January 2017

“Coworking can bring tired workspace back to life”-Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

In 2012, husband and wife team Patrick and Suzanne Murdock took a big risk. They decided to develop a coworking space in Newry, Northern Ireland, at a time when the city was still in the depths of the recession. Three years later, The Hub Newry is still standing, offering a community environment for start-ups, freelancers, small businesses and community groups based on a sustainable and ethical working ethos. With a “combination of hard work, perseverance, and the support of the local business community”, the Hub is now one of the leading coworking spaces in Northern Ireland.

Hi, Patrick and Suzanne. What inspired you to open the Hub Newry and can you please tell us a bit about the space today?

Patrick: We had just returned from England and I was self-employed working out of our spare room and living a solitary existence where days could go by when the only face to face contact I would have was with family. I needed to be a part of a coworking space and the only way this was going to happen in Newry was by starting our own.

The Hub Newry was born from modest beginnings, located behind the boarded up façade of an old pub, which had become another victim of the recession. Today the space has evolved into an established city centre fixture, housing a community of entrepreneurs and micro businesses who work in partnership with each other to achieve the most elusive of business goals in recent years. We recently won the award for ‘best premises’ at the 2015 Greater Newry Area business awards, which comes hot on the heels of the Hub achieving “Gold” sustainability certification during the summer by Green Tourism.

What is the coworking scene currently like in Newry and did you need to introduce the community to the concept?

Suzanne: It has not been without its challenges. When we relocated from the UK, which is essentially a pro- business environment, we had no idea of all the difficulties that we would face when dealing with the infamous Northern Ireland red tape. Many of the things that we took for granted in London came as a shock in Newry, especially coworking!

It took a good year at the onset of our project to roll out the concept of coworking to Newry and the surrounding areas. Even though there were shared offices, hacker spaces and technical hubs, coworking, in the true sense of the word, didn’t really exist in Northern Ireland.

What types of action did you take in order to introduce the public to the concept?

In the early days, a second business helped to fund The Hub Newry as the office was literally empty. The first residents were those who were travelling or who worked abroad and had already seen the benefits of coworking. But, we were resilient and our ‘can do’ culture helped us to overcome many of the problems we faced. A lot of networking and obscure events including hosting the Oktoberfest Promo Video helped us along the way!

How does the coworking scene in Newry differ from the very advanced community in London?

Newry certainly has some “quirks”. A very strong sense of community and the need to succeed helps to drive the coworking concept here. We seem to attract various clusters of industries, which are successful in Northern Ireland including building, construction as well as creative & digital businesses, which all work together effectively.

What are some of the different needs/expectations of your members?

Businesses here seem to have to work harder in order to be profitable. There is far less start-up capital and most of the local government money is allocated to public sector and charitable projects. Despite this, coworking is now very effective and residents have higher expectations. Desks are far cheaper than in London and our businesses feed off each other well with regards to referrals, contacts and shared expertise.

In your opinion, is coworking self-sustainable and why is that? What do you think can be done to increase sustainability?

Yes, very much so. The local government has recognized the benefits of coworking and also sees a need to lower local taxes, which applies to coworking spaces. There is also much more collaboration between coworking spaces and local traditional businesses, but there is still work to be done in regards to solidifying partnerships between these businesses. Overall, coworking is certainly more sustainable if there is a “twinning system” or more of an international network of coworking businesses to give residents access to international offices.

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

The Hub is now planning to expand and will be opening a second premises in 2016. Since we are growing and we have basically mapped our growth to that of our residents, we have received feedback letting us know that our members are outgrowing our workspace, but that they still want to continue to be a part of our community.

Can the open workspace/coworking model play an important role in regenerating communities? 

Definitely. Tired workspace can be brought back to life for low cost and in a very sustainable way.

We now have a huge expertise to tap into when engaging with local colleagues, communities and businesses. This not only works from a business perspective but also allows us to mobilise members to work on voluntary and community projects such as the urban garden.

