June 2018

“Events have been the main communication tool to increase coworking awareness in Istanbul”

Kolektif House is born in 2015. The Turkey based operator depicts itself as “More than a co-working space : a platform for creators who love what they do and believe in the power of sharing“. Today, Kolektif House claims it connects  1300 freelancers, startups, investors, corporates and mid-size companies, in Istanbul. Ahmet is the co-founder of Kolektif House. The company operates two locations in Istanbul and will soon open a third one.

Hi Ahmet, can you tell us more about the story behind Kolektif House?

We started Kolektif House when my close friend Civan, one of our partners and current CDO, returned back to Turkey after graduation in the US. He was then searching for his dream office. He asked me for help to find an inspiring and affordable workspace; soon enough we realized that there was a big gap in the market for such a product. This led us to start our own project, Kolektif House, to not only create an office space but actually transform the concept of ‘working’ to a feeling of ‘creating value and belonging’. 

You said there was no market for coworking, in Istanbul, back then. How about that?

There was a market potential, but, frankly, not a significant enough supply or adequate products to support that potential. What was established in Istanbul, back then, were standard office spaces whereas our aim was to challenged the status quo by focusing on the community aspect. We strived to create such a community that not only worked under the same roof but also interacted with one another at a social and professional level, where people shared their opinions and did business together to create something inspiring every day.

How did you raise the awareness about coworking? 

We had almost no budget for marketing and only a few people in our team. Our main awareness builder has been our events policy. We held events with local artists and offered them our walls so that they could display their expressions, ideas and artworks in our space. We invited an ice sculptor from the other side of the world to one of our Sunday breakfasts for a live performance. We hosted Turkey’s greatest comedian, musicians and actors in our talk show series. Besides, we attended One Love, one of the biggest festivals in Turkey, by convincing organizers to provide us with free space in exchange for a creative idea to showcase at the venue. So, we printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto. As far as the corporate brands in Istanbul are concerned, we invited executives to hold their events in our place with no charge and promised to serve them the best service they could find elsewhere. I would literally clean up the place every morning and Civan would serve tea just before we change to our suits and greet guests at the reception area. We would do everything we could to compensate for our deficiencies which went as far as lighting up the room with candles in our hands when we lost electricity during a very important conference that was held in our space. And today we evolved to a stage where we host events for leading brands such as Nike, Vodafone, Accenture, Is Bank, Yandex and many more.

We printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto

Who were the people/profiles you had first to convince?

Regardless of their business, our aim, since day one, was to lure people who are passionate about what they create. Due to the nature of the coworking space, our first members were mostly freelancers and startups. As we grew, we saw greater opportunity in diversity and in having different types of companies from various sectors. Today we have a member portfolio consisting of 10% corporates, %30 startups, 30% SME’s, 20% freelancers and 10% VC’s. Among our 1300 members, we have Turkey’s leading bank Is Bankasi, Turkey HQ of Yandex, successful startups that have expanded internationally and global VC’s such as 500 Startups.  

What are the communication channels you mainly used to get out of anonymity?

As said, events have been the major driver for us. Once we put a great show, influencers posted it online, press wrote about it, participants shared on their social accounts and most importantly, it leads to a strong word of mouth. Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy, we remain close relationship with influencers and press and keep collaborating with artists which drives brand recognition and loyalty.

Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy

Is Turkey a coworking friendly the same way you see it in other European countries?

Culturally, Turkey has a great community history, which is the coworking’s pillar. However looking at the recent past, we have not been great at picking up and scaling the global trends. Shared economy and coworking is one of these lately picked habits. I believe it will just take a little longer for Turkey to penetrate, but the potential and the energy is out there so I believe Turkey is a good fit for building a coworking ecosystem. 

Has it to do with a scarcity of financial resources? Or a lack of meaningful allies?

I believe financial resources can always be pointed as a limiting factor in any kind of business. However when you look at the bigger picture, having people understand what we really do here and the value we add to their business was the biggest barrier for us. Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment in their employees’ happiness. 

Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment

Based on your experience, what would you recommend new operators in low “coworking-awareness” areas to do first?

People have always been eager to be a part of a community, regardless of their era, nationality, geographic location, or demographics. The coworking trend is just a reflection of that same sense of belonging. So it is not about the destination, it is about the process of how you bring those minds together under the same roof. And the starting point of that process should definitely be paying genuine attention to what those minds say. This will help them to build more appropriate and target-fit services, and product features. 

What are the main challenges you have coped with since then?

