February 2016

Coworking seeks to help refugees

Coworking is often considered to be a conduit to address various needs faced by communities, whether that be the lack of affordable infrastructure, community and support. For today’s freelancers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers, coworking spaces have been a godsend, helping individuals to avoid isolation and find success in their professional lives. Yet, aside from the professional benefits, the coworking concept has been also been considered by some to be a valuable tool in addressing social issues.

Entrepreneurs, Vasili Sofiadellis and Paul Keursten, have realized the potential of utilizing coworking a social tool, and have recently announced their plans to open a coworking space that will cater to the needs of the countless individuals suffering from the current refugee crisis.

In October of 2015, they traveled together to Lesvos in Greece, an area of Europe that has witnessed one of the greatest concentration of refugees, the majority of them fleeing from Syria. We spoke with Vasili about their experience in Lesvos and how they plan to move forward with this inspiring space.  

Hi, Vasili. Can you please tell us a bit about your (and Paul’s) experience with coworking and what led you ultimately travel to Lesvos?

I am a South African Greek National, based in Cape Town, and I have been visiting the birthplace of my parents, Lesvos, every year for the past 10 years. I have my own company, from which I plan to launch a socially oriented health tech accelerator.

Previously, I was running a PriceWaterhouseCoopers office within a local tech incubator and coworking space. In addition to my own projects, I am also a board member of the Silicon Cape Initiative, which is a not for profit entity focusing on supporting tech entrepreneurs. I am also a founding crew member of the StartupBoat, an initiative to find tech solutions for the refugee crisis. In 2015, We traveled to Greece twice with the goal of finding ways to support this crisis.

My colleague, Dr. Paul Keursten is an entrepreneur and consultant, who places innovation, entrepreneurship and learning at the core of his work. Paul focuses on supporting others to fully develop and utilize their talents in order to achieve success and contribute to a better world.

Together with Mark Seftel, Paul started OPEN, a collaborative workspace company that designs, builds and manages coworking and innovation spaces across South Africa. Paul’s work in OPEN builds on the experience he gained in Maliebaan45, launched in 2008, which was the first high-end, boutique coworking space in the Netherlands.

At the 2015 Coworking Europe conference in Milan, you and Paul presented your idea to create a coworking space that would cater to refugees. Can you please tell us a bit about the concept, and also about some of the ideas that you came up with at the unconference?

I work from Paul’s coworking space here in Cape Town, and upon returning from Greece, Paul and I discussed the refugee crisis. Paul was immediately keen to set up a coworking space in Lesvos through which we could create an enabling environment.

At the unconference, we presented our idea to several representatives of the coworking community who are very interested in supporting our project.

Read the rest at Coworking Africa!

Source: Coworking Europe

“Over time, coworking spaces are going to transform the way businesses is done in India”-Innov8 Coworking

“Over time, coworking spaces are going to transform the way businesses is done in India”- Ritesh Malik, Innov8 Coworking

Last year, the coworking movement hit an all-time high. With conferences in Europe, Africa, the USA and Canada, it has become evident that coworking is not only growing in established communities but all over the world.

Dr. Ritesh Malik founder of Innov8 coworking in Delhi, believes that coworking will be essential to business growth in India. We spoke with Ritesh about the current coworking scene in Delhi and what the emerging movement has accomplished so far.

Hi, Ritesh, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Innov8 Coworking?

I am a doctor by education, but a passionate entrepreneur and startup lover at heart. I started my first venture back in 2012 and eventually sold it to Times of India group (Alive App). Over the last 2 years, I have been deep into startup funding, and I am actively working with the government of India in order to help build college entrepreneurship ecosystem in the country.

I have also spent some time in Boston, Santa Clara, LA, London etc. and have understood how these types of silicon valleys have been built over time. I realized that Silicon Valley is not a real estate but a mindset, and that is what we’re trying to build today in Delhi.

You say on your website, “we believe Entrepreneurs & Startup Enthusiasts of Delhi deserve better”, can you explain what was lacking, and has coworking improved the lives of professionals in Delhi?

24% of all the startups in India are from Delhi, but until now Delhiites weren’t exposed to startup community building. I personally feel that the most integral part of startups is the community building. It’s all about people. At Innov8, we are not focusing on the office spaces, which we provide, rather office spaces are just 10% of our business, and 90% of our focus is on community building.

We organize events (almost 1 per day) based on skill development, which helps entrepreneurs to scale up, build, break and innovate. The idea is to provide an innovative space right in the centre of Delhi where we can converge the biggest talents and create the most vibrant community in Delhi.

Dr. Ritesh Malik

Dr. Ritesh Malik

I feel that the most vital aspect of a startup is the community building, startups are all about tinkering. They’re about meeting new people, interacting with them and synergizing win-win situations to create growth hacking and disruption within conventional business models.


How would you describe the coworking movement in Delhi? Is it popular, and if not, what are coworking leaders doing in order to help spread the movement?

Delhi is very immature when it comes to coworking awareness. We only got our first coworking centre back in 2012. There is a very thin line between coworking, accelerators and incubation centers in Delhi. Most of the coworking centers in Delhi are not focused on coworking, but rather focused on incubation. At Innov8 we’re very clear about our mission, we’re a pure play-coworking centre and we just aim to build the most vibrant & helpful startup community in the city.

At Innov8, we are also reaching out to the universities and educating the students about coworking. In Delhi people still have a notion that coworking is all about shared office space, but we want to change that.

What types of members do you typically house at Innov8? Are they mostly freelancers or are there members from companies?

