Geoff Harris flies into shared office space start-up

May 25, 2020

Geoff Harris & Tobi Skovron

Flight Centre co-founder Geoff Harris has emerged as a major shareholder and investor in co-working and share office space start-up CreativeCubes, which has big expansion plans across Melbourne and potentially around Australia.

CreativeCubes is already profitable after being established in September 2016, according to its co-founder and chief executive Tobi Skovron.

He says that gives the business a major point of difference in a competitive sector that has attracted plenty of negative publicity of late with the abandoned stockmarket float by US giant WeWork.

Mr Skovron’s business has three locations in Melbourne, with a facility in South Melbourne the largest at 4000sq m and holding about 550 workspaces or “seats”.

Another facility at Hawthorn in Melbourne’s leafy east has a 200 capacity event and entertainment space and a 30-person yoga space in the centre of the complex offering about 40 classes exclusively to CreativeCubes tenants or “members” every week.

He says CreativeCubes’ competitive advantage is what he calls its four pillars: workspaces, events, wellness and fuel.

“We convert buildings into collaborative communities with culture, workspaces and services, which provide a platform for people to build their business,” he said.

“At the centre of everything we do is an unwavering focus on all people. We wrap people in our community with happiness and support with those four pillars, so they can stay focused on what they’re passionate about.”

The business offers its members, who pay between about $39 per day or $700 per month (a ­bespoke dedicated space for companies is more costly), an in-house concierge service called a “Happiness team”, meeting rooms, an in-house cafe and catering service, wellness advice, quiet phone spaces, presentation facilities and an events calendar that ranges from cocktails and networking functions to fundraising events. Mr Skovron says the business is running at 85-90 per cent capacity, with space left for individuals or small groups who want to rent on a daily or short-term basis.

Tenants include the Victorian headquarters of KFC, Menulog, down to small businesses and sole traders. Listed manufacturer Pact Group has also used space for some of its management team.

CreativeCubes has also grown organically up until now, having been funded by Mr Skovron, a ­serial entrepreneur who previously invented an indoor/outdoor portable toilet for pets, and his management team.

He moved the pet business to the US where he worked from home before becoming frustrated with that experience and then ­decided to take a desk in a co-working space in Santa Monica, where the idea for CreativeCubes was born.

The company has big plans for expansion. It is set to open another facility in Carlton, in Melbourne’s inner north, which would mean it has four sites.

Fit-outs usually take about 14-16 weeks and Mr Skovron has plans for CreativeCubes to double to eight locations managing about 20,500sq m of space, servicing about 2500 businesses within two to three years.

By then, the company’s annual revenue should reach at least $35m.

Mr Harris, a member of The List — Australia’s Richest 250, with an estimated $940m fortune, has an eclectic mix of investments and philanthropic interests besides the large portion of Flight Centre shares he still holds.

“I get offers to look at investments all the time,” Mr Harris told The Weekend Australian.

“But they have to fulfil four ­criteria: to be in a growth industry; be profitable already or be close to having a profitable model; have the right cultural fit with us; and, the management team has to have the skills to take it to the next level. This business ticks all those boxes.”

Mr Harris has made the investment via his private Harris Family Office, managed by his son Brad. Mr Harris also owns stakes in online live auction app Gavl, Mexican restaurant chain Fonda and was an early investor in Boost Juice.

He also owns real estate in ­Melbourne housing the social ­enterprise group STREAT.