Category: Business

“You don’t take a cut on all positive externalities you made possible” – Mutinerie (Paris)

Mutinerie in Paris used to be the poster child of coworking entrepreneurs in the early 2010’s. Launched in the north of the French capital, the ecosystem always sounded genuine and unique, with, back then, one of the most beautiful space design one could experience. Seven years later, the van den Broek brothers and their fellow co-founders have decided to put an end to the story. Coworking is now huge in Paris, as it is now elsewhere. We asked Antoine van den Broek whether there is still room for independent coworking operators nowadays.

Hi Antoine. For those who have been involved in coworking for more than 5 years, Mutinerie is a name that inspired a lot of players within the coworking world. Why are you shutting down ?

Antoine van den Broek

We are shutting down our Parisian coworking space for three main reasons. First, running a small independent coworking space nowadays in an expensive city like Paris is a real financial challenge.

Second, more than six years had past since we opened our Parisian coworking space, in this period of time life has changed for us, we all have children now, with all that comes with it. We used to be in Mutinerie from early in the morning to late in the day when not at night, we would hold events two or three times a week, often on the weekend, we would have drinks with coworkers at the end of the long day, sometimes even sleep in Mutinerie… This life we enjoyed is no longer possible. Another life we don’t love less has replaced it. A very common explanation of why things change…

Third, the coworking scene has changed too. What use to be a movement has became a market. The energy of the beginning, the sharing spirit has faded away, and big business is following his own logic. This is not a moral judgment; this is the way innovation works. One mission we had as coworking early players was to raise awareness on the way work is changing, we can say we have succeeded in that. Coworking is somehow becoming a commodity; innovation is moving elsewhere. This is not a surprise. We knew it from the beginning, as I said in an ITW back in the days, pioneers will need to move to a new frontier.

The coworking scene has changed. What use to be a movement has became a market.

In 2018, can independent coworking spaces still thrive in metropoles such as Paris ? Or can only big brands stand and develop within the market, nowadays?

 I think independent coworking spaces can still work in metropoles such as Paris. Adding services around your core business, organizing significant events, and bringing business to your community acting as an “agency”, are solutions. The strength of theses old school coworking spaces is the community they gather and you have various ways to monetize this community. Some solutions like Copass can also bring the network effect to these independent coworking spaces so they can defend their position and philosophy against big players.

Bringing business to your community acting as an “agency” is a solution.

Have the users’ profiles changed during all those years ? If yes, in which way?

Yes, it has changed. At the beginning, 50 percent of our members where foreigners, now that coworking has spread in France, it is more around 20 percent. We can also say that users of the beginning tended to be a little bit more “strange” than the one of today. They were early adopters seeking new experiences; they made this weird choice when few people did. With time, the public had “normalized”.

At the beginning, 50 percent of our members where foreigners, now that coworking has spread in France, it is more around 20 percent.

Would Mutinerie (Paris)’s business model and size do ok in a smaller city or town, would you say? 

I would answer yes. The rent being the main cost (with HR), having access to much lower rental makes it easier. In smaller town, the competition is also less important. But you need to be sure to have the critical mass. It’s hard to answer generally as each city has a specific context and population. Some medium cities that offers good quality of life that fits freelancers’ needs and expectation can be good places to open a coworking space.

Is 400m2 a viable surface for coworking in today’s world?

It depends of your model and ambition. Would you want your place to be more than a shared office, you have to invest a lot in animation and community support. This fixed cost will be easier to carry if it is spread among 300 coworkers than 30. But you can also say that in a smaller space, people will meet each others easily so you don’t need to invest that much in animation… 

At the end of the day, it really depends of your goal : you can be an association with members actively engaged in the space management, you can be a collective of professionals sharing the revenues you get from your clients and the costs related to the space you share, you can also have a more real-estate approach automatizing all the space management to offer an accessible workspace and nothing more. It also depends whether this space is your only one or if it is part of a network. In that case you can mutualise marketing, communication, financial and administrative at the company level allowing economies of scale to be realised and liberating your spaces from those costs. In France, La Cordée is successfully managing a network of medium size spaces, mostly in regional cities (only one in Paris area), that would be interesting to have their view on this.

Mutinerie is known for its wonderful community and vibe. Why isn’t it enough, today? Had you considered to partner up with other player to bring the community into a new environment? 

The Mutinerie community is special, it has always been the center and the goal of our project and we are glad to see how it flourished. Mutinerie has been the starting point of so many successful projects and beautiful friendships. A generation of disrupters started here. But what makes it so human is also what makes it difficult to scale. Relationships are personal, not exponential, and you don’t take a cut on all positive externalities that you made possible. There is no clear correlation between serendipity and cash flows. Partnering up with other players ? Why not. You can build or join a network of other existing spaces, you can also partner up with some big real estate players to scale quickly. We had considered these options but did not go further in that direction.

Relationships are personal, not exponential, and you don’t take a cut on all positive externalities that you made possible.

What should/could, according to you, have been done for/by Mutinerie to be able to go further with its coworking offering?

I don’t know how to answer. At the end, an independent coworking space, like us, relies on the shoulders of a few people. As long as you are happy doing it, it’s fine, you find the energy but comes a time when you want to move to something new or somewhere else. Most of us are leaving Paris. Our lives have changed, we want and need new challenges.

