In January 2015, the Hubud team created and hosted Coworking Unconference Asia, which had around 120 attendees from around Asia. During the last session at the event, the team asked the audience whether or not they should form an Asian Coworking Alliance. The simple question led to an impassioned discussion about the potential alliance, concluding with 3 coworking spaces offered to take the discussion forward. As many coworkers and space managers know, it’s difficult to get there types of projects off the ground, especially because they are often born from passion, not revenue.
Fast forward to the 2nd Coworking Unconference Asia in 2016, and the CU Asia team decided to get things off the ground and launched the Coworking Alliance somewhat unilaterally. In its first year, CAAP has 30 paying member spaces and has offered 17 webinars for coworking space owners and staff. We caught up with the co-founder of Hubud, Steve Munroe, to discuss the coworking scene in Asia and how the formation of a coworking alliance can help global coworking communities grow.
Coworking has grown exponentially in some parts of Asia. Is the model considered to be a viable option for corporate players and local freelancers?
Like with a lot of things, the industry is younger in Asia but it is moving faster. Corporate players are getting involved, which includes both CRE players and corporate customers. As a result, investment is scaling up, for example, Spacemob in Singapore just completed a $5.5. million raise. At the same time, there has been an explosion of smaller players entering the market. Last year when we held the Coworking Academy there were only 35 attendees, and this year there were over 100. Attendees came from major markets, such as Jakarta, as well as rural areas.
On that same note, what role do you see coworking playing in the context of redefining “traditional” work culture in the region?
In Asia, relationships are traditionally hierarchical, within institutions like companies and governments, as well as within society. So the flatter social systems that are typically seen, and also encouraged, in coworking spaces is a bit of a change.
Steve Munroe, co-founde Hubud, Bali
Are corporate entities in the region embracing coworking?
Some, particularly in more internationalized markets like Singapore and Hong Kong where some corporates are placing some of their staff in coworking spaces. There are also examples of corporations hiring coworking space operators to consult them on how to ‘import’ the coworking culture into their internal environments, in relation to design, internal communications, etc.
Who are the most likely members to join coworking spaces in Asia?
This varies greatly by location. The markets in Bali or Melbourne or Hong Kong are very different from one another. In many countries, however, the early adopters tend to come from places where coworking has been around longer so they tend to better understand the value proposition, such as North America and Europe.
What are the benefits of forming a coworking alliance?
In its first year, our focus was simple and modest. we aimed to create the kind of networking connections and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for coworking space operators in the same way that we do for our members. Therefore focus has been on hosting events, online webinars and just creating channels for us to communicate more frequently.
This year we are looking to move increasingly into collective negotiating, such as getting discounts from vendors that benefit both our members and/or their members. In addition to increasing beneficial relationships, we aim to focus on research and advocacy that will allow us to support operators looking to start discussions with their local governments/partners and approach regional bodies like ASEAN.
From your experience, what types of partnerships/collaborations have sparked from the alliance that would not have had otherwise?
Again, the biggest thing for us this year was having members teach each other and share resources (templates, checklists) that benefit one another. Right now we are not actively collaborating with other bodies, but we would like to going forward. The truth is, any kind of alliance is challenging to operate and deliver meaningful value to its members and partners. When we started it, our stated commitment was that we would not start a ‘talking head’ kind of industry association. So we will see how we and others do with that and navigate what works for everyone in the process.
StartupAmsterdam is a public/private initiative, with a time-span of four years to fortify the city’s position as leading startup hub in Europe, and increase the international visibility of Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem. The growth of a wide web of coworking spaces and accelerators all over Amsterdam is a strong argument used on StartupAmsterdam‘s communication materials to convince outsiders of the powerful position ot the City as one of the the most vibrant startup hotspot in Europe.
Iris Muis is StartupAmsterdam’s startup liaison . The startup liaison oversees Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem, managing data on the city’s startups, co-working spaces, corporates connected to the Corporate Network, relevant events and more. We interviewed Iris about how important the growing Amsterdam coworking hubs’ network was for the developement of city’s startups ecosystem.
