From start-up to scale-up – Ozow’s new HQ

October 12, 2022

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From start-up to scale-up – Ozow’s new HQ

We are proud to announce that we have officially moved into our new office, or as we like to call it, Ozow HQ. From now on you can find us on the 10th floor of the Portside building in Cape Town. However, in a world where most companies are still trying to get their staff to return to the office, you might be asking why we’ve built one?

The shift from start-up to scale-up

After closing our Series B funding round in November 2021, Ozow progressed rapidly from start-up to scale-up, with our employee headcount increasing by 33%. And as our staff compliment grew, naturally our premises needed to grow along with it. Ultimately though, it wasn’t just the need for more space that led to the move.

Ozow’s CEO, Thomas Pays touched on the importance of having a collaborative working environment. “There are three very important things you need in life. A good bed as this is where you spend a third of your life. An amazing job, because you spend another third of your life there, and an incredible office as it fosters creativity, collaboration, and productivity.”

Fintech HQ, Ozow HQ, Bar, Kitchen, Office bar, Innovation

Cultivating collaboration in a post-pandemic world

During the global lockdown Ozow, like all companies, went virtual. We too adopted the remote working model moving meetings, discussions and even office socials to MS Teams, working hard to maintain our culture of innovation and collaboration.

But for us, nothing would ever replace real-world interactions and the creativity and ideas that they spark. So, we combined our need to expand our office space with our desire to create something that would represent, and live up to, the authenticity of our brand and company culture.

To that end the philosophy behind the design of our new office goes far beyond simple aesthetics. Embedded in the design is the very essence of what our company represents: innovation, inclusivity, safety, and pride.

Rachel Cowan, Ozow’s Chief Operating Officer said, “We wanted to create a space that would bring people together, one that would facilitate conversations and interactions.”  She went on to say, “we believe we’ve succeeded. The new Ozow office is our company’s flagship headquarters and this is reflected in every aspect of the space. Our operations team has created an environment where everyone feels secure and at ease.”

Ozow team, collaboration, kitchen, bar, innovation, fintech

Ozow and the hybrid working model

We must acknowledge however that the hybrid working model is here to stay. In fact it’s become a staple on job checklists for potential candidates, and studies show that 47% of current employees would look for another job opportunity if their employer didn’t offer a flexible working model.

Ozow recognizes this and by adopting a hybrid approach to work, we’ve allowed for a more focused form of productivity, helping employees avoid burnout. “From all the travels we had around the world what has transpired is over some time, productivity increased drastically with remote work,” mentions Pays. “This could often come to the detriment of creativity or strategic planning as people aren’t in the same room to discuss and collaborate.”

That’s why we believe that leaning too far to one form of work or the other can upset a decent work/life balance. While staying in the office could contribute to burnout, working from home constantly can have the same effect. Often employee’s homes become a place of work, upsetting the boundary between being at work and being at home. And for some, it could also contribute to a loss of focus.

Cowan went on to mention that, “While our office has been designed and built to be the kind of space that employees want to come in to, one that creates and facilitates bonding and quick problem solving, we also need to acknowledge the world in which we find ourselves. So, Ozow will continue to offer the hybrid model to staff.”

High-tech features and fluid design

Our new office has been designed to encourage collaboration and shared ideas. By utilising an open floor plan there are no defined borders between departments, and by favouring fluid meeting spaces that permit spontaneous collaboration, we’ve created an environment where ideas are shared, productivity is at an all-time high and our culture is upheld.

Shared meeting space, open plan, Ozow office, fintech

The new office incorporates high-tech features such as live analytics displays, incredibly fast WiFi and technology that allows for seamless streaming from any device. But tech isn’t the only thing our Operations and Design team considered during the build. They also needed to consider the needs of the Ozowks who inhabit the space.

Other features include a pause area with a fully stocked kitchen offering free healthy breakfasts, lunches and barista-made coffee. Also included are break-away meeting rooms, quiet spaces, mindfulness rooms, nap pods, sound-proof private phone booths and training facilities.

Ozow Coffee, Barrister, well being, fintech, HQ, Coffee

Another critical aspect for us was secure onsite parking as it allows our employees, especially female employees, to feel safe when getting to work early in the morning or working after hours.

“We always look for an environment that is safe and secure for our team. One that gives a European vibe, where pedestrians can walk and browse securely,” mentions Pays. “Where you can park, or leave your car or bike and be in walking distance from Villa47 for a late afternoon meeting.”

What went into the build

Ozow HQ took over 9 months to complete, from the moment we started looking for premises to the day we moved in. During the build there were almost 50 contractors and staff working around the clock to finish the space in time for our Ozowks to arrive on their first day.

Lauren Bonthuys, lead Project Manager said that the greatest contributor to finishing the build was “Teamwork, teamwork and teamwork. I have never before seen people come together like they did. Nothing was too much for anyone and we shared ideas, debated things and held each other accountable at every turn, which was amazing to watch.”

Ozow training, Ozow Cares, FinTech, Ozow HQ, Innovative

While our new HQ utilises world-class technology and innovation, Ozow’s CEO still has his favourite features. “Being someone that loves collaboration, it would have to be the war room,” a space that houses a large table shaped like the Star Trek logo and loads of tech to assist in presentations.

War room, team, Ozow HQ

“Hold on,” says Pays, “actually it has to be the internship space as it fosters such great wait. It could also be the kid’s entertainment room.”  

Kits room at Ozow, PlayStation 5, Ozow, play room

While there are so many features to pick a favourite from, there is one other important one. At Ozow we have a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, which is celebrated in our chill area, with one of the standout additions to the space being our CEO’s other favourite: the tequila bar, stocked with only the best.

Party, Ozow, Bar, Innovation, sombrero

Our CEO and co-founder’s closing thoughts on Ozow HQ

When asked for a final comment Pays said this: “Richard Branson once said, ‘Clients do not come first, employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’ This is something we believe in at Ozow, and something we will never change. By building a unifying space that embodies our company values we aim to inspire and retain our existing Ozowks while attracting only the best new talent into the business.”

Staff Writer

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