during the day? We basically connect people who are looking for workspace with these hospitality spaces.”

The Letswork network spread quickly after its app was released in February 2019.

“It is very easy to navigate the app. When you open it, you see the map showing all our spaces and it also shows you the closest one. From the app itself you can check in. You get the Wi-Fi password and get to see how many other members are actually using the space. Meeting rooms can be booked directly through the app, too. It is as easy as booking a table at a restaurant,” Mheiri said.

“What sets us apart is that we have a strong community of around 12,500 registered users, with around 600-700 daily active users across our 43 locations in the UAE,” Khan said.

The co-founders said Letswork differentiates itself from other co-working spaces through its pricing and flexibility.

“Instead of an individual or team working from a Costa Coffee outlet or from home or from an office, they can join us,” Khan said. “They can sign up for daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly memberships and can enjoy working across the host of more than 43 locations in the UAE with benefits like unlimited tea, coffee, water, free high-speed internet, 20% reduction in food, free parking and access to meeting rooms.”

Mheiri said: “Our pricing is extremely affordable. We wanted to make it cheaper than a coffee a day for it to be cost-effective for people who usually work from a coffee shop.”

A day pass is 39 dirhams ($10.62), the week pass is $57 for seven check-ins and the monthly package, which Mheiri said was the most popular, is $134 with unlimited check-ins at all Letswork spaces.

The feedback from Letswork members has been enthusiastic and daily interactions help Mheiri, Khan and their team to constantly fine tune their services.

Letswork member Kahina Habes, a marketing director in a FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) company, left the corporate world to get into entrepreneurship. A lot of hard work went into launching her So Salad! concept — a destination for healthy and tasty food. Her next focus was on how to expand her business.

“I needed a flexible space that could fit with my crazy week schedule split between the restaurant and my laptop,” Habes said. “This is when Letswork came into my life. The cherry on top was I got to meet and mingle with amazing people and professionals.”

It has been only one year since the app has been released and Mheiri and Khan are planning to revamp the app’s features and plan to expand their network, including to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.