Hi Iris. What is StartupAmsterdam ?
In 2015, the City of Amsterdam has realised that, to play its part in the European startup ecosystem, it had to invest in the city’s vibrant startup scene. Local government teamed up with the startup community and drafted a plan of action: StartupAmsterdam. This plan consists of fifteen measures to help startups grow, based on the five basic requirements for startup success: talent; customers; content; capital and an environment that is startup-minded.
StartupAmsterdam works with an extensive network of partners and is happy to share its approach with other cities. It does not invest in individual startups. We help optimize the startup climate in the city, making sure all is in place for you to make a success of your startup.
According to your website, the city’s wide network of Coworking spaces are one of Amsterdam’s main assets to lure Startups. Why ?
The City of Amsterdam is proud of its well-developed and diverse startup ecosystem which embeds these companies and the knowledge institutions, high-quality accelerators, incubators, startup academies, corporations, coworking spaces and VC firms that help them grow. Not only are coworking spaces key players in the startup ecosystem, they also provide a basic need for startups: a place to work. Amsterdam’s city centre is crowded, because of the limited space we have in our circular grid of canals. Coworking spaces can lower the threshold for startups to have an office space in the city centre.
What is the difference you make between coworking spaces and accelarator/incubator offering ?
Accelerator programs offer intense training courses for startups. Incubator programs offer in-house mentoring, and coworking spaces offer space to work. For the oversight of those different players on our website, differentiation is easy. Most of the time, accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces approach us to ask if they can be placed on the relevant oversight. Startup physical Hubs are key players in our startup ecosystem. To see an overview of the amazing incubators and accelerators in our city check our website: http://www.iamsterdam.com/en/business/startupamsterdam
More than 1.100 startup would be based in Amsterdam. How many work from hubs (coworking and accelerators) ?
What I can say now is that these hubs are an important driver of startup growth in this city, as they often support seed or early stage startups and really strengthen their growth. We have set up a governmental incubator called Startup in Residence. One of StartupAmsterdam’s measures details how local government can act as launching customer to startups. In collaboration with the Chief Technology Office (CTO) of Amsterdam we set up Startup in Residence: local government invites Dutch and international startups to devise innovative solutions to social issues in the city. The pilot of this incubator successfully ran in 2015 with seven startups. Currently we are running Startup in Residence 2.0.
Since the summer of 2016, seven new coworking spaces have opened their doors in Amsterdam.
Are Amsterdam’s coworking spaces becoming more numerous or simply bigger ?
Both. For example, coworking space B.Amsterdam started out with 20K square metres in 2015, and now has more than doubled in size, to an astounding 42K square metres: http://b-buildingbusiness.com/amsterdam/. Since the summer of 2016, seven new coworking spaces have opened their doors in Amsterdam. We keep track of them, their addresses and the amount of square metres of co-working space they have.
Do those hubs collaborate ?
Amsterdam’s ecosystem is very well-connected and parties work together where needed. We have a small hands-on team working on executing the fifteen measures of our action programme. Some examples of what StartupAmsterdam has been up to so far: establish Launchpad Meetups to connect corporates and startups; help launch startup academies like BSSA and the Growth Tribe academy to educate the talent startups need; kickstart Amsterdam Capital Week to connect startups to capital; bring code into Amsterdam school curriculums and educate teachers to do so; attract talent to help startups grow; establish international relations and organise bootcamps to the benefit of our startup community; to know more about what we do we recommend you browse our online news section and about page.
Coworking hubs in amsterdam are both becoming bigger in size and more numerous
The StartupAmsterdam website offers a useful calendar of all the startup-related events in Amsterdam. The calendar is open to all to upload startup events taking place in Amsterdam, just hit the “Submit Event” button. After we agree that your event is relevant to Amsterdam’s startup community it will show up on the calendar!