Why is this innovative model of work important in regards to how we understand the future of work?

Coworking plays a vital part in giving work experience placements, interview practice, coaching and assisting the resident businesses as well as the coworking business.

The Hub Newry is very community driven and also a big champion of green ethics, sustainability & culture for which we’ve recently been awarded the “Gold” certification by Green Tourism UK. Being very involved in community initiatives for both local businesses and social groups, we’re also really keen to participate in wider geographical areas with other coworking groups, businesses & community groups both Irish, UK & European.

Have you been to the Coworking Europe Conference before?

This is our first conference! We’re looking forward to gaining an international taste of what’s happening in the world of coworking. We are also very much looking forward to sharing experiences and ideas while simultaneously promoting our country and city to an international audience.

What will you be speaking about at this year’s conference?

We will be speaking about establishing a coworking space in an economically disadvantaged area. We will discuss the challenges of bringing a new concept to a traditionally conservative audience, and how our space helped resident businesses succeed. We will also speak about what it takes to establish a coworking space on a budget while still being able to remain sustainable and achieving a design excellence on a budget.

“Many people who came to work at Starbucks discovered that the coworking environment was a much better solution”-Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor runs both Creative Blueprint and Foundery in the vibrant city of Toronto, Canada. The newly renovated 15,000 sq ft community hub is an accessible venue run by Ashley and her business partner, Jake Koseleci, who also owns the property and leases space to Creative Blueprint and Foundery, in addition to a Starbucks.

Established in 2006, Creative Blueprint is a pioneer and leader in Toronto’s arts and coworking communities. Creative Blueprint provides studios, services and support for artists and entrepreneurs. The CB Studios in downtown Toronto are home to practicing visual artists, designers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Ashley to talk about what it was like to partner with Starbucks and how coffee culture can help coworking spaces grow.

Hi, Ashley. Can you please tell us a bit about the current state of Foundery and Creative Blueprint?

Established in 2010, Foundery currently operates two Coworking and Event Spaces within The Foundery Buildings. Foundery is one of Toronto’s first coworking spaces and we are home to a diverse and vibrant community of passionate, independent freelancers and artists. Foundery provides 2 unique shared coworking environments in addition to private offices and meeting rooms.

In the new year, we are planning to launch an exchange program with our newest Creative Blueprint location in Seattle, Washington (in partnership with Office Nomads).

Why did you decide to partner with Starbucks rather than opening your own coffee shop? 

My original plans for a coworking space included art studios, as well as an art gallery and cafe. The businesses are all complimentary and they support each other. The Foundery Buildings were the first venue where we could open all of these elements under one roof. Yet, we had an entire building to renovate and a mortgage to cover, so we decided that it would be a good idea to partner with an established anchor tenant that we didn’t feel bad about charging market rental rates.

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

At the time when we bought the building, there was construction on the street and we needed to increase foot traffic. Also, coworking was not as popular as it is today and many people were still unfamiliar with the concept. Thus, the cafe gave people a reason to come by and check out the newly renovated building.

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

Yes. Overall, it’s really events, coffee and casual opportunities that make connections and what helped to introduce the community to our space and to the coworking movement.

It has been a great way to find and to introduce people who need a community to the coworking concept. The partnership also offers a secure stream of patrons for the cafe and a secure revenue stream for the building. It also works out well when we need breakfast or coffee for our in-house workshops and events!

What are some of the specific benefits of having a partnership with Starbucks and what does it bring to the tenants and to the space owners?

Our members love coffee. We drink coffee all day and we also like snacks. Since we have our own desks next door, we don’t take up precious real-estate in Starbucks.

As a coworking space operator, I also visit the cafe to tell those people who are working on laptops that there is a better option that’s right next door. I’ve actually invited many cafe customers in for a trial day at Foundery and that worked out well both for Starbucks and for us.

