When MAKE Business Hub first opened, people didn’t quite know what to make of it. Was it a restaurant? A coffee shop? Temporary office? The truth is, it was all of those and more. It quickly drew both local and international media attention for its focus on encouraging startup ideas and for providing a unique workspace for entrepreneurs. Its founder Leith Matthews started MAKE after realizing that there was a severe lack of working space in the city, and found himself spending countless hours trying to work in coffee shops. What made MAKE unique was the spirit of the place – it was often impossible to get a seat because it was bustling with people having quick meetings with their clients or putting their head down to work on the next big startup. Ideas were shared, pitches were made, plans were scrapped and rewritten – it was as if the place had a heartbeat of its own.
But earlier this year Leith announced that he would be relinquishing control of MAKE and handing the reins over to CeeCee Holding, who continued to run MAKE until they closed it down in August for renovations. I’ve only been back to MAKE a few times since the renovation, and I can’t help but feel differently about the place every time I’m there. The new decor still reflects the original ‘urban’ vibe, with smaller workstations and a dedicated eating area, as well as glass doors that now offer privacy in the meeting ‘pods’. What’s different however is MAKE’s policy on how you use the space. You now have a variety of packages that you need to pay for which provide you with food or drink, as well as use of the high-speed Internet. Previously you could walk into MAKE, grab a coffee or something off the menu, and work until they pretty much threw you out at closing time. The new packages are as follows:
3 hours – 1 drink, AED 49
5 hours – 2 drinks, one meal item, AED 99
Full day – 4 drinks, one breakfast, lunch, and dessert item, AED 179
One week – Same as Full day, plus full day use of one meeting pod, AED 849
Long gone were the days where you could pretty much veg out at MAKE, brainstorming with colleagues and friends. Now that time spent comes with a price tag, a rule that was never really ‘enforced’ at MAKE before. If you came to MAKE, you automatically bought something to eat or drink, and it was only during ridiculously busy times that the staff would approach you to ask if you had finished your work or would like to order something else. The packages that MAKE offers now may take a few people off guard, but it’s something that I think the business had to do. Looking at the space of the venue, its popularity and the location, its clear that the new owners needed to put something in place that actually made money. And anyone who still needs to use MAKE as a workspace will happily pay up to use a facility they’ve been enjoying for a while.
The point of this blog though isn’t to highlight the changes at MAKE, but rather to comment that the ‘magic’ that once attracted me to the place isn’t there anymore. Under Leith’s control MAKE hosted events nearly every other day, from casual dinners, startup pitches, product launches and Startup Grind, to a massive wall plastered with freelancers looking for work and ideas (which has since made a comeback.) The vibe that once powered MAKE as a community-driven hub doesn’t seem to be there anymore. The website hasn’t listed any events since May, and the Facebook page seems to enjoy talking about the food and drink on offer rather than promoting the next big idea.
Time will tell if MAKE continues to just be a workspace or if it returns to its roots of encouraging and promoting the ideas brewing in its community. Boldly printed on the menu is the phrase “Ambition is served Daily“, but let’s hope that ambition doesn’t forget the community that powers it.