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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C The deck of the The Grey Owl, DoSpace's co-working office in the Dublin docks
Outside the box

Stuck for space? One man has built a floating office in Dublin's Silicon Docks

Inside DoSpace – a co-working space with a few differences.

AS WORK SPACES go, it’s one of the more unusual – rows of desks below the deck of a barge gently bobbing among the tech giants of Dublin’s Silicon Docks.

But for Graham Barker, the founder of DoSpace, the floating office is only the first in what he hopes will be global network of “funky spaces” for Irish startups.

Next month the co-working office, where desks can be rented on either a casual or monthly basis, will be officially open for business with space for a dozen people on a barge called The Grey Owl.

“The number-one selling point is our location,” Barker told this week from the mooring site at Grand Canal Quay.

I’m looking out the window and I can see Google’s buildings. If I look out the other way I can see the crane that’s building Airbnb’s new office and the other way is Facebook.”

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The idea was born out of necessity for Barker, whose background is in IT, when he was looking for an office for his own education-technology startup, Big Learner.

He discovered work space was hard to come by and the rents were stratospheric, particularly in the sought-after docklands.

There isn’t any great back story to the idea … it’s hard to get offices around here. I was thinking ‘what’s the only place that isn’t an office that might work’ – and I thought of the water.”

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Leitrim to the Silicon Docks

Barker said the floating office concept soon became his main business venture and, after a false start with one boat purchase, he found the perfect barge in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

The end result after a three-month conversion is a vessel featuring the familiar fittings of a modern office with a few added extras like portholes, a fireplace for the winter months and a sun deck for summer.

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With Dogpatch Labs in the CHQ Building and Gravity at George’s Quay offering well-established office-sharing setups in the docklands area, Barker said his main selling point was being able to offer “something different”.

The pitch will be targeted at both larger firms looking for a Dublin foothold and those starting small with plans to expand. Prices start from €50 per month and rise to €1500 for a complete office on-board.

And it appears to be working with a number of clients already signed up, including London-based social entrepreneurs Security First.

A growing network

Plans are also well-advanced to convert a set of five shipping containers into office space in the Galway docks, with a second barge in Dublin and another site in Belfast also on the horizon.

Members will have access to spaces across the network and, Barker hopes, be able to piggy-back on others’ skills to build their businesses.

The aim is next year we will be selling a community, one where people can all help one another,” he said.

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The ultimate goal is to expand the system internationally with spaces in London and then on the US east and west coasts, providing local startups a leg up as they grow into new markets.

The idea is that it will be a network of spaces – that Irish startups can leverage our space to get a presence worldwide.” 

READ: The Irish-owned company that’s shaking up payments could be worth €4.5 billion soon >

READ: Ireland is now responsible for the privacy of 240 million Twitter users >

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