Does having a partnership outside of the space provide the ability to impact the greater community on the whole as you have a wider reach?

Our reach was initially wider with Starbucks as a tenant, but now we have since established our location and our own community. Today, our events and members attract new visitors, like the CB Gallery, which is open to the public during exhibitions and we also participate in many city-wide initiatives that open our doors to the community.

Have you found that there could be a potential risk that your members would want to work in Starbucks, rather than your space?

Quite the opposite. Many people who came to work at the cafe discovered Foundery and decided that the coworking environment was a much better solution. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going out for coffee, but I’d rather work from the Foundery rooftop patio or in my studio with friends. I’m so much more efficient and productive in a coworking space than I could be in any cafe.

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

Now that we have established the model at this location, we’d like to see another service provider operating in the space. We are actually in the process of replacing the Starbucks with an independent operator that is more in line with our vision and mission for the space and community.

As we are a building full of independent artists and entrepreneurs, so it would be nice to see our peers using the space. Yet, we are taking our time in looking for the right cafe partner or collaborator who can provide amazing coffee, healthy food options and catering options for our members and many events.

Coworking Grows Up: An interview with Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of Coworking Europe

Like many of the major players in today’s coworking scene, Jean-Yves Huwart, started off as an unsatisfied employee. Driven by a need for more freedom, Huwart quit his job at a media company and started working as a freelancer. Yet, it didn’t take much more than two weeks before he started to get cabin fever. At the same time Huwart was going crazy in his home office, there was talk in Brussels about creating one of the first European Hubs, Hub Brussels, which launched in 2009. Huwart was one of the first members to join the space and he quickly realized that coworking was the epitome of what he had been writing about as a business journalist. For him, this budding movement met the requirements of the rapidly transforming modern workforce and was much more than just a fad.

Hi Jean-Yves, what initially pushed you to start the first Coworking Europe Conference?

Jean-Yves Huwart: While I was working at Hub Brussels I was witnessing, first hand, a growing need for shared workspaces that prioritized human interaction over production. I started looking elsewhere for similar spaces to the Hub, and I quickly figured out that coworking was a growing phenomenon that could be found all over Europe. This was the initial inspiration to start the first Coworking conference, and because Brussels is the capital city of Europe, it made sense to identify as a European conference.

When did you have the first event, and what was coworking community like in its early stages?

The first event took place in 2010. We expected around 50 people but instead 150 showed up. At that moment, we understood that something was really cooking. At the time, spaces were still in their nascent stages, Betahaus in Berlin was just one year old, and many of the big names you see in coworking today were just starting out. Because things were still operating on a smaller scale, we were able to easily connect with a lot of people who were developing spaces, and also the individuals who had knowledge about the coworking movement.

What countries, at the time, had the most advanced coworking scene? And how did these developments help develop the Coworking Europe Conference?

In 2010, many of the people we met at the conference came from Germany, which was the most advanced coworking scene at the time. They were already organizing themselves into an association, Coworking Deutschland, which was something that was ahead of its time. After the conference, Coworking Spain started and you also had a strong Italian scene growing.

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Because of these coworking associations that were forming, people started looking at ways in which they could come together, thus the people in Berlin invited us to have our conference there for the next year, which was in Betahaus, and Club Office. Then, when we were in Berlin, we met the people from Paris who invited us for the next year and from there we gained more traction and the interested has never stopped growing.

From the first Coworking Europe, a real community was formed, so while the conference is still a yearly event always open to newcomers, it’s also an annual gathering of people who see each other as a family.

As someone who has been there from the very beginning, what are some of the major developments you have seen in the coworking over time?

In a lot of ways we grew up alongside many of today’s more developed coworking spaces, so we have really seen the ways in which the movement has changed over time. We also had the chance to see the way that spaces [have] experimented since the very beginning.

One thing that has changed over time is that coworking operators have learned how to monetize their spaces. Many of the people who attended the first conference were interested in coworking, not so much from a business perspective, but rather as a side project.

