Making The Coffee Shop Your Office, Without The Guilt

Feb 24, 2014
Originally published on February 22, 2014 7:18 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.

This week, Watson talks with host Arun Rath about pay-as-you-go coffee shops popping up around the world that offer a place to work "without any kind of moral shame" or pressure to spend money on coffee and snacks.

They also discuss how the rise of the bioscience sector in Cleveland is revitalizing the city's economy.

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It's time for The New and The Next.


RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Arun, great to be with you.

RATH: So here's a situation that anybody who's been a freelancer in the last 10 years has faced: you need that precious Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, but how many cappuccinos do you have to buy to justify sitting there all day? And finally, someone saw an opportunity there, right?

WATSON: So for those who are not shameless, like you and me, and are willing just to buy one and sit there for eight hours, there's now a new option called pay-as-you-go cafes, where instead of paying for the coffee, you actually just pay for the amount of time you're there. Some of the spots are only literally a nickel a minute, so about $3 an hour. But it's taken off in Europe as well as South America.

RATH: It's great because, I mean, if you've been in that situation, as I have, you're doing this constant, like, moral math in your head. Well, it's not too crowded, so I can hang around a bit longer or do I need to have a second one to justify my spot or - it's surprising nobody thought about this before.

WATSON: One of the places called Urban Station has been around since 2009. And the other place called Ziferblat, which now you can enjoy in London, among other places, really got its start in Russia. But a lot of young people and a lot of just freelancers in general are finding this makes all the sense in the world. And for less than five bucks an hour, I have kind of a clean, safe place to do my work without any kind of moral shame or discomfort.

RATH: It's nice to work without moral shame. So I'm hearing Russia, Europe, Latin America - so are we going to get some of these in America?

WATSON: You know, at the moment, we have not. And the answer's kind of simple - it hasn't been profitable enough. Again, people are charging the equivalent of about a nickel a minute. And, you know, when you talk about some of the real estate prices and other things here in the States, it may be harder to make it work here than it is, say, in Istanbul or Bogota.

RATH: So that double Frappuccino or whatever might actually make more money than charging you for the space.

WATSON: You know, indeed.

RATH: Well, that's too bad. Well, hopefully, it'll work out here soon enough. Finally, you have a very interesting story about a biotech boom in a place that people might not expect. I'll set it up by quoting "Spinal Tap": "Hello, Cleveland."


WATSON: Cleveland, which is my hometown, by the way, Arun...

RATH: I did not know that.

WATSON: Very, very true.

RATH: I'll hold the jokes.


WATSON: Please do. It is no longer the mistake by the lake. We now refer to it as the fury by the Erie. While lots of folks thought about the Rust Belt and thought about the struggling manufacturing sector there, a whole new area has boomed, and in particular medical technology companies that are spinning out of the Cleveland Clinic and several other universities there and now are providing just under half-a-million jobs.

RATH: Wow. I know about this because I actually have visited the Cleveland Clinic. They have a brain health center that's actually in Nevada, of all places, doing, you know, amazing cutting-edge work.

WATSON: The Cleveland Clinic recognize that a lot of the brilliant research they were doing had practical application, and close to 100 companies have spun out of some of the work that's happened there and its surrounding institutions. And, in fact, the city of Cleveland has set aside a 1,600-acre parcel where you see lots of innovative companies, including one that we profiled this week called HeartLab, are doing lots of good and important work.

RATH: So are you moving back?

WATSON: Not anytime soon. I love this California weather. I'm still a Cleveland Browns fan, love the Cleveland Indians, even the Cavaliers - but happy to see that there's more than just sports to cheer for these days.

RATH: Great. Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You can explore all the stories we talked about at Carlos, thanks again.

WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you.

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