Amsterdam is also one of the tech clusters in the Netherlands that work closely together under the name of StartupDelta. In the past one and a half years, StartupDelta has linked up the various innovation hubs in the Netherlands and positioned our country as one of the most attractive startups ecosystems in Europe. Whereas StartupDelta was a governmental programme on a national level, StartupAmsterdam is a four-year action programme on a city level. The Dutch capital city is one dimension in the multi-faceted ‘StartupDelta of Europe,’ the Netherlands.
How about welcoming ‘talents’ in Amsterdam. Is your approach similar to what you do with advising startups ?
For welcoming talent in Amsterdam and connecting them better with the startup ecosystem, we have developed several programs. TechConnect is a program that brings together students and graduates with a tech background with startups. We also work closely together with the universities in Amsterdam, for instance in designing an honours track for excellent students to introduce them into the world of startups. Coding 4 Amsterdam is another program.
At the most recent Coworking Europe conference, which took place in Brussels in November of last year, Anil George, Head of Operations at 91Springboard, India’s largest Coworking network, facilitated a masterclass on how Coworking spaces measure their business performance.
Here is a sum up of the workshop.
1. Determine the right metrics and indicators
Coworking spaces, like any other businesses, need to measure and quantify performance progress based on defined targets and goals based on various activities. One must consider KPIs (Key Performing Indicators) specific to running a coworking space.
Those metrics will have to be customized according to each activity related to the coworking operations.
We also need to ensure that KPIs are readable, as well as standardized and automated so that everyone can clearly understand these changes.
But first, let’s make sure we first have paid attention on the following things :
Frequency of the action which is measured (daily, monthly, quarterly, etc)
Unit used (numbers, currency %, etc)
Source (such as sales CRM, or a software management tool like Essensys)
Checklist, dashboard, etc; the audience (team or organisation)
Target; and how we represent and interpret the final result.
2. Measure the coworking business performances
During the devising metrics masterclass of 91Springboard in Brussels, the participating group worked as one Coworking Space provider with multiple departments and arrived at different conclusions based on various metrics.
Key indicators were used as a way to measure activity in their departments and improve overall performance.
Here are three fields of measurement we can elaborate on : Operational performance, Business performance and Community performance.
A. Operational Performance
We refer to those items around the regular day-to-day running of the coworking space : efficiency, smooth processes that continually improve with the help of reviewing relevant data…
Take the example of bandwidth management. What can be done to measure patterns of consumption ?
Create utilisation patterns across the day for different types of users
Do the same by weeks
Introduce a metric to understand the bandwidth consumption during events
By groing through this, we will able to cater the best possible solutions for upgrades, downgrades and improved infrastructure (access points, router etc) as a whole.
Another example, more focused on qualitative inputs, is : “Good Resolution” by the team running the place.
This can be measured in terms of the number of support tickets for problem-solving, resolution time to close, the sentiment of members after closure and so on.
The overall idea of these operational metrics is to improve the running of the space by going deeper into each one of these elements.
B. Business Performance
The space and its business models must make unit economics sense, for sustainability and scale.
First and foremost, one needs to design the right metrics to provide with the right assessment. Thos metrics might be :
Revenue per square meter
Revenue per member
Revenue per workstation
Sales conversion ratios
Cost per lead
It speaks for itself that those are various measures to be reviewed on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly bais would one want to learn from what’s happening with respect to the business performance, and how he/she stands against our predictions/forecast.
So many proxy metrics of capacity utilization, occupancy, churn serve as second-level/dive-deeper metrics that links back to the root metrics of revenues and expenses.
C. Community Performance
Community is a core element of the why we all love coworking. The idea of creating unique communities that are defined and created by the members for members, which is facilitated by the space providers.
We can improve and measure the internal community dynamic, the external community dynamic, as well as the level of performance regarding events management.
