May 2018

“Barriers between hotels, office space, restaurants and residences are more and more broken down.”

THS (The Student Hotel) has been developing  a co-living and coworking offering for more than a decade. Founded in The Netherlands by Charlie McGregor, a Scot born in Edinburgh, THS operates 10 locations in various cities in Europe, among which Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, Paris or Barcelona. TSH plans to open up a total of 40 locations in European cities by 2021. Florence, Dresden, Bologna, Madrid, Berlin, Rome, Vienna or Toulouse are in the pipe.

Hi Charlie, can you introduce yourself and tell us about how The Student Hotel started?

Charlie McGregor

My father built the first purpose-built student rooms in Edinburgh, where I grew up.  At 25 I bought a small student accommodation company and sold it 10 years later when I moved from London to Amsterdam and started The Student Hotel. The first Student Hotel project was completed just as the full implications of the global financial crisis unfolded. But we pressed on.  

You offer many different perks within all your locations, going from hotel services, gym, food, up to coworking spaces (TSH Collab). Do you operate everything yourself ? 

We operate the accommodation and coworking ourselves.  In some we also operate The Commons – our restaurants and bar brand; in other places we work in collaboration with local companies.  In Florence, for example, we partner with local restaurant, La Menagere and at TSH Campus in Barcelona the partnership is with Grupo Raval.  At TSH Amsterdam City we have an Olympic length (50m) pool and crossfit Vondelgym run by local celebrity athletes.

Is TSH a student only place, as the name indicates it?

TSH is much more than student accommodation. We have students staying for a term or a year, but we also have hotel and co-living guests.  That’s just on the accommodation side.  Then there’s the local startups and entrepreneurs in our Collab coworking spaces, classrooms and auditorium.  All our hotels are open to the local community who come to enjoy the restaurants, bars and super fast, free wifi in the communal spaces and we actively encourage this mix.  We want people make connections they may not find somewhere else.

Why having a specific coworking offering on top of your other services makes sense? 

There was a demand.  Guests and the local community needed coworking space.  TSH Collab was created to answer that need – a step up from working on a laptop in the lounge or bar.  The upward trend of entrepreneurs, startups, freelance workers, and digital nomads is growing fast.  With TSH Collab we can offer everything under one roof.

TSH Collab

The benefits are that all our guests – whether they are studying, staying in the hotel, or working – have a place to connect with each other.  It creates a dynamic vibe that enables people to get things done. 

In addition, parents, friends and family need somewhere to stay when they visit our student guests, they need somewhere to eat and socialise.  Our co-living guests need somewhere to meet and work.  We are continually asking ourselves what future guests will need and add services that make sense.  We call it the Complete Connected Community.

Are the co-living ‘guests’, in majority, the users of all the other different services? 

TSH is open and inclusive.  You don’t have to be a guest to eat or drink here.  You don’t have to be a TSH Collab member to stay or use the communal spaces.  We have an amazing mix and are happy that people can take advantage of the things they want to use. We are a Complete Connected Community.  That runs through everything we do – the community feeling is central to both co-living and coworking at TSH.

Guests and the local community needed coworking space.  TSH Collab was created to answer that need – a step up from working on a laptop in the lounge or bar. 

How do you position yourself as opposed to other workspace operators?

TSH employs a Connector in each location and that person plays a crucial role in all The Student Hotels, ensuring that our guests and community members have the possibility to truly connect during their stay and before or after via our digital- and social channels. The Connector position is the glue that holds together our co-living, coworking, co-dining communities. The TSH Connector is more than just the leader of our fun squad. A true connector turns our mishmash of hotel guests and coworking professionals into a cohesive community of both students and students-at-heart. The Connector position is the glue that holds together our co-living, coworking, co-dining communities. He/she encourages people to meet and inspire each other by events and programming based on the four brand themes of The Student Hotel: Social&Cultural, Health&Sports, Learning, and Career&Entrepreneurship. The Connector is the open door for everyone who likes to join our community because they are the most connected person in our buildings.

A true connector turns our mishmash of hotel guests and coworking professionals into a cohesive community of both students and students-at-heart.

You don’t introduce yourself so much as just an accommodation provider, and focus more on the co-living side. What is the difference between the two concepts? 

Our student guests can stay for a term to a year as part of their international studies.  Co-living guests are usually with us for a couple of weeks to a few months; digital nomads, freelancers or contractors who find themselves in a new city for work.  Hotel guests usually stay from a night or two or a week.  The co-living element comes from the community feel – we don’t differentiate, we don’t separate.  Everyone gets to live side by side, use the same facilities, regardless of how long they are with us.