At the end, an independent coworking space, like us, relies on the shoulders of a few people. As long as you are happy doing it, it’s fine.

What would you recommend to independent coworking space operators, based on your experience?

For general advices, I’d recommend you check Ramon Suarez’s Coworking Handbook. But all spaces have specific issues, are in different stages, this environment is so diverse that it is hard to give a general answer. If I had to, such as now, I would say: think of yourself as the head of a collective of professional and find a way to bring more business to it. Being the source of new incomes puts you in position quite different from being the guy who sends invoices. Many enterprises are trying to give freedom to their employees, you can be the one who gives structure to free workers.


What’s next for Mutinerie, now ?

We are putting our attention on Mutinerie Village, the rural coworking space we launched four years ago. Some of us have already left Paris to settle in the Perche (the name of this beautiful countryside, located less than two hours away from Paris) and there is now a real Mutinerie community there. In fact the social life around Mutinerie Village is incredibly rich. Nowdays, as a freelancer, you can be living in a lovely natural parc and have a fulfilling professional life. To give a bigger echo to this lifestyle, we recently launched l’Ambassade du Perche (the Perche Embassy). The goal of this program is to help freelancers who wants to leave the city, move here in the region. Mutinerie’s center of gravity has changed but the community remains. We all met in an important time of our lives, we grew together and nothing can erase these precious relationships and this collective identity. Our Parisian coworking space is closed but we still see each-others and work together… What is dead may never die.

“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.

 

“The office industry will resist to prevent a “booking.com” of coworking or flexible workplace to rule their market”

Rialto is a sales and marketing software as a service offering CRM functionalities tailored to the commercial real estate industry. This “broker portal” allows operators and brokers to exchange inventory and enquiries for space. The rise of the demand for coworking and flexible workplace offering might hit dramatically the traditional intermediaries within the workplace world.

We interviewed Nicolas Kint, the founder of Rialto, to get his impression on how big the change might become and whether coworking operators and brokers can one day understand one another and become partners.

Nicolas Kint

Hi Nicolas. Can you introduce yourself as well as Rialto?

I joined the industry in 2013 as director of a business centre group in Ghent, Belgium. When next supporting the launch of a residential property inspection software solution to the market in 2014, surprisingly enough I was contacted by several brokers and operators of commercial property portfolios. I realised the commercial property industry was underserved by the market. Tight budgets and a need for vertically integrated processes made the market unattractive to the large players like Microsoft, SAP or Salesforce. That’s when I decided to found Rialto. In March 2015, we incorporated with the support of Pi-Labs in London.

The rise of coworking and flexible workspaces is told to be disrupting the office market and its traditional long-term lease contracts. Do you see that happening?

The imminent growth of flex workspace is driven by a couple of factors which today coincide. While the potential of coworking and flex workspace has hardly been underestimated, the timing for this inflexion point was hard to predict. I’m not sure whether we should call this trend “disruptive” to the conventional office leasing market though. There are several examples of specialised office space asset management teams, which have – many of them already for years – been experimenting with flex workspace concepts, typically with very low ROI. I believe that incumbents who got their timing right will have been making the right investments to capture the bulk of this growing market.

Intermediates such as real estate brokers used to play a big matchmaker role between property owners and tenants. Do you see them able to adapt to the new reality of flexible service based office? Or will real estate brokers disappear?

The role of intermediates is changing, and those firms with a strong positioning supported by a long-term vision, supportive for intrapreneurship, will still be able to create a lot of value going forward. To answer your question whether they have a role in the new reality of flex workspace, I definitely believe so. Employers will have to deploy a range of workspace solutions. This will most likely always be a mix of conventional and serviced real estate. This new reality creates a clear demand for professional advice by both landlords and tenants.

Employers will have to deploy a range of workspace solutions. This will most likely always be a mix of conventional and serviced real estate.

Coworking, flexible and social workplaces. Who can help them to fill in their space? Can they rely only on themselves?

I like to compare this to the hotel market. You have “independent” players versus the “international brands” or “houses of brands”. Your location(s) might compete with Spaces from IWG just as the boutique hotel around the corner competes with Sofitel from Accor. In terms of direct sales, the large players are hard to fight. They can leverage their brand and have built well connected corporate sales teams. Of course, you can beat them in leveraging your community and word of the month, but also in building your indirect sales partnerships with specialised brokers.

Your location(s) might compete with Spaces from IWG just as the boutique hotel around the corner competes with Sofitel from Accor.

Is there a difference between countries, from what you see?

Well, the more mature a market, the better the existing solutions available, the more experienced and better informed the market is. It’s no surprise markets like London, Paris and Amsterdam count several strong brokers and advisory teams in flex workspace.

It’s no surprise markets like London, Paris and Amsterdam count several strong brokers and advisory teams in flex workspace.

Brokers are paid on commission, usually, a percentage of the first paid rents, for instance. What can be their business model, tomorrow, if the commitment to a coworking space is no more than a month?

The flex workspace market has become competitive. If you’d ask me, I’d make sure the “carrot” for the broker is clear. Although the commitment could be restricted to a month, you expect the new customers to use the space for months even years. That’s the interest of building revenue models which allow managers to quickly calculate the Net Effective Rent corresponding such agreements in order to help them understand what cost of acquisition is affordable.

