The island of Bali, Indonesia doesn’t exactly conjure up thoughts of the 'daily grind' spent crouched over a laptop. But at Dojo Bali, a coworking space south of the island, expats and travelers alike gather at wooden desks and air conditioned ‘offices’ around a zen garden swimming pool where they can enjoy Wifi just as impressive as the surf at Echo Beach, located a stone’s throw from the space.
We chatted with entrepreneur and founder of Dojo, Michael Craig, about productivity near the beach, giving back to the community, and how he dreamt up the idea for the coworking space in the midst of a meditation session.
Tell me a little bit about your background and how you up in Bali?
I’m from Perth Western Australia. I started my First Business when I was around 15 years old, an IT Computer repairs center for the School I worked at, then later in 1997 I started Clue Design a Digital Agency I ran that business for many years and now Clue is one of Perth’s Longest running Digital Agencies. Over the years I’ve had offshore teams in India, Philippines & Indonesia this meant that I travelled quite a bit, so I designed mobility into my businesses from the very beginning. My business in Australia was going very well and an opportunity came up that allowed me to put the business under management which enabled me to step out from the operational site and just provide remote strategic advise & consulting for the business and clients. I returned to Bali, started surfing, exploring, drinking coconuts, and just living a more balanced lifestyle!
What compelled you to start a coworking space in Bali, a surf and vacation mecca, on an island in Indonesia?
My team and I had the idea of moving our digital agency in Perth into a more retail type business where people could come in and have a coffee while the guys in the office worked and you could interact with people. Fast forward to the present and about 12 months ago, I was chatting to a few friends in a pool in Bali about an idea of having an awesome creative space where people could meet and this was the first time that someone mentioned coworking to me. Then I visited Hubud in Ubud an amazing coworking space with a strong community and that's when I came across Salty Volt in Canggu (which later became Dojo). The actual point of where I decided to start my own space was after a 3 hour Pranayama yoga class, it all came to me during the meditation session, all the pieces and ideas all lined up and I had clarity on how I was going to start it and what the purpose was.
Your first location is in Canggu, a stone's throw from Echo Beach, why did you pick this spot?
Actually this wasn’t my first choice, The original plan was (and still is) to build a coworking space in Seminyak. However, when the opportunity came up to take over Salty Volt (the pre existing business) the location, 1 minute walk to the beach, coupled with my new found love of surfing, was a big influence in the decision.
What do you think is the key to productivity at Dojo?
Fundamentally, I think the infrastructure has to be in place i.e. High Speed Internet and facilities so that those things are just not a concern, and they are very much a concern in Bali due to how unreliable these services can be. Besides that, a comfortable and relaxed environment is key. The pool helps, air conditioned rooms, different seating arrangements etc. But the most important part is the community. The energy of Dojo is really relaxed and productive, I’ve seen this growing since we opened and I’ve had quite a few coworkers tell me how productive they are.
Do you have a gage on how many of your members are expats living in Bali vs. travelers stopping through?
We do have a mix at the moment. I’d say about 35% are expats the rest are long term members on Business or Social Visas, with the odd person on vacation that needs to get online and needs fast and reliable internet.
You stress the importance of giving back to Bali, Can you talk about the community outreach part of the Dojo experience?
Going back to the moment I had during meditation where everything came together, one of the biggest things I got out of it was that whatever I did with this project needed to also give back to the local community in Bali. Overall I feel like Bali has given me so much, it’s an amazing place, paradise for many, yet still hard for locals sometimes. There are a lot of issues centering around the environment and education and I want to help alleviate some of these concerns.