Today, the coworking community is playing a major role in how new economies will be structured in the future, as they are paving the way for an innovative workforce.

What are some of the major trends that you see currently in the coworking scene?

This year we had 360 attendees in Milan, which was comprised of experts in the field and also many newcomers. After Milan, we can really say coworking is steadily growing as an industry, which has become more and more mature, while still acting as a source of inspiration for various curators. One thing we’ve seen is that there is a whole new set of players interested in coworking, from government, employees to corporations.

These different sectors are interested in coworking because it is shaping the workspace of the 21st century. They realize that the function of the workplace is changing and that it is more focused on interaction and the human experience. Overall, the sharing economy, co-living, and collaboration are key elements to success in the business world today.

What do coworkers expect today that they didn’t before?

There is certainly more insight available, but what we do see, now more than ever, is that people are interested in growing a business and the proportion of spaces created purely as a social project has decreased. This doesn’t mean that the passion and the ideals have disappeared, but it does mean that coworking is approached in a more mature way. The more the movement grows, the more we understand the economics behind it, such as the importance of having private offices and services, which can generate income.

For example, the initial results of the Global Coworking Survey, which was presented at the conference, showed that more spaces than ever are looking to expand.

We also heard a lot about the emerging trend of coworkcation, what does that say about the way we approach contemporary work styles?

This year’s conference presented more data and hard facts than ever before. We are seeing the rise of different concepts driven by coworking, like “coworkation,” which presents a completely new approach to freelancing. We had several presentations on the topic, from Hubud in Bali and also Neo-Nomad. This increasing global mobility for employees and employers will be a cause a dramatic change in the way we see travel and it will also impact tourist destinations. In the future we could see a significant population of the workforce moving freely and it may eventually be the standard way to make global connections.

In addition to nomadic freelancers, many people are discussing the relationship between coworking and corporations. It has always been a topic, but now we see people developing strategies to make this relationship a reality. Corporations in the future will most likely look like today’s coworking spaces. In many ways, large enterprises need to look towards the coworking model in order to remain relevant in the future.

You also had the first Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town this year. What were some of the most significant takeaways and what did this experience tell you about the global coworking community?

The reaction was very positive. We saw that in the same way that coworking is important in Europe, it is equally, if not more, important in developing countries. For us, basic standards like fast internet in an office space is a commodity, but this not the case in Africa. In the coworking community in Africa, the primary role of the movement is to provide basic infrastructure at an affordable cost. In addition to meeting basic needs, coworking also brings a lot added valued in regards to social engagement, both on a local and global level, in the African community.

What do you predict the future of coworking will look like?

If we keep seeing the value system of the sharing economy as a main force behind the development of new economic models, coworking spaces will be one of the most visible parts of this transformation. The coworking movement will go beyond the conceptual stage and become the physical manifestation of the collaborative economy. While walking through a cityscape, coworking spaces will line the streets, much like factories and offices did in the last industrial boom.

Note: This article was originally posted on Shareable

A coworking retreat in rural Serbia realizes another benefit that coworking can bring to corporate players

An increasing amount of companies are realizing the benefits of the coworking movement. Retreats are a big part of the changes taking place in the workplace, and offer a welcome opportunity for both newcomers and experienced players to get away from their everyday routine. The majority of people imagine these retreats to be on tropical islands, yet as the concept has spread rapidly, there are now getaways being offered in more off the grid areas.

In Mokrin, a village in the the province Vojvodina Serbia, a new coworking retreat will be launching this year, offering workers the chance to explore the idyllic Serbian landscape while also gaining exposure to potential local and international collaborations. We spoke with Ivan Brkljac, project leader of Mokrin House about what their latest project offers to nomadic workers.

Hi Ivan, can you please tell us a bit about the project and what inspired you to start Mokrin House?