What about the role of online direct matchmaking platforms which are taking a bigger and bigger importance? They position themselves as kind of Booking.com of meeting rooms and office. Can’t they make real estate brokers an obsolete profession as well?

I’m happy you name Booking.com. When they started out 20 years ago, no one in the industry would have imagined they had the potential to become the dominant force in the market they today are. I’m convinced the office market won’t allow this to happen. Instead, expect a strong level of M&A going forward where some of the larger and more successful incumbents will be able to absorb the digitalisation, flex workspace, smart office trends and build future-proof propositions.

What can be the added value of those platforms in the future? Both for coworking spaces as for startups, freelancers and bigger companies?

The market is massive. Yes, startups, freelancers, large corps, …all of them will continue to take on the workspace. Winners will be those who can afford to specialise.

Do brokers nowadays really understand the full value coworking spaces provides to their members, aside of the square meterage and the location of the space (things such as hospitality, community, network, side services, image, conviviality, etc.)?

If I may, I’d not necessarily question the brokers, but rather the market as a whole. Are we willing to pay for the full value coworking spaces create? If the market is to grow 20% a year, there is a strong need for educating the market on those values you name.

Will it be a new job, you think?

Yes, developing, commercialising and managing flex workspace definitely requires specific knowledge and experience.

“For property owners and flexible workspace operators, the shared revenue model will be one model among many”

GKRE, a UK based flexible workspace specialist, could be a kind of new operator in the market: a matchmaker between real estate owners, on the one hand, coworking and flexible workplace operators, on the other hand. GKRE advises landlords and building owners throughout the UK on their flexible workspace options and opportunities to partner with flexible workspace providers. The company has recently been involved in the merger and acquisition of businesses worth over GBP 40 million, in some 50 buildings.

Will Kinnear

We interviewed Will Kinnear, Chartered Surveyor specialising in the flexible workspace industry.

Hi Will, could you introduce yourself and tell us about GKRE?

I started as a consultant to Regus acquiring multiple sites throughout the UK on their behalf. Since the creation of GKRE with Douglas Green in 2013, we have acquired more than 450.000 square feet (42.000 m2) of new sites for the UK’s leading operators throughout London and the UK. Clients include operators and landlords across the UK, from major PLCs to independent companies.

The flexible workspace market has grown fast in the last recent years. What are the reasons for this growth, according to you?

The growth of the market has been driven by a number of factors: the demand from occupiers for more flexible ways of working; technology in the form of laptops and mobile phones allowing people to work from anywhere; the explosion of small businesses and freelancers. Traditionally, flexible workspace operators were quick to seize on the demand for flexibility and, by offering something alternative to the traditional leasing model, grew their portfolio of sites steadily on the back of this. In the past three to four years, flexible ways of working have become commonplace for SMEs and even corporates, who have looked to operators to provide them with workspaces that meet their growing demand for dynamic and flexible ways of working. This, in turn, has driven operators and property owners to expand their offerings exponentially to the extent that the flexible workspace sector is no longer a secondary sector in the property market.

 In the past three to four years, flexible ways of working have become commonplace for SMEs and even corporates.

How do property owners look at the flexible model of space renting? Do they come to you? If so, why?

Property owners have had to look at the product being offered by operators given that demand for flexible working from occupiers has continued to grow. We are actively being approached by landlords and developers who want to understand better how the model works and how they can make the most of this growing trend. This is challenging the way property owners look at what they offer tenants.

Would you say that commercial property owners are starting to consider to partner up with flexible workspace operators, the same way property owners deal with hotel chains?

Yes, they are. Historically, flexible workspace operators have been at the forefront of this growing sector. However, over the past two years, there has been a distinct increase in property owners and developers wanting to enter the sector. Flexible workspace operators traditionally have taken lease deals where they have control over the space within a building and their clients. Partnership and management agreements between property owners and operators have allowed property owners to share in the upside and desirability of the sector while leaving the operator to the day-to-day running of the centre. We are currently working with a number of property owners who are considering their options. These may include working with an operator on a partnership basis or running their own operation.

Partnership and management agreements between property owners and operators have allowed property owners to share in the upside and desirability of the sector while leaving the operator to the day-to-day running of the centre.

Is the shared revenue model the future, in this kind of partnership?

It may be in some circumstances. Some property owners have assets within a portfolio that simply aren’t set up to enter into a shared revenue model. They will, therefore, have to let space on a traditional basis to an operator so that they are able to fulfil any requirement they have to provide flexible workspace within their mix of properties. They can also, of course, choose to run their own operation under their own brand. The shared revenue model will be attractive to both property owners and operators in some locations where both parties see a mutual benefit to providing a flexible workspace product. Going forward, we see opportunities for all kinds of models including leasehold, freehold and partnerships arrangements. We expect plenty of variety throughout the UK, and the model chosen will be driven to a large extent by the location, the property owner’s view of the market and the operator’s desire for a foothold in a particular area.

The model chosen will be driven to a large extent by the location, the property owner’s view of the market and the operator’s desire for a foothold in a particular area.

Some real estate owners fear that partnering with flexible workspace operators means they will lose direct contact with their traditional tenant customers. On the longer term, it could be detrimental to them, as they will be reliant on the flexible operator. Are they right?