The co-living element comes from the community feel – we don’t differentiate, we don’t separate.

By 2020, you expect partnerships with 1.500 universities. Do you position yourself as the solution provider to move away from the “student housing crisis” that some campus face, with innovative models? 

The world of higher education and training is subject to massive changes: rising international student mobility; transnational campuses, online learning, summer schools and life-long learning have dramatically altered the demand for accommodation. We see a growing demand for short-term and flexibility coupled with a sense community and shared values and purpose. It was a void between hotels and student dorms that TSH is filling with its variety of coliving arrangements. In that sense we are complimentary to the current offering.  

It was a void between hotels and student dorms that TSH is filling with its variety of coliving arrangements.

Based on your experience, should the coworking industry take its inspiration from the accommodation and hospitality industries?

We should take our inspiration from everywhere; the reason CO applies now to living and working shows a growing space of new opportunities. Hospitality teaches us the importance of service. Accommodation, the importance of a home and a sense of community. At the current architecture biennale in Venice the Dutch pavilion is dedicated to Work and it underlines that since Yoko Ono and John Lennon demonstrated for peace in bed we have started using the bedroom as a space to work. We constantly see new opportunities to improve our concept and operational model; new technology enables us to connect and stay in touch with our growing customer base while the way our customers study, travel, sleep and work is changing year on year.  We see more and more barriers between hotels, office space, restaurants and residences being broken down. That is why is say we are – also operationally – a Complete Connected Community. Hybrids like The Student Hotel will become the norm as we are satisfying more needs than just a place to work or a roof over your head.

Since Yoko Ono and John Lennon demonstrated for peace in bed we have started using the bedroom as a space to work.

 

World tour takeaways : “Coworking is way more diverse in Europe than it is in Asia or in America”

Pauline and Dimitar are the founders of Coworkies, a Berlin based company connecting like-minded professionals working out of coworking spaces and displaying job opportunities. For the last 2 years, they’ve been doing a coworking world tour. They visited 287 coworking spaces, in 30 cities around the world, with majority in Europe. They are sharing their main learnings and takeaways from an almost 2 years long tour.

Hi Pauline. Can you introduce yourself, the initiative you run and why you had the idea to tour coworking spaces in Europe?

With my co-founder at Coworkies, Dimitar, we started about 2 years ago and at the time, I was managing a coworking space myself in Berlin (called Rainmaking Loft, which rebranded recently as The Place) which is only for startups. 

Dimitar was working for Startupbootcamp (a startup accelerator) that was one of our tenants. There, we realized that members were constantly seeking other professionals to work with but their opportunities were only limited to their physical space.

At the time, we knew the coworking scene of Berlin quite well but did not really know how other cities were doing coworking in the sense. Why did it started there? who are the local players? How do people use the space to connect? Why are people actually needing a coworking space and many more questions for which we were seeking answers? Instead of relying only on what we found online, we decided to pack our bags and travel the world of coworking!  Traveling is for us an incredible learning curve, we get the chance to meet inspirational founders and managers and see really interesting coworking concepts.

How did you choose the spaces and community you visited?

Before going somewhere, we do a lot of research about the city we are about to visit. We strongly believe that coworking is about the people and not about sqm., so we look for spaces who are in coworking to build meaningful and impactful communities at work. Next to our own research, nowadays we also get a lot of tip from the network of coworking professionals we’ve created.

There are so many coworking spaces, what kind of criterias did you use?

In relation to the previous question. We prioritize recommendations by our network for coworking spaces with passionate founders. I think this is the most important one. There are no reasons for us to meet people who are not passionate about what they are building.

After having toured the Europe’s coworking scene, what are you three main learnings you come back with about the development of coworking on the continent ? 

1.There is no best coworking space – each and every coworking space is VERY unique!

During our travels, we often get asked “so what’s the best coworking scene you’ve seen?”. To be honest, there is no best coworking space. Each and every coworking space we visited is very unique and has its own vision, vibe and community. In Europe, we were amazed to see how diverse the market is – there are so many different type of spaces: from makerspaces to coworking for parents or musicians, it’s really blossoming around many interesting topics.

2.The coworking market in Europe stretches from mature markets to very new markets.

Europe is a very interesting place when it comes to coworking. If you take Berlin, where coworking started between 1999 (with hackerspace C-base) and 2005 (Betahaus) the market is now more mature. Some of the spaces have been around for more than a decade and have seen many spaces coming into their market. It also means that people are “aware” about coworking because they’ve seen it for so long. On the other side of the spectrum, if you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch to what it means to cowork and what is the difference compared to Regus or just a normal office.

