Category: Business

“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.

“Coworking is an emerging industry comparable to hotels or restaurants”

 Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of SocialWorkplaces.com and initiator of the Coworking Europe conference was interviewed, last month, by Building magazine, a Canada-based magazine covering the Real Estate and Construction industry.

It’s not a secret that the Real Estate industry is wondering how to deal with the growing phenomenon of coworking. The flexible model could slowly disrupt the traditional office market. New concepts have emerged.

Jean-Yves Huwart

The landscape remains blurry, though, for outsiders. Many traditional players keep struggling to make the distinction between the wide variety of offerings: serviced office, coworking, shared workspace, incubator, business centers, fablabs, etc.

As a matter of facts, instead of looking at the individual models, we think the challenge is nowadays to consider the emergence of a whole new hospitality industry, similar to hotels or restaurants.

This is the focus of the interview:

Could you start by outlining the key functions and objectives of Social Workplaces?

We have been involved in the Coworking movement since 2010 (that year we organised the first Coworking Europe conference), and started to link up coworking communities from Europe and beyond.

From a few dozens of coworking spaces in operation around the world eight to ten years ago, we have witnessed an increase to up to 13.000 units as of today worldwide, according to the Deskmag Global Survey 2017 which is supported by SocialWorkplaces.com.

Through these years, we have had the opportunity to interview and talk with many tenants and operators. We have become more and more convinced that what coworking brought, first for freelancers and start-ups, was an actual re-invention of the function of the workplace, broadly speaking, for the digital age. This was for any kind of workplace, any category of employer.

Once the ability to access your production tools has become ubiquitous, why is there a need for you to have a workplace? For us, coworking provided the answer: people need to be in touch with other people with whom they like to be with, both for their personal equilibrium as much as for professional reasons.

This is especially important at a time when routine tasks can be more and more automated and when workers are requested to provide more creative and social outputs. We call this the Social Workplace, inspired by the coworking experience.

How would you define specifically a coworking workplace relative to shared office, public workspaces (community centers, libraries), mixed workspaces, maker spacers and business centre workplaces?

Coworking is open. You can show up anytime and propose yourself to become a coworker. Someone will walk (normally) towards you, be hospitable and make you comfortable. People flow in and out. This is similar to a hotel, a restaurant or a gym. It’s service driven. Usually, coworking spaces also create a proper identity and, thus, a sense of belonging that is at the root of the creation of communities. 

Shared office [models] are more closed. Certainly [in this model] you will be around the same people in the same building all time. This doesn’t impede social interaction. However, it will be more static.

Those models are not exclusive between one another. More and more business centers open up coworking services within their buildings and hire a community manager to build up an emotional relationship with and between their tenants. The added value is no more – or less and less – in the provision of a facility; it is in creating a pleasant environment and experience.

Are there significant differences between approaches in Europe and North America?

Europe and North America are not that different, I would say, in terms of offerings. Big US cities, however, have a higher density of startups and digital workers. So we see bigger players, bigger spaces in the US. That said, it’s just a matter of time before we see Europe catching up in terms of growth.

Who are the current main users/members of coworking workplaces? HOK/Cornet Global 2016 report suggests employees in a corporation are also now a significant and growing percentage of users/members?

Freelancers are the biggest category of users so far. They are the historical first tenants because, in the beginning, spaces were smaller and did not necessarily have the capacity to accommodate bigger teams. The population of freelancers is growing everywhere, however, as the new working generation looks for more freedom and self-achievement. Plus, big companies’ headcounts keep shrinking.

Source Hok

Sideways, we see more and more employees within coworking spaces. Corporations have started to authorise people from their innovation departments, for instance, to work from coworking spaces in order to be in touch with the local start-up scenes. Companies who need a smaller representation office in a city also tend to consider to use a coworking space rather than to go for an office long term lease.

So far, in terms of overall numbers, the trend is marginal. We think it’s just the beginning, though. Fast growing SME’s do not hesitate to put all their teams in coworking space offices.  The Office in the cloud (the cloud here being the coworking spaces) will become mainstream.

What are the most important attributes of a successful coworking place; e.g. shared services, social interaction, flexible (varied and funky?) work areas, IT support?