This is a genuine concern for some owners as the end user will usually only have day-to-day contact and dialogue with the operator. To get round this and retain control of and connection with the end user, several property owners are looking to run their own operations, or, partner with operators but run the centres under their own brand.

Would you recommend property owners to create their own flexible workspace customer brand?

Possibly, but in every case, we would look at a property owner’s requirements in order to give them the best possible advice. Depending on what product they want to provide, the levels of service make these operations highly management intensive and for this reason not every property owner has the setup or desire to do it themselves. In these instances, we will work with a property owner to ascertain what options are available to them access the flexible workspace market.

Business Centres, Coworking, startup-friendly environment… How do you deal with the different services and positioning in today’s market?

Every operator thinks of their business in a different way and will position their product in the way that they best think sells it to potential occupiers. Often, an operator will offer a blend of options within a centre in order to maximise revenue.

What are your real estate predictions for the flexible workspace market in the UK the next five years?

We believe the market will continue its excellent growth. We expect to see more property owner-based operations in the market along with more all-inclusive managed products as landlords offer further flexibility in order to meet what occupiers are looking for. The new accounting rules coming into force in January next year are already impacting on demand as companies seek to take long-term leasehold premises off their balance sheets. We also expect to see retail and corporate occupiers offering flexible space. Industry data suggests that flexible workspace could account for 10% of the occupier market within 10 years across the UK.

Industry data suggests that flexible workspace could account for 10% of the occupier market within 10 years across the UK.

 

 

 

 

Business centers and coworking spaces : now two sides of the same coin ?

Eduardo Salsamendi is involved in the industry of flexible workspace since 1990. That year, he founded his first business center Klammer located in Northern Spain. 

In 2008, Eduardo Salsamendi founded the European Confederation of Business Centers Associations (EUROCBCA ), headquartered in Brussels. while being the president of the Spanish Worskpaces association  ProWorkSpaces.

We talked with Eduardo about how the evolution of the flexible workspace industry, and especially how the coworking culture is now influencing the sector.

Hi Eduardo. Could you offer us an overview of how the flexible workspace industry is doing in Spain, as we speak? 

Eduardo Salsamendi

Spain has a different workspaces ecosystem than the neighbor countries. We have a lot of smaller independents business centers that are representative of their owners’ own way of living. That said, the average size of the spaces kept steadily growing over the last 15 years. With an acceleration in the 24 months. The average size of our spaces in square meters has evolved from 600 to 900 m2 over the last five year. This figure might be misleading, though, due to the break down between the very big and very small spaces. If we have a look at cities, Madrid counts nowadays for more than 1/3 of the total flexible workspaces number in Spain, followed by Barcelona. 

According to you, what are the main challenges traditional business centers are facing now? 

The good news is that we are no more just speaking about money or space, but about the people’s needs. The flexible workspace industry now works on making people feel good while working, supporting them in the making of more efficient work. Technology changes the way we work. Users mentality changes too. 

What kind of distinction would you make, today, between a coworking space and a business center?

To us, the distinction between coworking and business centers is something more and more of the past, as flexible workspace operators today embrace elements of both worlds. At ProWorkSpaces we now define a flexible workspace operator as someone offering a combination of space, services, technology, and community. And the “traditional” kind of paid services are permanent offices, virtual offices, and spaces sold by the hour or by the day (meeting rooms, training rooms, offices, workstations…). Everyone makes his own recipe based on these ingredients.

Coworking has brought more visibility to the flexible workspace industry.

Would you say that the rise of Coworking benefited the traditional flexible workspace industry, so far?

The irruption of coworking made a revolution of the flexible workspace industry possible. Traditionally, real state players were focused on space, business centers were focused on service – Space as a Service- and Coworking operators were focused on community. In the early days, one of coworking’s biggest challenge was profitability. However, coworking quickly pivoted and incorporated elements of the “traditional” business center, usually more profitable.  Coworking has brought more visibility to the flexible workspace industry. It made flexible workspace cooler. We understood that we needed to work on communities of users. In addition, we learned that offering different environments across our spaces was an added value. Many operators include different kind of spaces and ambiances: open common spaces, more informal ones, different types of meeting rooms, workstations in an open space…  

We will continue to work on the SaaE concept (Space as an experience).

Where do you see the industry going in the coming years?

The industry will continue to change and grow very fast in the coming years. We expect different kinds of workspaces looking for their specific customers. The people in the industry love putting labels on what is a business center, what is a coworking space… but users don’t care. They look for a workspace that solves their needs where they feel comfortable. We will continue to work on the SaaE concept (Space as an experience). For me, the best reward is when a lead comes for a tour and says: “Wow, I want to work from here”. On the other hand, corporations build teams for projects. They collaborate with freelancers. The new economy includes uncertainty. The flexible workspace industry is the perfect solution for this, with flexibility and immediacy. You can know what you need today. However, you are never sure about what you will need tomorrow. We have an enormous growth horizon ahead of us as, nowadays, we still only represent a tiny portion of the whole offices market.

The people in the industry love putting labels on what is a business center, what is a coworking space… but users don’t care at all.

Picture source : Spacesworks Madrid

Pacific Workplace : “What we learned from the takeover of a coworking brand”

A few months ago, Pacific Workplaces, a California based business centers network, took over Next Space, a coworking brand with locations in Berkeley, Santa Cruz and San Jose.

Why did a business center operator buy one of the best known historical bay area’s coworking brand ?