3.There are way more independent coworking spaces in Europe than in Asia or USA

Our journey took us, so far to three continents. And when comparing Europe to the rest we see how here in Europe we have more independent coworking spaces, that means in Asia there are way more brands who have multiple locations. Related to that is also the size of spaces in Asia and USA, they feel significantly larger than those in Europe. Of course we have few mega-hubs like Station F or Maria 0-1 in Europe, concepts that have not catched up so much in Asia yet.

If you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch

Are there strong differences between cities or countries you visited ? 

As I started to touch base on my previous answer, there is HUGE differences in every city we visited and there are few reasons for that:

  • Coworking did not start everywhere for the same reasons: in London, it started because prices for offices were too high. If you look at Barcelona, it started during the crisis, when Creatives decided to gather and share their workspace.
  • The scene of each city is very different: London has about 400+ coworking spaces of various sizes from 10 to 600+ people, with a huge part of the crowd being startups. If you take a city like Madrid you will find way less coworking spaces and a lot of them are actually for creatives and artists. It’s one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.

The way one does coworking is also very different from the north of Europe to the South. In Scandinavia or even in Germany, people use coworking spaces from early morning to 6PM whereas in the south of Europe it was very different! Before 10, there is not much going on and people tend to stay really late at night, so the coworking owners have to adapt to that rythm.

One big difference also occurs when the city is also popular among Digital Nomads (like Lisbon, Porto or Barcelona). Building a community that includes Digital Nomad can be really challenging sometimes, but all the spaces we met do it extremely well.

Madrid is one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.

Do space operators shared some of their challenges? What are they ?

Yes, they do! I think one of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model. We all know coworking has an extremely flexible business model, which means that for some of the spaces, generating stable revenue every month is not easy. Another one is how to deal with constantly fluctuating community as you need to have really strong culture to keep the vibe intact.

One of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model.

From what you know of coworking on other continents, what is specific to Coworking in Europe ?

I think Europe, thanks to its richness of cultures and languages has one of the most diverse coworking scenes in the world. As I was saying earlier, there are so many different type of spaces around Europe, it’s really fascinating and inspiring. I believe here is where a lot of the new coworking concepts are emerging before starting to spread around the world.

What did your tour inspired you about the future of coworking on the continent ?

It’s always very hard to predict the future but from what we saw, it looks like coworking will be even more curated, meaning spaces are rethinking their vision and narrowing it down to one vertical of interest. Be it creatives only, startups only, parents, musicians or any other type of community that comes together because they share a common interest and can learn from each other and collaborate. The power of community seems to become more and more important both for spaces and for coworkers. Follow Coworkies’ blog for the comprehensive report city by city

 

Talent Garden runs 23 coworking-campuses in Europe and re-invents education

 The Italian born Talent Garden counts, nowadays, among the major coworking brands operating in Europe. The Milan based company runs 23 “coworking-campuses” across Italy and the rest of Europe. Talent Garden was one of the first coworking operator to raise VC money in Europe, when coworking still was a tiny trend. Since then, the group has developed a strong education offering, making it quite a unique model in the coworking industry. We checked with Davide Dattoli, co-founder and CEO, what are Talent Garden today’s vision and plans.

Hi Davide. Why does Talent Garden speaks about “campuses” rather than “coworking spaces” when telling about your locations? What is the difference?

Davide Dattoli, CEO Talent Garden

 Talent Garden considers itself as an international innovation platform, who operates facilities where members can meet, work, learn and collaborate. We use the word “campus” rather than “coworking” because Talent Garden was founded with the aim to create ecosystems that would connect, support and grow the best startups within technological and digital arenas. We wanted to contribute to the professional development of future global innovators.

Is this a way for Talent Garden to differentiate from the competition while other international brands are gaining ground?

I wouldn’t say that. In opposition to some international coworking operators who look first at growing a real estate business, at Talent Garden, community is genuinely at the core of what we do. We focus on new ways to transform and connect both flexible work and education environments, as requested by digital entrepreneurs and businesses.

The Innovation School is an important part of your activity. Would you say that Talent Garden is today a training agency as much as it is a coworking spaces operator?

The two businesses coexist, giving value to one another. Education is a fundamental part of our ecosystem. In 2015, Talent Garden became active in the education sector with the launch of our School of innovation – a school that offers training in the fields of digital and innovation, with a focus on coding, data, design, marketing, and business. We really believe that this is an integrating part of our offer.