Pure coworking spaces rarely bother with IT support usually but they do provide a stable, secure internet connection. That’s it. Tenants’ tools are now in the cloud. Besides, today, neither startups nor freelancers need traditional assistant support. Sure, there are exceptions, but those are outdated services with the new generation of digital nimble companies as far as we see it. Again, everything is in the cloud. Spaces need to offer new kind of value adding services if they want to keep their revenue per user at the same level as in the past. Indeed, they need to provide a space with human focused connections, interesting events, social moments, fun and networking. This is what gives value nowadays, not forgetting flexibility and the opportunity to scale up or down easily.

Within the coworking industry, what is the relationship between: 1) large international firms like Regus, Servcorp and WeWork; and 2) smaller independent operators?

The analogy with the hotel industry is for me the most relevant. You have Accor, Shangri-La’s, Holiday Inn, Best Western proposals, aside from AirBNB’s, Bed & Breakfast, independent hotels, camping or even couch surfing. These can be fully complementary. Each reaching out to different needs, profiles or customer expectations, all according to the context of the booking. These accommodation offerings are not mutually exclusive, I would add. Depending on the context, you may consider staying at a Regency hotel because your need is professional only, you don’t look nor have time to socialise or discover a city. But on holiday time, the hospitality of a Bed & Breakfast or, even, the fun of couch surfing might suit you.

That said, with hotels, etc., we speak only about a few days. The main difference between the need for lodging and the need for a workplace is the duration of the stay. With a workplace, you commit for a few months, at the least, not for a few days. The quality of the social experience then become a much higher driver of choice.

What is the significance of secondary coworking spaces such as those promoted by hotels, coffee bistros, libraries, maker spaces, etc.?

Again, the element of duration is key here. Working from a coffee shop during one or two hours (depending on the battery life of your computer) might be fully convenient. Noise and comfort are not (so) critical, in this case. This will be another story when you have to stay eight hours a day, five days a week. You probably will look for a proper work environment.

What is the role/significance of LiquidSpace or similar apps that use the Airbnb approach to attracting workers? 

Liquidspace and the likes are like Booking.com for hotels. They are sales channels and helpful online directories. The dimension of service is critical, though. If space fails to provide the required hospitality and quality of service, the trust will be broken. This is a service business. Forget it, and you will lose. 

The HOK study raises the issue of upcoming renewal of leases for many coworking spaces, as many are based on five-year leases. Is this an important concern?

It’s still a bit early to say, as the wave of bigger, stronger spaces is less than five years old, overall, in Europe. However, this is certainly a very big challenge ahead. We are not aware of accurate data about this. A lot of coworking spaces, through their activities, have brought a lot of value back to properties – sometimes to the whole neighbourhood within which they operate – and have not been rewarded for doing so. I would advise any coworking operator to really consider this when negotiating. That being said, we hear more and more of landlords getting in touch with coworking operators in order to partner up. I’m personally a strong believer in this kind of mutual partnerships where risk is shared.

What is the potential growth of demand for coworking spaces over the net decade? HOK suggests overall it will stabilise around 2% -4% penetration

We saw those figures. As far as we understand it, this includes business centres as well. To me, the turning point will be when coworking space operators will be able to host companies with 200-300 people or more while providing mutualized support services without losing their ability to accommodate people on an individual base. This will create convivial environments within full office buildings, with [the coworking operator] becoming a concierge, facilitator, connector, ecosystem builder, etc. Social Workplace will become the standard. Ultimately, we believe that no employee will accept anymore to work in the old-fashioned, dull closed and dry office environment they have experienced in the last decades. Then, expect the penetration rate [of coworking] to become much much higher.

In Summary, what is the future of Coworking workspaces over the next decade; what will be the key trends?

This is just the beginning [but] it will evolve under many shapes.

Head pic. Hotel Schani, Vienna.

Ahoy! Berlin works on accommodating freelancers and corporations

Ahoy! Berlin is a Berlin based space for coworking and innovation. The more than 4.000 m2 big space host now freelancers as well as sartups and corporations.

Hi Stéphanie, can you introduce the Ahoy! Berlin project? What is it about?

Our main goal is to create a dynamic yet sustainable community where people have the freedom to collaborate, to explore and to have fun. We stand behind the main 5 shared coworking values – community, openness, collaboration, mutual help and equality, but we added another one – well-being. 