What was the vision and how is the integration going ?

Laurent Dhollande, CEO of Pacific Workplaces and boss of CloudVO, one of Coworking Europe 2017 conference‘s partners, shared his insight, last November, in Dublin, during one of Coworking Europe’s session (cfr video below).

Strong community, weak processes

“No one can curate a community as well as Next Space”, says Laurent Dhollande, first. “They have a solid brand recognition and informal culture, which is an asset”.

“Independent coworking space management is a hard thing to operate, though, adds the CEO of CloudVO. Many are run by very passionated people who focus on the community, but often overlook the monetization of additional services as well as the improvement of the operational side.”

“Next Space different locations, for instance, were too remote from one another to manage the network easily. The management was very decentralized. There  processes were not up to date. They didn’t leverage technology to run the space, for rooms online booking, for instance. They had an insufficient number of meeting rooms. They didn’t kill inefficient new initiatives fast enough“.

Word of mouth marketing vs SEO

“Next Space marketing was mainly made through word of mouth and social media, whereas we focus a lot on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)“.

Next Space’s financial situation was weak, whereas Pacific Workplace financial situation is strong.

According to Laurent Dhollande, Next Space wasn’t good enough with the development of additional side revenues, aside of the revenue stream generated by coworking subscriptions.

“At Pacific Workplace, Virtual Office, makes 30% of our revenues, as opposed to a mere 6% at Next Space”, illustrates the CEO of CloudVO.

Complementarity and ultimate convergence

Despite some flaws, Pacific Workplaces choose to keep the Next Space brand alive as well as the website. The identity is strong and the complementarities with the mother company seem clear.

“The is a convergence between the models, observes Laurent Dhollande. Within the coming 5 years, the two brands and customer experiences might become only one“.

 

“We believe we have an ideal Coworking model to be franchised”

In France, the Trigano family is a close to a legend. Decades ago, Gilbert Trigano founded the worldwide famous ‘Club Med‘ brand. In 2017, his grandson Jeremie is now walking in his shoes. Mama Works is a network of coworking spaces inspired by their experience in the hotel industry, especially with the Mama Shelter brand, a collection of designed by Philippe Starck hotels, with locations now in a handful of cities in Europe and North America.

Hi Jeremie. Can you introduce Mama Works?

Mama Works aims to combine the creative and entertainment know how of our hotel brand Mama Shelter, as well as the real estate expertise of our partners. After having modified the shape of the hotel industry in France, we wanted to take on a new challenge by developing an alternative to traditional office spaces. A new generation of “workers”, eager to work in a friendly and stimulating atmosphere is emerging. The workplace is no longer just an office but a place to live and share and that’s why we created. This subtle blend of expertise and fun has given birth, we think, to a stimulating community buzzing with ideas and fizzing with energy! 

We use to say that coworking is to become an industry similar to the hotel industry. Do you agree?

We absolutely agree that the flexible workplace environment is starting to reflect the hotel industry. Like hotels, coworking spaces are segmented, vary in sizes, specialise in niches, offer different services, and start working with OTAs (online booking services) to sell empty desks.

Why, would you say, are hospitality service professionals well or better positioned than others to address the need for workers and companies for new work environments?

We are in the service business when most of the big coworking structures are run by real estate professionals and funds. As such we are here to serve our clients and sell them an experience, not an office desk!

We are in the service business when most of the big coworking structures are run by real estate professionals and funds. 

The Accor Group (one of the world leaders within the hotel industry) is one of your shareholders. Is it important to be supported by such a major world player?

Mama Shelter (the hotel brand from which Mama Works comes) has kept its full independence. We run Mama Works as a division of Mama Shelter. We have launched a start up within our start up!

A real estate broker has been assigned (Cushman & Wakefield) to market your work facility to tenants. How receptive are real estate brokers to the coworking model, would you say?

Brokers are highly responsive and understand there is a switch in the consumption of office space. They also realise there is a gap to fill in the commercialisation of these spaces. However, I believe the brick and mortar approach to selling offices spaces will slowly be replaced by online distribution channels offering the capacity to filter your searches by interest. 

How is your broker rewarded?

A nice commission.

Why not putting a proper sales force in place?

We have a sales team in place but as for hotels in some instances, it is more cost effective to use third parties which have a broader reach.

Are the Mama Shelter hotels and the new Mama Works offerings connected?

We are currently offering our Mama Works members a special rate in all Mama Shelter properties.
We are also giving special Mama Mobile (daily desk rentals) rates at our Mama Works locations to our Mama Shelter residents. Eventually, we will have coworking spaces inside our hotels and really have an integrated offering. 

One speaks more and more about coworking and co-living. Is it a bundle you might be exploring?

Yes, we are already looking into it.

How ambitious are Mama Works plans? Do you plan to stay in France only or are you considering an international expansion?

Pretty ambitious. We are going to use Mama Works Lyon as a laboratory. We already signed a site in Bordeaux opening in a few months and Lille in 2018. We have plans to expand internationally and have already signed a location in Europe…

Is the franchise model we see in the hotel industry appropriate for the coworking world, would you say?

Mama Shelter does no franchise. But we believe Mama Works is the ideal business model for franchise. Unlike the hotel industry, the coworking world relies on very few employees. It is easier to set up a franchise with 4 staff members and as long as we can keep a say on recruitment (not operations) we believe our concept can grow as a franchise model!

