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Brussels co-working space with a difference opens second location
There is a boom in the co-working space sector in Brussels, but Transforma BXL has been supporting innovative forms of entrepreneurship for more than five years. Its headquarters in Evere have recently been updated with a FabLab and MediaLab, and at the beginning of the year a second branch opened in the EU district.
Walking around the co-working space and business incubator, close to Nato headquarters, one can’t help but notice that the design of a beehive was a source of inspiration. “The beehive is a symbol of entrepreneurship, community and sustainability,” explains co-founder Anis Bedda. “It refers to our main goals and values.”
Bedda, originally from Tunisia, co-founded Transforma BXL after struggling with the loneliness of being a freelancer and getting inspired by the pioneering co-working space HUB Brussels – now closed. After a first stint in Watermaal-Bosvoorde, he eventually set up shop in the 2,700 square-metre building in Evere in partnership with the agency Citydev, responsible for city development and economic expansion.
Fun, colourful, open
With the help of local artists, the “sad and boring offices” of the former tenant – a pharmaceutical company – were transformed in a fun, colourful and open environment to stimulate the minds of starting, and more experienced, entrepreneurs. Much attention was also devoted to the garden, where Transforma BXL – apart from providing a calm environment to work or relax – even grows its own vegetables. The building is passive, in line with the sustainability philosophy.
The hub offers freelancers, start-ups and staffs of small companies a large open working space, private offices, meeting rooms, a kitchen and a recreation space spread over two floors. “A big asset of this building was also the warehouse, which enabled us to offer businesses a place to store a certain amount of their products and have them shipped from here to customers,” says Bedda.
Since last December, entrepreneurs can also experiment with new innovations in the FabLab, which houses a laser-cutting machine, 3D printers and sewing machines. New technology can thus be developed in this makerspace, and both the prototypes and final products stored in the warehouse.
Another recently installed facility is the MediaLab, which features both a podcast studio for audio productions and a webcast studio for videos. “One of our members is the non-profit The Podcast Factory, which offers training and coaching for the creation of podcasts,” explains Bedda.
Transforma BXL also organises many kinds of trainings, workshops, lectures and team-building activities on innovative entrepreneurship – targeted at both start-ups and corporations. “It’s interesting for big companies to experience working in start-up mode, for instance, with more flexibility and more space for initiatives.”
The good vibes at Transforma BXL recently attracted the small team of The Plugin Company, which installs charging stations for electric cars at people’s homes and at companies. Ikea and Delhaize are among its customers. “Coming here was a logical choice for us, because of the dynamic environment and the focus on sustainability,” says Plugin CEO Jonathan Stubbe.
Stubbe says that his company is seeing a strong and steady rise in demand, linked naturally to the increasing interest in eco-friendly solutions as a whole and in low-emission mobility specifically. “We are also developing our own charging station, which we’ll launch on the market soon,” he says.
Plugin’s charging station will monitor exactly how much power the car needs to run most efficiently and for the longest period of time.
Another company at Transforma BXL, MuuseLabs, is a good example of the diversity of the community at the hub. The three co-founders all have different cultural backgrounds: Flemish, French-Romanian and Scottish.
What they have in common is that they all worked at major tech companies and have children. The latter was pretty crucial as well.
MuuseLabs created Jooki, a smart speaker allowing little kids to select music or other audio fragments – like stories or voice messages – in a playful way, without using screens and without needing help from their parents.
“I experienced myself that when I gave my children my phone or iPad to choose music, they started to tinker away with the devices themselves and lost interest in the music,” says Jooki COO Pieter Palmers.
The Jooki device comes with a number of little figurines, such as a ghost and a knight, that kids just have to place atop the speaker, which acts as a sort of platform for the figurine.
That starts a voice message or a playlist – from, for example, Spotify, web radio, podcasts or audio books. The parents link the playlists or voice message to specific figurines via an app.
“It allows children a certain amount of control in choosing what they want to hear,” explains Palmers. “The voice messages can help to make a stay away from home easier, as the children can listen to, for instance, a bedtime story that a parent recorded.”
While its headquarters have by now established a strong reputation as an entrepreneurship ecosystem, Transforma BXL recently opened a smaller co-working space near the Brussels metro station Kunst-Wet. “When we first had the idea for Transforma BXL, we searched for a location in the EU district. But the prices were too high,” says Bedda. “By working nimbly, the way a start-up would, we have now managed to reach that goal as well.”