BY Walter Hayward 5 MINUTE READ

With a mission to transform the notion of office space as we know it, Spacefinish provides agile workspace solutions across Africa that boosts productivity, innovation and collaboration. From Fortune 500s to startups, the company’s human-centric approach aims to meet the needs of all business types and help them reach higher levels of excellence in their fields.

As part of our Most Creative People in Business edition, Founder Remi Dada talks exclusively to Fast Company SA about the growth of his business and the importance of creativity as an entrepreneur. 

Tell us more about your growth journey with Spacefinish

From a young age, I always wanted to be a creator of things that people could touch, feel, and experience. This led to me choosing a career in a creative field like architecture. One day, as a young architect, I noticed how disconnected I was from the solutions my employer provided its clients. This disconnection created a void where I felt my work had no impact or sense of contributing to the greater good. 

Because of that, I took a career detour and ended up landing a dream job working at Google. During my 5 year career at Google, I got an opportunity of a lifetime to design the Google office in Lagos, Nigeria (in a third-party space) as part of a 20% project since Google allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on a passion-related project. The results of the new office design were great and personally fulfilling. The office now had dedicated spaces for social interaction which allowed for better collaboration. The playful nature of the design meant people felt more inspired, and dynamic workspaces now accommodated both open and focused work styles which led to more productivity amongst teammates. All this allowed me to get a new perspective on the transformational effects that a well-designed workspace could have on employees.  

Shortly afterwards, I came to the realisation that this problem wasn’t unique to our office but a problem that a lot of businesses face in Nigeria. Convinced that this was a problem worth spending the rest of my life solving, I left a dream job at Google to set out to start Spacefinish, a design company that creates innovative workspaces for businesses. Over the last 18 months since starting Spacefinish, we have grown to 20 employees and over 100 contractors. We have also been lucky to work with brands such as Google, PWC, DHL and Standard Bank, to name a couple. Though exciting, we realise that we are just at the beginning of our journey to transform workspaces around the world, and we are optimistic about what the future holds. 

Do you think creativity and business can go hand in hand?

I believe that creativity is a catalyst for innovative business solutions that drive entire industries forward. Ironically, we have been told time and time again that the business place is a rigid environment that does not value creative thinking. I, unfortunately, experienced this during my job search after business school. A lot of conventional companies turned me down because prior to business school, I had a degree in architecture and not a prerequisite business background. I only started to make headway in my job search when I sought out tech companies that appreciated diverse backgrounds in their employees. However, I believe that things are beginning to shift and it is all as a result of increased adoption of creativity in the workspace. For example, here in Nigeria, old industries like the banking sectors have started to invest in providing creative workspaces for their newly acquired fintech departments. I believe businesses are beginning to understand that creativity is the building block of innovation, and without it, they lose their competitive edge.

How is technology transforming your industry? Has it affected your creative processes?

Technology is definitely transforming the Design-Build industry. For example, we are now in an age where we can create entire buildings with 3D printing technology and bring digital designs to life using Augmented Mixed Reality in ways that were not possible before. These are very exciting times for our industry! At Spacefinish, we too are beginning to deploy tech that influences how we approach design. One of the biggest problems we are trying to solve with tech is talent sourcing and management. In Nigeria, access to talented architects and contractors is very cost prohibitive. To address this problem, Spacefinish is building a talent matching platform that pairs whole project teams to paying clients at an affordable rate. To achieve this, we are creating locally relevant modular design solutions that our community of architects and contractors can build upon, thus allowing them to design and cost more efficiently while reducing their design billable hours, as a result driving down the cost for the clients. We are excited about the possibilities this platform brings to the industry because it opens up access to talent and allows us to scale our impact.

How does creativity add to a company’s authenticity?

I believe creativity is what makes a brand stand out from the crowd. Odds are whatever solution your company offers, there are 10 other companies offering similar solutions. But the way you differentiate yourself is in how you go about providing such solutions, and this is where creativity comes into play. In business, it is the ability to bring to market a new way of looking at old problems. Companies that are able to do this end up building a great deal of authenticity.   

Let us in on the personal habits you believe inspire your creativity.

I watch videos of people who have built great companies, and I track the transition point from when they were just starting off and were young, and green (similar to me), to when their companies grew fast and how they handled that scaling period. These are very rare moments to capture, and they humanise these legends, which inspires me and reminds me that it is possible to achieve similar success. 

I also consume a lot of design content and use tools like Pinterest to archive inspirational elements which I always revisit when I am in need of a dose of creativity. I work remotely every Thursday and I try to find unique locations that fuel my creativity. When I need to clear my head and reset, I meditate, exercise and take long walks by myself. I also try to meet and interact with different groups of people, across various ethnicities, generations, and social standings. I believe that doing this has taken me a step closer to understanding people better and creating solutions they truly care about.

What is your business ethos?

At Spacefinish, we put the customer first and are always obsessing over creating a happy and fulfilling work environment for them to meet their business goals in. We truly believe that with design, we can influence how people experience the workspace. To ensure this we focus on creating workspaces that allow our clients to meet their P.I.C goals (productivity, innovation, and collaboration). As a result, we are constantly asking ourselves does this workspace allow our clients to be more productive, does it truly inspire their employees to think outside the box and be more innovative, and finally does it encourage appropriate human collaboration to allow our clients succeed? Those three pillars drive the work that we do at Spacefinish.