It is easier to set up a franchise with 4 staff members and as long as we can keep a say on recruitment (not operations) we believe our concept can grow as a franchise model!

How would you say you position Mama Works (in terms of target, tenants’ profile,…) as opposed to other independent of international coworking players?

We are trying to position Mama Works as an urban kibbutz for coworkers. We want our community to feed on each other and grow organically. Mama Works is chic, high tech, affordable but most importantly human, friendly and lively.

Coworking to change the work culture in Japan

Takayuki Hagihara is one of the well-known faces within the coworking global scene. Tokyo based Takayuki travelled the world visiting dozens of coworking spaces and building up a limitless knowledge of the multi-diverse way the coworking model is implemented on the five continents. ULSLab’s (Ubiquitous Lifestyle Laboratory, his company) mission is “the realization of a society where everyone can cooperate without being tied to a location”.

Hello Takayuki. Can you introduce yourself and your activities ?

After a long career as an engineer, I decided to start my own company. As many in my situation, I started to visit some of the shared offices in Tokyo. During my investigations, I entered a bunch of coworking spaces. It appeared to me that coworking, as a working place, could become a very promising alternative to traditional workplaces. I met many attractive operators, such as Kyo, from PAX Coworking, the founder of one of the first coworking spaces to have opened in Japan. I figured out that the Coworking model was about something much stronger than just the “work environment”. As of today, we provide professional services both for service provider side and enterprise side on work style change management.

How is the situation of coworking in Japan in 2017 ? 

According to a 2016 research on service providers for telework which was conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 1.987 flexible workplaces are active in Japan, claiming to be coworking spaces. Some are business centers. Based on the survey, we can say that 65.3% are operated by private organizations. About one third is profitable. The survey doesn’t make a clear distinction between the different offerings, though.

Do you see some specific drivers in Japan as opposed to other coworking offerings you have seen around the world ?

I do not see any significant differences between Japanese coworking spaces and European, Asian and US spaces I visited. I can find a foreign counterpart for any to Japanese coworking space I know. Each space differentiates itself from the others. That said, yes, at a smaller level, there are maybe some characteristics specific to Japan. For instance, kitchen and dining areas are relatively seldom in Japan, if I compare it to what I have visited in the US, Europe or the rest of Asia.

What about the profile of the tenants : freelancers, expats, startups, employees from private or public organizations ?

Freelancers and small startups are quite common. Accountant and independent consultants sometimes. Small businesses launched by retired people is something more unique in  Japan. We see them in some coworking spaces. Large enterprises also start to let their employees to work from shared offices and coworking spaces. On July 24th (2017), the government launched what they called ‘Telework day’. According to a report, more than 60,000 employees worked at home or from third workplaces, different from the company’ offices.

How important is it to build up a community feeling in coworking spaces in Japan (with events, happy hours, a celebration of people’ birthday, etc.) ?

It really depends on the space. Some operators I met are keen to organize lunches or coffee breaks in order to trigger new conversations, good to establish relationships. However, some (young female, for instance) attendees do not want to join drinking events. The community manager is critical to overcoming these barriers.

Just recently, WeWork announced a $300 Mio deal with SoftBank in order to open 40 spaces in Japan. What does the deal tell about the evolution of coworking in Japan? 

SoftBank isn’t the only one. There are many investments in the shared workplace business. Large real estate companies started branded spaces. Some company started more than one brand – focusing enterprise use, Tokyo branch use, coworking, innovation hubs, …

What about the role of independent operators ? Is the coworking market mainly in the hands of big brands, such as what we see in some other Asian countries ?

Independent operators are still vital and sometimes belong alliance programs provided by large brands. For example, Tokyu Corporation – one of the top private railway in the metropolitan area which also has real estate business subsidiary – started the brand NewWork currently focusing on enterprise employee hot desks near its railway stations has contracted with more than 10 independent coworking spaces as well as their own spaces.

How ready is the commercial real market to embrace coworking in Japan, would you say ?

Traditional property owners like to stay good old leasing model. There is a huge development in Tokyo area for high-end property and it makes an existing property to be rated as 2nd class. So, some owners decided the new coworking model to survive.

Paris coworking boom equally fuelled by independent and branded spaces

The maturation of the coworking market showcases a more and more perceivable split between two kind of players :

  1. well funded growing coworking brands, with a multi-location strategy, on the one hand
  2. locally rooted independent coworking spaces with a more focused identity and community, on the other hand.

The pattern gets confirmed is a steadily growing number of metropoles around the globe London, Berlin, NYC, Chicago, Singapore, Sydney, Shanghai and many more.

Paris is no exception.

The international real estate advisory company Arthur Loyd just published a data supported study on the rise of the coworking industry in the Paris region.

As much as 10 football fields to open in 2017

According to the study, close to 70.000 m2 of coworking space are to open in 2017. “It’s as much as the total coworking openings we have seen in the Paris ragion in 5 years“, underlines the firm.

Whitin the last 24 months, the coworking offering increaseded by 167%.

The number of coworking spaces ninefolded, from 20 spaces in 2012 to a total of 177 in 2017 !

“Nowadays, a mere 7% of the digital natives’ population (18 to 30 years old) consider to work from a traditional office”, observes the Arthur Loyd study.

