August 2016

“Just like so many other industries, Real Estate will be revolutionized by digital and coworking” – Mischa Schlemmer

Architect and economist, Mischa Schlemmer, was introduced to coworking while she was working on her Masters Degree. The focus of Mischa’s research was economic development of creative clusters at the LSE, which stayed with her as she moved on to ultimately work on building up Google’s Paris office.

Since then, Mischa has become a notable expert on the role of technology in today’s workplace, taking into account the rise of remote workers, globalization and a need for a better work/life balance. Currently, she is focused on helping conscious community leaders attract, engage and maintain optimal creativity and collaboration through emotional intelligence, peak performance and flow state.

Hi, Mischa. Can you please tell us about the role coworking has played throughout your career?

When I was building Google’s office in Paris, I reflected on their approach to building their own private creative cluster, aka Googleplex. Complete with all the perks and amenities to attract, engage and retain the best and brightest “smart creatives” as CEO Erick Schmit calls them, I recognized a lot of similarities between these creative clusters and the overall coworking philosophy and practices. I also noticed that Google was drawing on the same creative engagement and community building approaches that I had originally experienced in my “studio” shared workspace while in architecture school.

I began talking to my real-estate development colleagues and friends about coworking as it became a fast evolving trend, acting as a catalyst for more flexible relationships between office space operators and workers. This led me to become fascinated by the intersection of coworking’s bottom up approach, user generated solutions that compliment and contrast with the corporate top-down model, as well as hybrid models for nurturing creativity and collaboration.

As you are interested in how globalization influences workplaces, what are some of the ways that a global workforce has inspired the future of work movement?

With the introduction of more open communication channels, producers (entrepreneurs) who need support to bring their product or service to market can now easily connect to investors and venture capital who seek to invest their gains back into the market, which is ultimately driving the “start up” business model.

For the global workforce, there is a greater need for emotional intelligence and intercultural awareness, as well as harboring more sensitivity and diplomacy as a way to understand the needs, wants and expectations of diverse consumers, workers, investors, and governments around the world.

How has coworking, as a global movement, influenced real estate?

In regards to commercial office real estate, the relationship between landlords and tenants has changed. The shift towards “startup” business culture means that companies are created to test market demands, and they are subsequently not willing to carry the financial or operational risk as well as the demand for long-term leases.

The financial crisis led to tightening up of overhead budgets across the corporate sector and today an increasing amount of companies are exploring more flexible workspace agreements and provisions for their employees to attract, retain and engage talent/workers. Overall, contemporary businesses need flexibility and outsourced pay-as-you-go services and support.

Mischa Schlemmer

Mischa Schlemmer

The coworking model translated into space as a service model is highly flexible and customizable. In the past, landlords contracted with a company paid the end user to show up every day to occupy the workstation, but now the coworking model is more similar to a hotel where the space operator sells space as a service to end users who have specific expectations and demands. Developers, brokerages, and landlords need to understand this service and ultimately design for and accommodate the expanding diversity of needs and expectations of end users.

What are the challenges that real estate still faces today?

The biggest challenges faced by the real-estate sector today is keeping up and staying ahead of the radical changes that are constantly challenging longstanding expensive and heavily administrative traditional processes associated with the industry. The real estate sector is perhaps the last to be overhauled by the digital revolution due to the scale and permanence of the product. But, real estate will be revolutionized just like so many other industries, from music, health, financial, education, public service, agriculture, etc.

What can more corporate enterprises do to actually make room for innovation? 

Listen! Listen! Listen! Build trusting open engaged communication within their communities and ask the community members (investors, leaders, workers, consumers, partners, etc) what they want and need. Also, make sure to ask exactly how they want to help contribute to the community. Set up clear agreements and buy-in about the vision and value of the community identity or brand. Use internal CRM (contact relationship management) to track and support each community member’s growth and evolution. Empower community members to participate and serve the community in a way that feels generative for them.

What would be the best steps to take to create an original model that actually fits your community?

Make it a priority and co-create a plan that enables regular practice and engagement.

In what ways can corporate companies use coworking values in a genuine way? 

Focus on each community member as a cherished and special talent worth getting to know by unlocking their inner power of networks, creativity, and collaborative synergies.  Create programming and personalized support to help each community member explore the edges of their comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment.  Let go of control and focus on trust and empowerment.

What can the coworking industry do to maintain their values while also benefitting from financial partnerships with corporations? 

Use the emotional intelligence skills of coworking operators to make sure you have connected and clear values while you build a vision of the community identity/ brand. Make sure you also take the time to co-create a mutually beneficial relationship agreement with a practice plan of how to grow the relationship of the partnership.

Finally, how can these workspace models of the future influence the way that we build and organize our cities? (In the way that we promote better living for all)

Workplaces are becoming a place that you choose to go to because it helps you access the full potential of your mind, body, and imagination. This fundamental shift in the way we relate work to salary slavery s towards a more supportive environment that caters to self-actualization of optimized unique individuals will have a profound impact on city design. For example, more specialized neighborhood creative clusters with clear communication of common values and vision to attract like-minded neighbors, and business.