We increased tenfold our size within the last 3 years in terms of surface, number of members and diversity of our community. While doing so, our biggest challenge was to keep improving our service at the same pace which required setting a strong technology backbone and acquiring the right talent. To be honest, I feel like we could have managed these two issues better. Once we realized that we came to a point where we couldn’t organize the events we wanted due to lack of team members or correctly analyze our membership data to make strategic decisions, we started to really move our investments to these two areas that I have mentioned above. Our team today grew to 43 people and we keep hiring great talent from a variety of industries which empowers us to create new departments such as technology so that we can continuously improve our overall service. 

What are Kolektif’s plans for the future?

We help people grow their hearts and their businesses. All of our team is working on many exciting projects to achieve excellence on this mission. In doing so, we will expand both locally and internationally to over 30 locations to serve nearly 34,000 members by 2022.

Ahmet will speak at the Coworking Europe 2018 conference in Amsterdam.

“In Spain, small coworking spaces have less to lose from the rise of big brands than medium size ones”

Manuel Zea is the founder of CoworkingSpain.es and the organizer of the Coworking Spain Conference, one of the first national conference ever organized on coworking. Manuel saw coworking moving from a fragile new born to an industry on it’s way to disrupt the traditional office market. As of today, Spain is still the country with the highest number of individual coworking space per capita. A few days after the Coworking Spain 2018 conference, which took place in Madrid, it was a good time to ask him about the situation of coworking in the country.

Hi Manuel. Can you tell us about the story behind CoworkingSpain?

Manuel Zea

“CoworkingSpain.es” is born in 2010. That year, I was invited to speak at the first European conference on coworking. I had entitled my presentation: “An overview of the coworking in Spain”. Prior to the date,  I reached out to all the existing coworking spaces at that time, in the country. I had collected so much information that I decided to start a blog called CoworkingSpain.es, which listed coworking space operating in Spain. The year after, I took part to the second Coworking Europe conference in Berlin. I said to myself: it’s time to organize a similar conference in Spain. This was 7 years ago.

What is the main learning you get out of such a longevity? 

I think working with passion and love is what makes me work every year at the conference. Its a hard job with a really small team, so doing things with passion and love is key for us. As you mention, the competition is now rising between the 3 biggest international operators, now active in Spain. You can feel how they want to get market share and they are using marketing strategics to get more penetration into the market. Collaboration between spaces is possible but to a certain limit and easier between smaller spaces. Collaboration between big coworking brands is more difficult. Be will work on that, though.

Why, would you say, coworking spaces have an interest to collaborate with one another?

My opinion is that collaboration is a way to grow faster and organized and a way to learn faster. There is a lot of experience in every single person that can solve in a simple way a problem that seems big to you. Collaborartion is the perfect way to accelerate your serendipity.

According to your Spanish coworking survey, Spain counts about 800 coworking spaces, still one of the highest number in Europe…


This is a legacy from the economical crisis. Eight years ago, there was just a bunch of coworking spaces. Their mission was to spread the word about the coworking word and educate the world about what coworking was.  This was a really tough job. We can’t figure out something more complicated than to teach a market about a service one isn’t even aware there might be a demand for. That was our job from the beginning and it has been the mission of the Coworking Spain Conference all those years: Connect all the coworking space managers, support each other in resolving common problems, make noise around  the ‘coworking’ word in Spain.

Can you give us an overview of the growth of the coworking Spanish market, today?

The coworking industry in Spain is now growing by 20% annually. We experience a professionalisation of the sector. The industry is maturing.  Big brands are in Spain. They take a lot of sqm up. The coworking brands are now representing 3% of the total number of coworking operators in Spain. Though, they cover the 30% of the market. They are being very agresive and the penetration into the markets is being big.

The big brands are already in Spain getting a lot of sqm and growing already the 3% of the coworking brands own the 30% of the market.

The average size of coworking spaces in Spain is 200-300m2, which might sound pretty small according to the standards seen in other countries. What should be the strategy for small spaces to survive?

Since the begining of the “coworking era”, a great deal of the spaces in operation in Spain are proportionally small. This explains why Spain had such a high number of individual spaces when compared with other countries. Nowadays, the big names are changing the industry. As far as I see it, the small spaces shouldn’t be too much impacted. The can  focus ont their small communities or transform their spaces into another business. The managers of these small coworking spaces can easily change the model and turn their shared office place, for instance, into a design agency. They have a lot of flexibility, and didn’t invest too much money in their space. It’s another story for medium size spaces. Those will have to transform themselves. Coworking is their main activité. They invested a lot of money. The big international brands are more likely to hurt  them. They need to be ready for change and increase the value proposition to their communities.

The medium size spaces are the one who need to transform or change the most.

Are there still doubts about the rising importance of coworking in Spain?

Not anymore. Last year, coworking was everywhere. Credit to the big players. WeWork opened. Spaces, by Regus, continued its expansion. And the most commented transaction of the year was the acquisition of Utopicus by the Real State company Colonial. So the word coworking had been spreading a lot last year. We made it!!!!