Growth equally supported by branded and independent coworking spaces

Who drives the market up ?

According to the study, the parisian market is evenly divided in terms of the number of spaces between the independent and the branded coworking spaces (WeWork, Spaces, etc.).

Independent coworking spaces in Paris started to ignite the demand seven years ago.

Arthur Loyd mentions Solleiles Cowork, Mutinerie, La Cantine (now Numa), La Ruche, La Cordée, Lawomatic  and many more, including bigger independent networks such as Remix Coworking.

The rise of branded networks of coworking spaces is more recent in Paris, as it is in other major cities in Europe, Asia or America.

Remix Coworking

International brands like WeWork or Spaces (Regus group) opened their first locations only this year in the French capital.

Meanwhile, well-known French companies and investors have invested in the building of local coworking brands, now expanding in Paris and in other major cities in France (Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille…). Those are Nextdoor, Kwerk, NOW and some others.

Branded coworking spaces represent nowadays almost 75% of the overall coworking market in the Paris-Ile de France region, due to their multi-locations strategy.

According to the Arthur Loyd study, the main difference between the independent and branded coworking spaces lies in the average surface of the respective coworking spaces : within the Paris region, the average size of independent coworking spaces is 364 m2 as opposed to 1.061 m2 for the branded coworking spaces.

In other words, branded coworking spaces represent nowadays almost 75% of the overall coworking market in the Paris-Ile de France region, due to their multi-locations strategy.

More independent spaces located in the city’s off-centre areas

A difference surfaces as well in terms of geographical location. Whereas branded coworking spaces tend to open in the very center of the city, close to the most prestigious addresses, on the main avenues, a.o., independent coworking spaces are, on average, more often located in the off-centre districts.   

Lease costs obviously play a role.

It means that the price of a desk for members is slightly lower within independent coworking spaces (401 € /month, on average) as opposed to the branded space with multi-location (493 € / month for WeWork), writes the report.

Some spaces also position themselves within or close to the digital entrepreneurship hotspots or in Paris’s trendiest neighborhoods, not far from Bastille, Le Sentier or République“, comments the report.

A real impact on the real estate market in Paris

Coworking will only absorb about 3% of the total transactions made in 2017, according to Arthur Loyd Investement. The market is generating a lot of new value, though. Landlord should take it seriously into consideration.

For different reasons, as observe in other countries, corporations now are becoming users of coworking spaces.

Expect more growth to come in Paris.

The breakdown between Branded coworking spaces networks and independent coworking players will be a hot topic to be addressed during the upcoming Coworking Europe 2017 conference, to take place in Dublin (November 8-10). 

London: The coworking market sees signs of a price war looming

Hector Kolonas is the founder of Included.co, an online platform organising group purchases for a network of over 200 coworking communities in the world. The service helps the spaces to buy supplies and services at a discounted price, thanks to the generated volumes.

As a London-based startup, which initially started to work with the London coworking ecosystem, Hector is ideally positioned to depict the evolution of the coworking market in one of the most innovative and dynamic cities of Europe and the world. The competition is becoming fierce, as somehow confirmed the discussions which took place at the recent eOffice London Coworking Conference.

Hi Hector. The coworking offering strongly increased, during the last three years London. What are the main drivers of the growth, according to you?

Hector Kolonas, Included.co

Indeed, we enrich over 50 business communities across London, up from just 2 when we launched in the city. This is at a similar pace to the number of new spaces opening up. This growth includes serviced offices adapting space into open-plan, flexible workspaces; new coworking brands; expansion of existing coworking brands; and new takes on what coworking could look like for different niches.

There are two main drivers behind the rapid growth of coworking communities in the city, namely economic and social.

First up, rent in London is crazy expensive, as can be expected for any thriving capital city. So the notion of ‘sharing’ office expenses like rent, electricity, coffee and workspace management is a no-brainer. The increasingly flexible terms (mostly month-to-month) allow for businesses to invest in growth and their staff, instead of into sunk costs normally associated with office rentals. But that’s the same everywhere, and a reason why coworking has exploded across the globe.
What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing. With the growth in popularity of entrepreneurship in the UK (and Europe) a lot of passionate and brilliant people have converged in London.

What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing.

At the beginning, everyone went at it alone, hiding the lessons they’d learned as competitive advantages for their businesses. Community-focussed coworking spaces broke down these barriers and showed members that they could grow faster by sharing knowledge, experiences and contacts.
With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe. It won’t be long until a few start launching in the US too.

With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe

Are major brands supporting the development of the coworking market or is it fueled by the multiplication of more and more independent project?

The Sillicon Roundabout, in London, around which gravitates a number of startups focused coworking.

The two seem to be resonating in London, creating opportunities for each other.
The big brands (both in the coworking sector and from other enterprise-focussed businesses) are creating huge spaces that create a buzz in the media and promote the fundamentals of sharing workspaces on more flexible terms than traditional rentals.
The independents are either becoming large brands in their own rights or carving out perfectly built oases for specific business niches. Whilst we’ve definitely seen a few independent spaces having to shut their doors, a vast majority are working on the expansion, with 2nd, 3rd or even 4th locations opening in the coming 12 months.
Businesses are increasingly switching between the two, based on the kind of employees they want to attract; customers they serve, and the additional costs they can shrink.