We will see an increase in coworking and coliving models, as well as more organized opportunities to volunteer time and energy towards purposeful service that will be integrated into city life.

“Knowing your community well is essential to keep users coming back”- Maria Lujan, ESDIP Berlin

Maria Lujan, was working as a freelance graphic designer on the lookout for a new place to work, as she was feeling too isolated at home. After trying out some cafés, she discovered coworking, but couldn’t quite find the space that fit her needs. So she decided to start her own, and that’s how ESDIP Berlin was born.

A hub for, artists, illustrators, cartoonists, designers, programmers, photographers, writers and creative people of all shapes and sizes, ESDIP aims to “encourage and inspire active creators”. In addition to the coworking staples, ESDIP also hosts creative courses and workshops focusing on drawing, graphic design, collage, digital painting, etc, all of which are open to the public.

Today, ESDIP Berlin is one of the most celebrated coworking spaces for artists and creative types.

Hi, Maria. Coworking has proven to successfully bring freelancers and entrepreneurs together, but how can coworking accommodate artists?

They key is to find the right coworking space for your needs, with the right atmosphere and people with similar interests. Of course, you need to do a bit of searching and compare each space.

Since our members at ESDIP are mostly creatives, such as designers, animators, illustrators, etc, it’s important for them to have exposure to other artists. It is very common to see them working together on new projects and also helping each other by sharing projects.

What are some of the programs you offer to help your members find work and funding?

We encourage our members to stay creative and support them as well as their projects.

In order to do this, we host artistic workshops almost every evening for coworkers, but these events are also open to the public. In addition, we also hold creative meetings regularly, and coworkers can participate in all of our creative events, by showing their art at our gallery or giving talks.

How is coworking different for those working in the creative industries?

It takes a lot of events, workshops and collaboration. For instance, we constantly host workshops and courses to encourage and motivate our coworkers to stay creative by finding ways to enhance their knowledge and improve their skills. We try to make our classes affordable and accessible.

What types of events do you offer outside of the coworking space?

We organize creative events and informal get-togethers for our coworkers and the public, which aim to help them network, get motivated and learn from one another. For example, we offer life-drawing classes, which gives artists in Berlin the chance to meet, and draw together. As we also have the support of ESDIP Madrid, teachers from our school in Madrid often travel to Berlin to give the classes.

Community at ESDIP Berlin

Community at ESDIP Berlin

And, once a year we host “ESDIP Berlin Connect” an event where creatives from different fields are meeting together to network, share job openings, opinions, etc., in the hopes of providing encouragement, motivation, and inspiration to others. We make a selection of five coworkers to talk about their work and present their projects.

If you were to give advice to someone looking to create a similar platform to ESDIP what would you suggest for them to do?

Our creative community is what differentiates our space from others. Identifying our market and loving is what brings us success. If a coworking space loses sight of the target market and becomes too broad in its offerings, it might lose its identity and become just another shared office.

Of course, there can be people from different backgrounds working in the same space and this could be a benefit for coworkers since they complement each other.Yet, it’s knowing your community well that is essential to keep users coming back. You can only be completely connected with them if you are part of the creative field as well.

How coworking allowed you to make partnerships with other creative networks that you might not otherwise have access to?

Our last exhibition was a collaboration with the collective Urban Art Clash, where screen printing posters and a lot of art pieces from the most popular Berlin-based street artists were shown. Together with exhibitions, we offered free workshops, live painting shows in addition to screen printing demonstrations.

How does coworking connect you to external creative resources that you couldn’t access from more traditional studios?

Overall, coworking spaces give you a sense of community and help you network. Many places organize outings and events or have a coffee shop or a nice kitchen that help coworkers to engage with others, even if it’s only small talk between tasks. These spaces provide many opportunities for collaboration with other creative professionals you might not have met otherwise.

You also have a location in Madrid. How is that location different?

ESDIP Madrid is an art institution founded in 1983. They offer professional courses in the fields of animation, illustration and design. They also organize art exhibitions and events for their students and for the public.

Some of the courses we offer here in Berlin are part of the ESDIP Madrid program and the same teachers travel to Berlin to give the classes. Students from ESDIP Madrid also come to Berlin to join our courses.

Does having two locations enhance your artistic network, and if so, how?

It’s really wonderful to have access to two locations, both of which are in such inspiring cities like Madrid and Berlin. It opens up so many doors to new opportunities that could not exist in a single space.

Keeping both spaces connected provides more opportunities for collaboration with other talented creative people. We put our members with professionals from Spain who are willing to work on new projects, thus enhancing cross-collaboration

In addition to project sharing, coworkers are often able to travel with their work, so having a second location that feels “like home” is priceless.

