Mazen Helmy was born and raised in Egypt.
Graduated from Cairo university with a bachelor degree in civil engineering, minoring in environmental and sanitary projects.
He is the initiator of the “District Egypt” project.
The District is designed to be an on-ground space in the heart of Cairo for young business owners, (social) entrepreneurs and freelancers where they can meet, work, collaborate and co-create.
Awaiting to meet him in Berlin (Mazen is among the conference speakers and his talk is due during the “Getting out of the crisis thanks to coworking” workshop on Nov 3rd), Cowo thanks him for his kind availability to answer our 5 questions.
Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?
Actually I can’t deny that i have been practicing the concept of coworking under many forms, even long time before getting to know the term “coworking”.
But anyway once I started understanding and practicing it more, it has direct impact on my whole working perspective.
It was like discovering the other side of the moon, and feeling the power of the surrounding community.
Is coworking a commodity (i.e. the chance to share an office with little money) or a strategic option (i.e. a platform for all kind of sinergies)?
Coworking is different than shared offices.
It’s not just about the infrastructure and the shared facilities, it includes the community factor as a major aspect as well.
I believe it’s more a behavior people practice despite the label of the space they are working in, whether they are sharing high tech, sophisticated infrastructure, or the simplest form of a platform.
After all these years of discussing, I think we should know by now if business rhymes with coworking. Does it?
If you are asking about doing your business the coworking-style, I can tell that for me personally it pays off.
I can see the direct positive effect of it.
But talking about the coworking as a business, I can’t really tell you now. Our new project “The District – Egypt” is considered one of the very first few trial of setting a coworking space in Cairo/Egypt.
However, while going through all the planning phases, we figured out that there’s no yet – on the international level- a unique, ultimate profitable model.
That forced us to go deeper in understanding the real motive behind this initative; we want to create values, creating our dream working environment.
The revenue is important -as a step – to keep the idea self-sustainable and to improve/expand it.
But I believe in the future it should pays off somehow.
Considering the media craze, the flourishing of spaces, the many online tools coworking-related and… why not,this conference itself, do you envision the risk of tranforming coworking in a sort of bubble, where a minority just trying to make money spoils the beauty of the idea, ultimately depriving the word coworking of its true meaning?
Personally I trust so much the intelligence of the public; people are having a highly-sensitive sensor to detect and get a feeling of the real purpose of an initiative.
Besides that, the market – itself – has huge space and potential for other projects and initiative, and it’s up to the people to decide which way they want to go.
However, still the real concept-believers have the responsibility to speak-out-loud using a media mix about the real meaning and practice of coworking. Showing real examples.
Why not later-on setting some kind of regulations?
What are your feelings about coworking as a public service, just like schooling or health services?
As the coworking is not much spread here in Egypt – yet – but integrating a mix of private sectors and government promoting and adopting the concept should have greater influence and impact in the near future. Specially in the schooling system, that would be my optimum scenario.
I dont know – now at least – if the model is adoptable in all public services or not, but that requires more serious study, and a unified definition of the term coworking first.