As a second concept line we have the nautical theme which is implemented in every detail in Ahoy. It likens the new startup economy to the open sea with it’s strong currents and unpredictable weather. Ahoy serves to help budding startups and freelancers steer clear of potential pitfalls by connecting them to a wider community of possible collaborators and investors via Tech Berlin sister companies Openers and Tech Open Air while also offering additional services like event management and legal advice.

Ahoy started as fairly small space and scaled up rapidly. Was it the founders’ plans to go this way?

Ahoy! was founded in December 2011 by Nikita Roshkow and Nikolas Woischnik. The first location was in Charlottenburg and was only 400 m2. Over the years, the space grew up to 1700 m2. As a result of this natural and organic growth in September 2015 Ahoy moved to a new location, which currently has over 4200 sqm spread over 3 floors.

Thе scale up wasn’t by accident, but it also wasn’t strictly planned. Our expansion was a result of hard work, willingness to develop the coworking concept, team members’ devotion and community strength.
In December 2015 we opened our second location in Sao Paulo with 450 m2. It’s managed by Felippe Burratini who is an Ahoy! Berlin Alumni. This is a perfect example of the way how the coworking synergy works. 

How receptive was the Landlord to accompany this process?

He helped us a lot in our recent growth in the last year – from the moment we moved to our current location until now, we expanded from only 1 floor to 3 floors. Even now the landlord constantly keeps us in a loop for potential new buildings.

Ahoy hosts some bigger companies. What are corporations looking for in a coworking space ?

According to our observations and regular feedback we get from our corporate community members we know that there are 5 main reasons:

  • To establish themselves quickly in a new city or a new market
  • To reduce costs and risk of new projects
  • To get closer to startups and entrepreneurs
  • To acquire more autonomy
  • To recruit new talents

Is the social and community dimension important in their choice, or do corporation’s employees in your space keep themselves aside as an island in the space?

The companies that use team offices often stay together in groups. Nevertheless, many of the interactions and collaborations between them and the other community members happen in very informal, chill and friendly atmosphere, while having a coffee, a lunch or a drink after work in our open cafe area. That’s the moment when the best ideas are born. The phenomenon known as “serendipity”.

Isn’t the flexibility and offered scalability a sufficient a value proposition for bigger organisations within you space?

It’s not only the space, the services and the possibilities to grow within the space that attract the bigger organisations. It’s also about the social interaction and the access o a professionally diverse community.

Do you work on mingling actively all of your tenants/members, including those working as employees for a company ?

Yes, we do work on that – we organise various community events:

  • community breakfasts;
  • captain’s’ lunches, strictly focused on bringing together the CEOs of the companies at Ahoy;
  • skills exchange;
  • drinks after work;
  • yoga classes
  • German classes.

We also facilitate the process of professional interaction by connecting our members based on the fields they work in. In order to foster the community development we use internal communication channels where they can introduce themselves and approach the other members.

What are the main differences between individual members with respect to the level of engagement with the rest of the community?

I’d say that the level of involvement and engagement in the community depends more on personal traits like collectivism and extraversion than on the type of membership. We have community members from big companies that are actively involved in the community and freelancers who prefer to stay on their own.

Desks VS offices ?

For us it is important to have them both – we offer fix and flex desks, as well as team offices. We’re striving to meet the needs of the freelancers, the startups and the corporations.

Are you working on hosting more corporations in the future ? 

We are open to everyone who want to join our space and become part of our community. At the same time we’re trying to keep the balance between freelancers, startups and corporations. We believe that this is the only way we can preserve the community diversity – the aspect that makes the coworking idea so appealing.

Do you see a new level of openness in bringing employees from other departments ?

More and more corporations are open to send entire teams and departments to coworking spaces. However, the process of making that decision still takes more time and it often goes through the several rounds of approbation. There is often as much internal negotiation as there is with the coworking operators. Managers need to convince their superiors and their employees of the value of such spaces.

However, once a corporation embraced that change, the trend spread easily through the entire company.

Do you think medium-size and big companies could outsource a big part of their office and facility management to bigger coworking spaces in the future ?

We’ve seen it’s already happening – from having an office in a coworking space to renting entire buildings managed by coworking companies, corporations are now switching to another way of perceiving the working process.

 

Ahoy! Berlin will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Europe 2017 conference in Dublin.