Entrepreneur, Peter Fabor, can be considered a poster child for digital nomads. What began with a simple trip to The Canary Islands, has now resulted in his creation of two of Europe’s hottest Work / Stay spaces with locations in Gran Canaria and Lisbon. We spoke to him about his journey.
Peter, there’s an adventure filled genesis behind the Surf Office, tell us about how it took off?
Well my career background is in design. I was working in Prague with the global IT company Avast and I convinced my boss to allow me to work remotely (I just didn’t tell him it was to The Canaries!). Once on Gran Canaria, I then needed an office to prove I could work remotely and productively as a company employee. And so, I created just that from a little one bedroom apartment where the living room was converted into an offIce with a few desks. Then, a few friends and a few friends of friends came to visit and that’s how it all started. One year on from that, we’ve opened our second Surf Office last year in Lisbon.
So tell us about the idea behind the Surf Office. Are you more a co-working space where you can stay or the other way around?
Well the core concept is that we’re a combination of accommodation and workspace. So we aren’t a co-working space but more of a hospitality business with the advantage of having that facility. That means people can sleep here, in a private room, and also have access to work spaces with Wi-Fi, LCD displays, a meeting room, coffee(!) and of course, a layer of community. Only 10-15 people stay as a max so if you come alone, you can meet different people from various countries and professions. We also organise activities every few days, from dinners to weekend surfing trips so the community aspect of the business if what’s really unique.
A hipster neighbourhood in Lisbon and and a Spanish paradise island, they must draw an eclectic bunch. Tell us a bit about your clients, or should we say ‘guests’?
Yes, guests! They’re a mix of people from digital nomads to people who just don’t have time for holidays. In other words, people with a lot of work to do but who also want to enjoy a getaway location. So we welcome entrepreneurs, employees, freelancers, designers, developers and beyond the IT sector the likes of journalists, copywriters and even accountants.
You guys even offer ‘retreats’ for companies which seem like a pretty cool alternative to the conventional!
That’s right, there are also teams or companies who book the whole space to organise productive team building getaways. Many of our groups, for example, work on strategy building during their stay and then continue working on what they’ve brainstormed when they return home. So if you’re a manager and want to boost team spirit while also creating an output, Surf Office is the perfect place for you.
All those urban and beach attractions must be pretty tempting, though. Do you often find a lot of empty desks at base during the day?
It sounds like it could be hard to find a work balance but a a lot of people come with an exact goal, let’s say a freelance journalist who’s here for one week to finish three articles. So they’ll want to enjoy Lisbon but also achieve their goals. But sometimes, guests are so productive to the point where I must say “Hey, look at the weather! You’ve been working for 7 hours straight, get to the beach!”
So what would you say is the distinctive aspect of the Surf Office culture?
The office area is very similar to a traditional co-working space. But the main difference is seen rather during the non-working hours. So, for instance, before work you meet other people in the kitchen making breakfast. And then you get chatting, and maybe arrange to grab some fresh fish for lunch, so it’s all very informal as a culture. It’s not like a meet-up which can be quite unnatural: here you can talk and interact and In a few days you’ve made a lot of friends without the feeling that you were networking.
It sounds like this is a concept that could mushroom in destinations all around the world. What’s the masterplan?
Well, not all people who visit Surf Office actually surf, maybe about half. So people ask us, “Why don’t you open a Surf Office in Barcelona or Budapest?”. So with our vision, why not?, we could have Surf Offices all around the world, where like-minded people could meet and be productive. But for us, we just don’t want to open ten places. Our challenge is to scale the business while retaining a balance and our own culture. And it’s all about the quality.
The deets: Surf Office (thesurfoffice.com) have locations in Gran Canaria and Lisbon. Overnight rates start from approx. €60.