I am the project leader of Mokrin House, which is an urban coworking retreat in a rural part of Serbia. We offer an ideal place to get away from the large city chaos and focus on your work. Even though Mokrin House is in the remote countryside, you will feel anything but isolated. We offer the chance to connect with like-minded people, such as other digital professionals who enjoy a work-life balance at a rustic pace.

What would a typical day at Mokrin look like? 

Imagine your day like this: A morning jog through the fields, giving you energy to then focus on your work or current projects. For lunch, you will have a healthy home-cooked meal prepared for you at the estate. After some more work, you have the option of going on a bike ride into the village, or a swim in the pool (best in summertime) or even just relaxing with coworkers, over a glass of wine on the porch. That’s how we envision our coworking retreat.

How long have you been in operation and did you face challenges when introducing your space to the public?

The estate has been in operation since 2012, however, most of the activities to take place there so far, have been corporate and large enterprises. In addition to these events, we have also had many arts and culture workshops, such as ceramic workshops, concerts, exhibitions, and so on. Today, we are focusing more on the rising coworking movement, as we feel it is a better fit for us.

The coworking retreat will start in the Spring of 2016 and in the beginning, spreading the word  has been challenging. But the more we explain the concept to the people, the more they become interested. In fact, several reservations for the spring launch have already been made.

Most of the coworking activity is located in Belgrade, what could you offer to those who are unfamiliar with rural parts of Serbia?

Belgrade has a vibrant startup and freelancing community buzzing with new ideas and projects. However like all large cities, living and working there has its downsides. Traffic jams, lack of parking, air pollution, and higher prices are just some of the difficulties that you might encounter. On the upside, Belgrade has great nightlife scene, a lot of cultural events, interesting young people and much more. What we offer in Mokrin House is not opposite of what Belgrade or other large European cities offer,  in fact, we consider our space to be complimentary to urban environments.

Ivan Brkljac, Mokrin House

Ivan Brkljac, Mokrin House

All of us sometimes need to get away from the noise and crowd and just restart ourselves, and there is no better way to focus on your work than changing your environment, especially one that is designed to to boost your productivity during your “work” time and ensure maximum relaxation during “after work” hours.

In Serbia, many of the rural areas have faced economic hardship. Do you think that offering a space where people can create and also stay for an extended period of time will help revitalise rural regions? If so, why? Have you already seen any positive signs?

There are several positive effects a coworking space in the rural area has to the local community. First, and most apparent is the positive economic impact. We hire several people from the local village as staff and these jobs wouldn’t exist without the space. Also, most people who stop by Mokrin house, usually purchase some of the local produce, such as excellent cheese or homemade rakija. Apart from the sheer economic benefits, the local community is always invited to take part in educational and cultural workshops and seminars, which has unmeasurable nonmaterial benefits.

Are there any government/state initiatives that have helped you grow and develop? If you were to make such a partnership how would you define your added value?

No. We have not worked with any government bodies and at the moment we are not really considering these types of partnerships.

What types of services/perks do you offer and what kinds of people do you typically attract?

The most important thing we offer is an ideal work environment. Everything else, from cooking classes, pottery classes, healthy homemade food, afternoon bike rides, mulled wine, to swimming in an eco-friendly pool comes as an extra perk. People who are attracted by the idea of Mokrin House are the ones who cherish the work-life balance and who understand how important it to travel, change working environments and meeting new, creative people.

Do you have any plans to expand/make changes/ add-ons to cater to a certain group?

Our expansion plans depend on the markets readiness to adopt this new concept. Our final vision is to revitalise an entire rural village of Mokrin, by making it the biggest and the most diverse coworking village in the world with Mokrin House in its centre.

As a space operator, what are some of the key changes needed in your community? What do people need to improve their professional lives, and how can your space offer this?

As a space operator, I need to make sure that all the coworkers are living the experience that they expect. The spring of 2016 will be the first time that we focus solely on coworking, so we will consider the many changes needed to be made in order to fulfil everybody’s needs.