“We revitalised the space and, as a result, we see restaurants and coffee places opening up around us”- Dan Zakai, MindSpace (Tel Aviv)

The evolution of coworking is no longer following a straight path, today’s spaces can be everything from purely bottom up, to purely top down, and everything in-between. One thing we are seeing now is spaces that are combining various elements to create a mixture of fully service offices that also cultivate strong communities. Mindspace is one of those spaces. After setting up its first location in Tel Aviv close to 3 years ago and has been going strong ever since. Now with 4 locations, 2 in Tel Aviv, and two more in Berlin and Hamburg, co-founder Dan Zakai is set on creating a new standard of office space for today’s generation of professionals.

Hi, Dan. Can you please tell us about the coworking scene in Tel Aviv before you established Mindspace?  

When I first started my business 3 years there weren’t actually too many coworking spaces in Tel Aviv, unlike today. Of course, there were some established spaces, but many of them were just offering basic amenities. We saw great potential to create something new in the city.

What is the coworking scene like in Tel Aviv?

Overall coworking in Tel Aviv is growing. In 2015 there was a 74% increase in property designated to serve as coworking spaces. The coworking surge has caused the SME market in Tel-Aviv to thrive as well, as fully equipped serviced offices are providing a boost to tech-oriented businesses, old and new.

At the moment, Mindspace is one of three major coworking players in Tel Aviv, which includes Regus and WeWork. We were also one of the first spaces to offer high-end serviced office space that incorporates contemporary aesthetics and a highly professional surrounding without being too corporate.

What is it about Mindspace that sets it apart from a more “traditional” coworking?

Firstly, we are always sure to choose prime locations, which are already filled with established business and places to go out. We tap into these vibrant areas by offering a wide range of services for professionals in a modern, spacious location. For example, our smallest space is 2,000sqm and our largest space is 5,000sqm.

Secondly, it’s important to know that while coworking is a very sexy industry nowadays it’s still growing in the context of the real estate industry. Since the market is still small, it takes time to create room for these types of coworking spaces. We are paying attention to this growth while simultaneously subscribing to the coworking values. we make sure to invest a significant amount of time into researching our member’s needs, ultimately curating our services to meet their specific demands. Because we offer a highly professional landscape, plus a strong communal foundation, we tend to have a very diverse mixture of professionals who come to Mindspace.

Has Mindspace had any noticeable impact on the neighborhoods where you set up spaces?

I don’t think we can talk about specific major impact as the locations we choose are already primed for business, such as digital companies and startups. But we do change the look and feel of the buildings that we inhabit. For example, we took over 2 floors of a formerly traditional office space and totally revitalised the space and as a result we also see restaurants and coffee places opening up around us that is closer to the Mindspace level.

What types of members typically come to Mindspace and what have you noticed about their working patterns?

Our members range from individual freelancers to whole companies. We offer open workspace as well as private offices. But, one thing that we have noticed is that freelancers decide to have their own office after a while. What this tells us is that many of our members want access to the coworking community that offers resources and support, but that they also need the privacy of an office to ensure productivity.

Why do you think companies are so attracted to coworking spaces? Could it be they want to tap into talent, or need inspiration?

At Mindspace, we have companies that employ up to 200 people. Many of these companies want to be a part of a community, in addition to having access to our excellent locations and the chance to be more flexible. In Tel Aviv we have also seen that companies are looking for new talent, so they are coming to us to build up their base via the coworking model and becoming inspired by the community as a result.

You mentioned before that you pay close attention to your community, consistently altering your services to meet member needs. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Our community is a central part of the Mindspace model. We don’t limit ourselves, but we want to be sure that we preserve our vision, which consists of providing services and also catering to each specific community.

Dan Zakai, © Max Threlfall

Dan Zakai, © Max Threlfall

At each of our locations, we have we have an open space for members that is also open to the public. We try to maintain diversity within the events so that they don’t just focus on startups and freelancers, but rather target a larger audience, whether it is art, lifestyle, or anything that is relevant to this new generation of professionals.

I see this type of community building as one of the most beautiful things about coworking spaces. While they emerged as a solution for startups and freelancers, they have now expanded their reach, allowing all types of people to have access to knowledge and resources. Again, we see ourselves as a platform for a new generation and once we know our members, and we spend time experimenting and modifying our community services.

How does the community in Tel Aviv differ from the communities in Berlin and Hamburg?

In all of our locations, we are gaining traction. Some of our tenants include M&C Saatchi, Target Global, and Minimalism & Co, to name a few. We also have long waiting lists in Tel Aviv as well as in Berlin. When we were setting up our space, we felt that like in Tel Aviv, space in Berlin and Hamburg was also lacking  high-end professional amenities for companies. So, while communities may have different needs, they also lack the same resources.

But, as we see ourselves as a platform for a new generation, we want to meet needs beyond office space. We do this by additional services to members, and also through our partnerships in Hamburg and Berlin as well.Some things we are looking at now are various finance solutions, discounts, travels, etc. Overall our mission is to make coworking spaces available to new industries new customers and to grow simultaneously.

Did you already registered for Coworking Europe 2018? Book now and join us in Amsterdam from Nov 14th-16th.