We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events. And it is exponentially growing: in 2017 we trained 500 students, 1,000 children, 2,300 professionals and involved over 70 companies in its programs.

You use to partner up with universities. Why do universities need Talent Garden?

We partner with universities that share our innovative approach. We recently announced the opening of our new campus in Dublin in partnership with Dublin City University (DCU), a new hub for digital innovation. This will be the first collaboration of its kind in Europe. In DCU, we have found a University partner with the same entrepreneurial DNA and ambition as Talent Garden. This made the selection process easy. The existing DCU Alpha community of digital and IoT innovators is the perfect home for us, whereas the University partnership will help us to scale our Innovation School offering globally.

We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events.

Does it tell something about the future of education, would you say?

We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. We created our Innovation School in this context.  We train young people and professionals. We bring new cultures and skills to businesses and we offer upgrades and updates to those operating in the work environment.

We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. In this context, we created our Innovation School

We also believe in lifelong learning and change management within individual companies. Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities, and yet this is where companies devote 80% of their training budget. For this reason, we offer an innovative training methodology, putting people at the center of the learning process based on cross-pollination and co-creation, to make sure that the expenditure in training gives results in proportion to the investment made.

Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities

Talent Garden has partnerships with tech companies such as Google or Cisco too. How does it work?

We support corporates by analyzing their business needs and devising ad-hoc projects to help them embrace the opportunities offered by digital technologies to reach their full potential. Moreover, we allow their cross-pollination with our community of innovators and expose their brand to our stakeholders. This year we involved 180 partners (corporates and SMEs), providing them with the right tools to devise new, innovative ways of working. Corporates may have the capital and resources, but often lack the agility, internal culture, and expertise of startups that are essential for driving innovation and success.

Innovation is a key element of corporate growth and requires the right combination of people, processes, and technologies.

The wide majority of your spaces are located in Italy. How is the coworking industry growing in Italy?

Compared to other European markets, Italy is still at an early stage in the fields of startups development and innovation. That is why we are building a European network, to connect countries and leverage each other’s potential while supporting the best tech and digital professionals in their growth.

“Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity, specialized communities, will risk getting lost in the noise”.

Kelsea Crawford is the CEO and cofounder of Cutwork, an architecture and design studio focused on designing new ways to live and work. Based between Amsterdam and Paris, Cutwork has  5 years of experience design in furniture and spatial concepts for coworking spaces, innovation hubs, private offices, and coliving spaces. Cutwork has been involved in the famous Station F project, the world biggest startup campus, based in Paris, France.

Hi Kelsea. You design coworking spaces. Can you explain to us what is your approach and what do you start with when you are asked to design a flexible workspace?

At its core, we aim to design workspaces that encourage the meeting of people and ideas. We begin every project by thinking about how we can use design to encourage collaboration, to cultivate strong communities, and to foster meaningful work.

After a 2 year collaboration with Station F (the largest startup campus in the world and home the European hubs of Facebook, Microsoft and Ubisoft) and speaking with over 200 coworking spaces last year, we have developed our approach to flexible workspace around three key ideas:

  1. Mobility – the ability to change one’s surroundings and move between different types of space for different styles of work and collaboration.
  2. Versatility – the use of smart furniture designs that have multiple uses and functions.
  3. Flexibility – the ability to easily transform or rearrange a space for different uses.

We start the design process with an open dialogue about where we can add the most value as design partners. For the most part, this includes developing spatial design concepts that will scale across multiple spaces, furnishing a space, and designing custom products. One of our biggest advantages is that our furniture design process is built on digital technologies that make it simple for us to modify any of our existing products to develop unique, custom solutions for our clients. 

While we use a lot of technology to make things super efficient on the manufacturing side, we’re pretty old school when it comes to the actual design – we like to sit together around a table with a big piece of paper and draw. This way we can really map out the challenges and limitations currently presented by the furniture and spatial design, and come up with the best solutions that fit the space and budget.

It’s simple for space operators to survey big name spaces and think, this is what appeals to my market of millennial freelance workers!

We see some recently designed coworking spaces looking the same. Are designers becoming lazy? Or do space operators lack inspiration when submitting their requirements and guidelines?

More than becoming lazy or lacking inspiration, I think the market is just maturing. New spaces are easily lured into copying established models of success. It’s simple for space operators to survey big name spaces and think, “this is what appeals to my market of millennial freelance workers! If I can do that, my space will also be a success”. The problem with this is that everyone is asking the same question and coming up with the same solution. While this can make for a safer bet in the short term, the real risk in this strategy becomes evident when looking at the numbers: the coworking market is predicted to double in size over the next 4 years, from 14,000 spaces to over 30,000 spaces (Small Business Lab’s December 2017 Survey). This is insane market growth! For coworking spaces to succeed in the long term and survive this flood of competition, there’s a real need for original, distinct, and innovative design.