How about the profile of the new tenants: mainly freelancers, startups, SME’s or corporations?

As London is a melting pot of epic proportions, there’s a space (or subset of spaces) for almost every profile. From large polished spaces for consultants, professional services and the likes; to workspaces built around reclaimed furniture in warehouses.
Some spaces limit membership to specific niches or business types, others are happy to accept any member that doesn’t create negativity in the workplace.
There is definitely a growing shift of corporations moving autonomous teams into these coworking communities, but there’s still a lot to be learned about how to integrate these teams with the other non-corporate members, in a way that isn’t detrimental to the corporation.
Wherever there are startups, there are passionate and creative people, and thus a growing number of freelancers can be found in and around the most buzzing coworking communities in the city.

Is the demand growing fast enough to absorb the growth of the coworking offering in London?

Work.Life is among the coworking brands expanding fast in London.

The growth in the flexible workspace is astronomical. We’ve literally lost count of the number of shared workspaces available or being used in London, with new coworking spaces opening almost every day or two.
We’ve been exploring when market saturation will occur and helping the operators of our partner workspaces to prepare for the coming dip in demand.
At the current rate (and according to our back-of-a-napkin calculations) there should be enough demand to sustain the current workspace growth for the next 20ish months. From their workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start haemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

From there workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start hemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

With some of the traditional commercial real estate players also exploring the coworking sector, the fight for not only tenants but brand loyalty will move from location and price to tangible value and stability.

Speaking of pushing down membership feels, some players noticed the beginning of a price war in the coworking market. Do you see this? 

Even though I’m confident that the ‘war for tenants’ will be fought on the value and community front, there is definitely signs of a price war looming in the London ecosystem.
Operating costs for coworking communities are growing due to business rate increases; the gentrification of specific burrows; and the ‘sexiness’ of coworking sneaking into rent-renewal negotiations with landlords.
This opportunity has been seized by some of the bigger players to drop prices, offering what are essentially loss-leader memberships to attract tenants and potentially starve off competing spaces. We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

With more and more sales teams being hired to fuel expansion, being able to absorb losses to acquire potential long-term customers is becoming a weapon of choice.
But the line between sales and community is also being crossed more and more. With some members even reporting having received messages congratulating them on personal milestones (possibly mined from private social media channels) before offering them a free tour or discounted membership as a gift.
I should obviously note that this isn’t the whole industry though, as many coworking space managers are actually and actively collaborating behind the scenes to help each other out.

With London’s center being so dense and expensive, do you see an expansion of the coworking offering in the suburb? Are those spaces different (size, positioning…) from those located downtown?

Second Home has opened a location in Lisbon

There are actually two interesting trends here.
Firstly, great community-focussed spaces from outside Zone 1 and 2 are opening new workspaces towards the centre or on other sides of the city. By leveraging their knowledge, brand equity and operational experience they can offer more affordable or valuable workspace offerings. These workspaces can either be smaller satellite-style offices or grander whole/half buildings with new features designed specifically based on the requests/needs of their existing members.
Secondly, larger brands are diversifying their market exposure, potentially hedging against the coming market saturation and price wars. This means they’re opening locations in cities like Dublin, Manchester, Lisbon, Barcelona and others. In smaller cities, the new workspaces are normally larger due to lower rentals and operating costs. A number of local coworking brands have also raised VC funding to fuel this growth.
Whilst no brand wants to ever be seen to be ‘fleeing’ the centre, some communities are moving further outwards to keep their businesses feasible. With superb community coordinators, and when well explained, this can happen without any long-term detriment to the brand, and can sometimes even strengthen members’ relationships to the community.

You mentioned it above. Coworking spaces diversify their revenue sources. What can you say about it?

From all the communities we observe, assist and enrich, we’ve picked up on 3 different avenues for revenue diversification. These are excluding the renting out of registered addresses and meeting rooms, which can be expected in any thriving metropolitan ecosystem.
The first is sponsorship, which is arguably the most attractive, because who wouldn’t want to have ‘free money’ thrown at them? Professional service and technology brands are happy to write cheques to community coordinators, to lock in the exclusive promotion of their offering. What we’ve found is that around 75% of the time, these offerings are not what the member businesses need or even want, but the community manager’s hands are tied by the agreements with sponsoring firms.
The second is the merger of partnerships and affiliate revenue. Normally delegated to community managers, this creates a bottleneck for the operating team. Not only do they have to deal with a huge amount of non-stop inbound partnership requests, but they also need to somehow figure out if:
a) the service/product supplier is legitimate,
b) the offer will create value for their members,
c) the workspace will make enough revenue to recoup this invested time.
The third is actually where we work every single day. We handle inbound partnership requests, negotiate on behalf of 200 communities, and ensure that the workspaces get a fair apportion of generated revenue on a long-term basis. As we don’t offer any exclusivity, members will never be tied to a single provider, allowing them to discover solutions that their coworkers are using, and saving money with.
This means that the members of each space in our network get access to a growing set of solutions, and the community coordinators can focus on implementing creative ways to connect their members to the solutions. Some of our partner communities are saving their members £1,000’s in unavoidable expenses each month, driving up their own long-term revenue and building great brand loyalty at the same time.
With the price war looming, and the costs of operating increasing, it’s no wonder why so many coworking communities are becoming included too.