For freelancers, entrepreneurs, and technomads all over the world, “going to work” in 2014 looks a lot different than it did ten years ago. While it’s possible to work on a high speed train, in a hotel bed, or reclined at 40,000 feet, sometimes what an independent worker really needs is a bit more mundane: a desk, a power plug, and a reliable wifi connection.
For Ukranian entrepreneur Leonid Goncharov, the Paris cafe scene—which, like many things in France, is a bit set in its ways—was not particularly accommodating to hackers, writers, and designers clicking away on their Macbooks. So early in 2013, at the ripe old age of 24, he founded the cafe/startup known as AntiCafe, a co-working space and coffee shop where you pay by time you spend (€3 for the hour, or €14 for the whole day), not by what you consume.
The scene looks similar to your average cafe, except for the homey kitchen setup where workers can help themselves to snacks, toast (with Nutella, naturally), tea, coffee, and mint lemonade. They’re happy for you to bring in your own lunch and also offer scanners, printers, and small meeting spaces complete with whiteboards.
AntiCafe’s roots come from Russia, where the “Ziferblat” (meaning "clock-face" in Russian and German) concept took hold in 2011 and became popular throughout the country. In January, another similar outpost opened in the east London creative hub of Shoreditch, which asks patrons to pay pay 3 pence (5 cents) per minute they are there.
Nicolas Perrot, who is part of the AntiCafe’s startup team, explains that the AntiCafe is filling a void in Paris. While Hemingway may have gotten away with a notebook at his brasserie table, Macbooks are not regarded with the same acceptance in the overwhelming majority of the city’s cafes. Meanwhile, the increasing visibility and acceptance of the freelance lifestyle in France has outpaced the number of cafes where independent workers can be productive (and are guaranteed a power plug).
“Until recently, the freelance culture has been fairly invisible in France, where you [historically] have a culture of big companies, state owned companies and big administration,” Perrot says. “It’s very hard to find a coffee shop where it’s not just about drinking coffee.”
The clientele, which is notably international, can use the space to work quietly or to network, arrange meetings, or attend AntiCafe sponsored events. While conversation by no means forbidden, it’s also mercifully not the kind of place where your Skype call will be interrupted by unattended toddlers running around. As Perrot describes it, it’s a place to go when the honeymoon period of “working for yourself in a studio apartment” is decidedly over.
AntiCafe Paris is located in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris at 79 Rue Quincampoix