We see a lot of recurrent gimmicks in workspace designs, Silicon Valley inspired kind of workspace, for instance… What do you think of it? 

Station F (Paris)

These types of “gimmicks” and trends are typically playful, easy to understand, and straightforward to implement, which is why we see them turning up all over the place. While they can be effective when done well, I think the bigger conversation here is that coworking spaces should be wary of adopting these kinds of trends just for the sake of it. This risks missing a meaningful opportunity to use design as a means to encourage collaboration, help build strong communities, and make the space more valuable to its members.

Do furniture providers do their job of supplying a wide enough variety of products or are we stuck with “prêt à porter” giving little room for design creativity in the workspace?

There aren’t many companies out there today that are designing furniture specifically for coworking and flexible workspaces. For now, most spaces are stuck making traditional office furniture work, or they end up designing their own because so few options exist in the marketplace. A coworking space is not a traditional office – so why are people still furnishing it like one The opportunity to design for these new usages is what’s most exciting to us. With our latest collection of furniture, we worked with our clients to map out the most common gestures and habits of the modern coworker, looking at all the tools and objects they carried with them and designing for their natural workflow; modular boards for writing or displaying sticky notes, hooks for headphones, shelves for screens of all sizes, and organizers for the daily tools.

What’s really exciting about coworking spaces is that there is such a new story to tell – this fundamental shift in the way we work and where we do it.

More broadly speaking, how does space design support the branding story of a coworking/flexible workspace? Do space providers understand that, nowadays?

In a general way, spatial design is the physical representation of a brand. What’s really exciting about coworking spaces is that there is such a new story to tell – this fundamental shift in the way we work and where we do it. With this comes many opportunities to use architecture, interior design, and furniture as visual tools to help express a brand’s values in an immediate and impactful way. Aesthetics are really important because it sets the tone and qualifies the audience the space attracts, and that audience will eventually become the space’s community. I think space providers are definitely beginning to understand how valuable these tools are, especially as competition becomes more and more fierce. Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity or built tight-knit, specialized communities will have a much harder time standing out and risk getting lost in the noise. 

Can a corporate-focused, flexible serviced office develop inspiring and disrupting workspace environments, or are these things limited to startup and freelancer-focused coworking spaces?

They can, and we are already beginning to see this transition take place. Most serviced offices are simply following the model that traditional corporate offices have established – a model which is definitely being challenged and influenced by startups and coworking spaces. Corporations have already begun testing the waters by housing teams or departments within coworking spaces, dissolving the boundaries of the office culture and embracing startup working styles to accelerate innovation and growth. And it’s definitely catching on. Just last year, business employees became the largest demographic in global coworking spaces, surpassing freelancers. And the early signifiers are clear: the employees surveyed in coworking spaces are happier and more fulfilled in their roles, and these satellite departments are moving faster and are more productive than they had been in the traditional office environment. As traditional corporate offices continues to adopt these concepts and work styles, I think we’ll see a similar influence in serviced corporate offices.

Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity or built tight-knit, specialized communities will have a much harder time standing out and risk getting lost in the noise.

What do you expect as being the upcoming trends in coworking space design, in the 12-24 months to come?

There are three key trends we’re watching for in the next 2 years:

1. Specialization. As the market matures, we’ll see coworking spaces becoming more and more specialized to support specific communities. Coworking spaces for women, coworking spaces with daycare services, coworking spaces for app developers, etc. These niched communities will have unique needs and usages, and spatial design will evolve to meet them.

2. Investment in Design. To stay ahead of the competitive curve, coworking spaces are making serious investments in design to set themselves apart. Today, the average space dedicates around 40% of the total opening budget to furniture and spatial design. In the near future this figure will only increase, as many more companies are able to raise investment capital in the wake of WeWork’s success.

3. Coworking + Co-living. As cities densify and the cost of living continues to increase, we expect the increase of shared coliving spaces will be nearly as dramatic as the rise of coworking. Furnished, flexible apartments that service a young, freelance workforce will build on the same movement as coworking, and we think many of the big players in the coworking market will lead the way

Just last year, business employees became the largest demographic in global coworking spaces, surpassing freelancers. And the early signifiers are clear: the employees surveyed in coworking spaces are happier.

Photos credit Handover

Kelsea Crawford will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Europe 2018 conference, in Amsterdam.