You were at Coworking Europe this year. Was it your first time, and what were you looking to gain from the experience? Was there some good input you were able to take away and apply to your own projects?

This was my first European Coworking Conference, and surely not the last. The conference gave me a chance to get to know many people who are on the same path as Mokrin house. Two things left the biggest impression on me. The first one was the statistics that have showed how fast the coworking movement is expanding, confirming that we are on the right track. The second thing that was very noticeable that almost none of the coworking spaces have an identical model. Every space is different and unique, showing that the industry understands that each community is different and requires different things.

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

Coworking in Japan is still in its nascent stages, we hope Startup Retreat Japan can help popularize the movement.

Daniel Klose was working as a project manager in Berlin, enjoying the vibrant startup scene, but looking to get outside of the city. Having always dreamt of working remotely, but not willing to commute on a daily basis, he decided to change things up in a big way. He and his wife packed up their things and moved to Japan and open a Café in the countryside. Combining the café and web development they got settled in Setouchi-Shi, Okayama. Today, Daniel is working on brining coworking retreats to Japan, though Startup Retreat Japan and navigating the startup scene one day at a time.

Hi, Daniel. Can you please tell us a bit about how you established Startup Retreat Japan? 

Daniel Klose

Daniel Klose

I was still following the startup scene and tried to get involved as much as possible with tech expats in Japan. I quickly realized that for some reason this is a huge correlation between tech company employees and their interest in the Japanese culture.

At the same time I saw the potential for growth in my area as it used to be a touristic resort area during the Japanese assets bubble. So you the environment was in place, but there was no one around anymore to populate it. So my co-founder Aimable and I decided to just give it a try.

What was the coworking scene like in Japan when you first started Startup retreat? 

Startup Retreat Japan is still in its beginnings at the moment. We are currently evaluating some potential clients but have not yet had any bookings in place. In general coworking spaces in Japan are not much of a thing.

Freelancing in japan is still pretty much ten years behind the rest of the world and is considered “unprofessional” I suppose. The city of Okayama has 2 coworking spaces, but they seem to be mostly used by sales people for companies. Also, I have yet to meet any developers there.

Is the concept of work in Japan still traditional? 

I would say that South East Asia is especially popular due to its nice weather and more importantly cheap cost of living. Japan is not necessarily known for neither, especially not cheap cost of living! Whilst the tourism sector in Japan is seeing the strongest growth in all of Asia, it is still well behind the tourist hotspots like Thailand, or Vietnam. Also, tourism in Japan is largely dominated by South Korean and Chinese tourists. I saw some numbers showing that these groups make up about 75% of all the tourists at the moment.

How have people responded to the overall movement in comparison to coworking in other Asian countries ?

I believe the concept of co-working can not at all be applied to Japan as it is seen as in for example Thailand. We were discussing our project with the tourism department of our town and they weren’t even aware of the concept of remote work and especially not work retreats. It is important to understand that we only market our services to foreign companies because of this. Whilst it would be easier for Japanese companies to use our services I think there is far more potential in targeting modern businesses.

You are based in Okayama. As it is a relatively rural area, was it difficult to get the project off the ground? 

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

To be honest, it was surprisingly easy. As mentioned above the area used to be a Japan tourism hot spot in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays almost all the space run under capacity and they are desperately looking for ways to improve their situation. The city was very cooperative too.

What are the benefits of offering a program to coworkers in a more natural setting?

I believe the most important aspect for any business is to get things done and ship. There are usually two types of work retreats nowadays. Team building retreats and the ones where a team should actually work. We try to market our space towards the second one. Getting things done in a beautiful environment, without distraction. This is also why we offer a complete package experience, which includes airport pickups/drop-offs. We also offer a concierge service, meal delivery and transport to restaurants, activities, etc. Basically we keep all the noise away and make sure that you can reach that milestone.

What types of members do you usually attract? Are you focused more on nomadic workers, or are you more focused on the local community?