We have a strict application process to join our coworking centre. This is for the first time in the world when coworking centers screen the applications before allowing applicants to be a part of the ecosystem. The reason for this process is because we want to keep track of the people who are part of our community. We want to attract the most intellectual and innovative minds.

Today, we focus on getting more entrepreneurs, investors, and product-based startups to be a part of the ecosystem. We are also working on a program to help freelancers build their own products by bringing 2 to 3 freelancers together.

In your experience, is coworking helping to transform work in Delhi. For example, are more corporate entities open to changing their work environment, like using a coworking space?

Not yet, but I feel that over time coworking centers are going to transform the way businesses are done in India. Perceptions of coworking are already changing. For instance, we got a request from the Kotak Mahindra Bank, as they want their CIO & his team to move into Innov8 so they have the chance to think outside the box and have a wider vision of the startup ecosystem.

What types of services do you offer and are there any particular needs that your members have? Such as events, support, education?

Mortar office space is just 10% of what we offer. We believe that more than the office space, what startups need most is the community, mentorship and access to networks. We help them build these networks by creating a fertile ground for ideas via thought leadership. We focus on skill development and also offer a virtual acceleration program where we provide our startups with a startup handbook, which includes the the do’s and don’ts.

How would you describe the design of your space? Were you inspired by any particular model, such as open workrooms, private offices, café, breakout rooms, etc.

We have one of the most beautifully designed campuses in India, we were featured in OfficeLovin, one of the best office design magazines in the world. Our space is a combination of modern design and contemporary artwork.

What seems to be the most effective types of spaces that nurture productivity in your community?

We have an ideation cube, a white boarding room, an amphitheater, common innovation zone as well as an open terrace. These are the areas, which are full of innovation and entrepreneurial drive.

Your site often mentions Silicon Valley. Do you aspire to be the next Silicon Valley or are you creating your own ecosystem specifically for your community? Do you think coworking spaces are important to creating hubs for innovation, and if so, why?

I believe that coworking centers are the mecca of innovation worldwide. We are on a mission to make Delhi as the next Silicon Valley after SFO, Tel Aviv, Bengaluru etc. Silicon Valley is not a real estate, but a mindset; we’re changing the mindset.

Source: Coworking Europe

“Our tenants have the unique opportunity to establish their own retail space in our space, from which they can showcase their products”- Vanessa Butz, Interchange, London

We caught up with Vanessa Butz, Managing Director at Interchange, a new full-service coworking and events space based in the heart of Camden, London, which provides companies and entrepreneurs with the ideal framework for creativity and growth. Before working with Interchange, Vanessa helped build up the community at Factory, one of Berlin’s largest tech spaces to date.

London is a major business center and also home to numerous large corporations. Would you say that your space is marketed to this crowd? If so, why?

Interchange is mainly aimed at creative, fast-growth companies, who are looking for an inspiring working environment that will support them from startup through to scale-up. However, we have also had interest from companies of all sizes, including major corporations, a number of which have moved specific innovation teams into our space.

Would Interchange be defined as a facility, service, or a hospitality provider? If so, why is that?

It’s is a mix of all three really. Interchange is a coworking office, as well as an events and networking space. We also provide our tenants and visitors with a range of other facilities, as well as access to advice and support.

Furthermore, the main Interchange sites are located at the heart of Camden, which has over 28 million visitors a year, and is London’s third largest business district, after the City and Westminster. The location helps our tenants to stay connected via the central location and great transport links.

What types of members do you have so far, and are any of them new to the open workspace model? If so, how are they adapting to the concept?

We have a wide range of members, spanning industries such as design and marketing, healthcare and fintech, including accelerators and VC companies. Some are new to the open workspace model and some have moved from other coworking spaces, but all are adapting well. Ultimately it’s about finding the right fit.

Some of our current members include a healthcare startup, Doctify, who help to connect patients to healthcare professionals. We are also home to Osper, a mobile banking platform for young people, and IncuBus, which is a pre-accelerator for startups.

Has it been challenging to attract people to the space? And what do you think needs to happen in order to educate potential members about the benefits of Social Workplaces?

We generally feel that in London especially, that there is high demand for shared workspaces that meet the needs and expectations of potential tenants. Most companies and individuals, particularly startups, have a good understanding of why it’s beneficial to work in shared spaces, including the access to support, networking opportunities and inspiring atmosphere they can provide.

When you were developing Interchange, was design a major consideration? What types of design influenced the process? For example, did you focus on different types of third spaces such as a restaurant of a café? 

Vanessa Lee Butz , Managing Director at Interchange

Vanessa Lee Butz , Managing Director at Interchange

One of our buildings, ‘Atrium’, is still under construction, but once complete, Interchange will offer over 84,000 square foot of coworking space. We will also have a number of exciting facilities available on-site, including a restaurant, cafe, bar, and gym.

The Camden buildings have been designed by DRS under the creative direction of Tom Dixon, an acclaimed British designer whose past work includes Shoreditch House and Mondrian Hotel.

In your opinion, why do you think that corporate players are now looking to leave their offices? What are they missing in the more traditional environments ?

We’ve definitely seen a trend over the last few years of larger, corporate companies becoming interested in what startups are doing and the way in which they work, particularly in relation to innovative business practices and new technologies. Coworking is a big part of this, as it encourages openness, creativity and collaboration. Interchange provides a framework for these elements and is therefore an ideal space, whether for a one-man startup or a satellite team of a larger company.

Do you provide any additional services for your members? Have you curated these programs to certain types of professionals, or are they more open?

As part of the wider Interchange offering, we run regular events, workshops, talks and training sessions from our events space, which anyone can attend. Additionally, our tenants also have the unique opportunity to establish their own retail space in the iconic Camden Markets, from which they can showcase and sell their products.