Here are some quantitative and qualitative metrics that can be used to assess the level of engagement of a coworking community:
Surveys, to deem members’ satisfaction
Synergies and collaborative projects between members
Connections and friendships
Quality of event feedbacks
Event attendance patterns
Understanding values, beliefs, character, and goals of the space, metrics, which vary from one space to another.
Tracking metrics in a systematic way will develop unique insights, which will make room for new metrics to evolve.
Overall, it will help to draft strategic goals, which can be broken down into more metrics that will answer questions related to personal needs.
Perfect metrics do not exist. However, based on his/her experiences and goals, space managers will find the best metrics that work for them.
Ben Gattie, the co-founder, and CEO at The Working Capitol wanted to nurture creative work environments in his home country of Singapore. After working for a real estate developer focused on SoHo loft conversions in New York City, Ben returned to Singapore about 8 years ago and set up The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate company specializing in the redevelopment of neighborhood shop houses. Deciding to enter a more meaningful and multifaceted industry centered around creating inspired work environments for companies big and small, Gattie co-founded The Working Capitol with his sister, Saranta.
Today the professional landscape in Singapore is changing, and it’s all thanks to places like The Working Capitol. We caught up with Ben to discuss these changes and how his work is enabling more open and flexible work environments.
Hi, Ben. What is work culture like in Singapore? Have people embraced social workspaces?
It was quite conventional in a lot of ways until a few years ago with the mainstream emphasizing job security and working out of the central business district. Singapore has made a conscious effort to decentralize, and independent operators such as ourselves have legitimized fringe locations and social workspaces. Thankfully, Singapore is accustomed to change at an aggressive pace and is very adaptable to new things. Singapore apparently has over 60+ co-working spaces so I certainly hope this means people have embraced social workspaces! That said, in our earlier days, it was essential to educate people about what we were doing and to adopt a genuine spirit of giving before we could expect to get in return.
Does TWC aim to promote shared work culture and if so, how?
Definitely. We try to promote shared work culture across as many touch points as possible. The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions, ensuring there are different environments suited for different types of work or social engagement.
We want all our members to feel a sense of ownership of the entire building regardless if they may have signed up for a dedicated workspace. Our events and programming ensure that people come together across different points of interest, which we populate according to the verticals of arts and culture, personal and business development, health and wellness and lifestyle and entertainment.
Furthermore, our team is genuinely interested in what our members do and aims to facilitate interactions and connections whenever possible.
When TWC was being developed, was special attention paid to design?
Yes. Design with intention is key i.e understanding why the spaces exist and for what purpose it serves. Design is always best when it puts the member experience first and naturally weaves these human experiences into the built environment.
In your experience, what type of design promotes a better work culture, while also increasing productivity?
Specifically, in the case of The Working Capitol, the flow of one space into another, the incorporation of natural light, a lively color palette and ensuring there are different types of micro-environments suited for different types of work made accessible to everyone have been major contributors to our unique energy.
Do you believe that the physical design of a shared workspace is an essential part of the model?
It is an essential part of the model. It directly influences not only how well we can perform operationally, but how successful we can be at creating the right energy and interactions. If the hardware is poorly designed, it makes it that much more challenging for our team and all their efforts to bring the space to life successfully, ensuring people are inspired to do their best work.
What types of members do you attract? For example are you focused on the local community or do does TWC extend themselves to digital nomads?
Our members truly span a broad cross section. Being fortunate enough to have an international upbringing and exposure to different cultures, it was extremely important for us to champion diversity in terms of the type of industries we cater to, as well as different stages of development. We welcome everyone from solo-preneurs to large companies. That diversity can only help to provide different perspectives and learnings to local businesses in Singapore and enable people to grow in both business and personally.
On that same note, do you have corporate members or business partners? If so, why do you think that they are drawn to a place like TWC?
Our corporate members tell us the main draw has been to attract and retain the best talent. They want to provide their teams with access to inspiring spaces, access to amenities and opportunities to engage with other members and companies.