As mentioned earlier we are mostly looking abroad. There seems to be a great affection for Japan and their culture in the tech economy especially in NA and Europe. I would be happy to welcome Japanese firms in the future but I believe we have to wait a few more years before work retreats becoming a thing here.

What are some of the unique qualities of coworking in Japan that might interest coworkers who travel frequently?

I believe one of the biggest advantages that Japan has to offer for digital nomads is their broadband connectivity. Countryside town cafe surrounded by farms, with 1gbps up and downstream fiber, you find it here. Besides Korea, Japan is probably one of the only places in the world that opens the digital nomad door for people who have to handle a lot of data to make a living e.g. video editors and such. Other than that, I believe Japan is still a place that is relatively untouched by Western cultures, so you experience these “wow” moments quite often.

SmartOffice and KantoorKaravaan: Winners of the Coworking Europe Awards

For the first time ever, Coworking Europe hosted the Coworking Europe Awards in 2016. The event included two categories, one for best design and one for best community action. Spaces and operators submitted their concepts and projects to be voted on by the coworkers from around the world. The awards allowed for Coworking Europe to showcase some of the top initiatives taking place today in the global coworking community.

The winners were judged on the range of innovative steps taken towards their unique design, or actions towards community building. This year’s Coworking Europe Awards also honored the winners with prizes worth more than 3.000€. Awards included 6 months free membership on the ESSENSYS platform and 12 months usage of the KISI smart-locking system for your space free of charge. In addition to practical tools, Coworking Europe also providence a placement on a Coworkation trip to Barcelona and two tickets to Coworking Europe 2017.

Smart Office takes home first prize for the Coworking Community Action Award 

The winner of this year’s Best Community Action Award was presented at the Coworking Europe Conference in Brussels, to Miroslav Mijatov, founder of Smart Office in Belgrade, Serbia. Smart Office recently expanded their space and network by moving into a new space in the city center in the Serbia capital. In addition to physical growth, Smart Office also extended their community by reaching out to those in need. The award was presented to the Smart Office community for their initiative to help refugees and displaced persons by using their community and resources.

Miroslav Mijatov, winner of the Best Community Action Award.

Miroslav Mijatov, winner of the Best Community Action Award.

In his presentation of the project, Miroslav explained that as Serbia is both a country in transition and a hub for refugees and immigrants, the Smart Office sees these changes not in a negative light, but an opportunity to garner community spirit and offer support. Their event, titled “Refugee Fundraiser – Quiz Night”, grew and strengthened the Smart Office community, opening their doors to those who had nowhere to go for quiz and games night.

Smart Office members also had the option to bring donations, including clothing, hygiene items, food and water, packaging, baby products, blankets and other items. Ultimately, their actions also brought in donations, which enabled the space to provide 100 meals for those in need. Not only was this initiative fueled by doing something for the greater good, but also strengthened the Smart Office team. Today they are recognized as a coworking space where members value generosity and genuine community building.

KantoorKaravaan wins Best Coworking Design Award

It’s hard to pick just which coworking space has the best design. Coworking spaces by nature are innovative, imaginative and flexible, and just like coworking communities, they all have their own special touch. This yeah at the first Coworking Europe Design Awards, the winner brought us something pretty unique: mobile coworking. Kontoorkaravaan provides coworking offices that are on the go. Setting up shop in converted caravans, the fully equipped coworking caravans are integrated with the great outdoors, making scenic stops along the way.



Kontoorkaravaan hails from the Netherlands, but currently has coworking stations setup in various locations. The caravans are designed to have offices that face the great outdoors, allowing coworkers to enjoy the view and stay focused. Kontoorkaravaan also accommodates larger groups, with mobile workstations with large tables for meetings and group work. At the end of a productive day, coworkers set up a full camp with different caravans and tables in the middle.

The Coworking Europe Awards were sponsored by Essensys