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.
Kolektif House is born in 2015. The Turkey based operator depicts itself as “More than a co-working space : a platform for creators who love what they do and believe in the power of sharing“. Today, Kolektif House claims it connects 1300 freelancers, startups, investors, corporates and mid-size companies, in Istanbul. Ahmet is the co-founder of Kolektif House. The company operates two locations in Istanbul and will soon open a third one.
Hi Ahmet, can you tell us more about the story behind Kolektif House?
We started Kolektif House when my close friend Civan, one of our partners and current CDO, returned back to Turkey after graduation in the US. He was then searching for his dream office. He asked me for help to find an inspiring and affordable workspace; soon enough we realized that there was a big gap in the market for such a product. This led us to start our own project, Kolektif House, to not only create an office space but actually transform the concept of ‘working’ to a feeling of ‘creating value and belonging’.
You said there was no market for coworking, in Istanbul, back then. How about that?
There was a market potential, but, frankly, not a significant enough supply or adequate products to support that potential. What was established in Istanbul, back then, were standard office spaces whereas our aim was to challenged the status quo by focusing on the community aspect. We strived to create such a community that not only worked under the same roof but also interacted with one another at a social and professional level, where people shared their opinions and did business together to create something inspiring every day.
How did you raise the awareness about coworking?
We had almost no budget for marketing and only a few people in our team. Our main awareness builder has been our events policy. We held events with local artists and offered them our walls so that they could display their expressions, ideas and artworks in our space. We invited an ice sculptor from the other side of the world to one of our Sunday breakfasts for a live performance. We hosted Turkey’s greatest comedian, musicians and actors in our talk show series. Besides, we attended One Love, one of the biggest festivals in Turkey, by convincing organizers to provide us with free space in exchange for a creative idea to showcase at the venue. So, we printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto. As far as the corporate brands in Istanbul are concerned, we invited executives to hold their events in our place with no charge and promised to serve them the best service they could find elsewhere. I would literally clean up the place every morning and Civan would serve tea just before we change to our suits and greet guests at the reception area. We would do everything we could to compensate for our deficiencies which went as far as lighting up the room with candles in our hands when we lost electricity during a very important conference that was held in our space. And today we evolved to a stage where we host events for leading brands such as Nike, Vodafone, Accenture, Is Bank, Yandex and many more.
We printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto
Who were the people/profiles you had first to convince?
Regardless of their business, our aim, since day one, was to lure people who are passionate about what they create. Due to the nature of the coworking space, our first members were mostly freelancers and startups. As we grew, we saw greater opportunity in diversity and in having different types of companies from various sectors. Today we have a member portfolio consisting of 10% corporates, %30 startups, 30% SME’s, 20% freelancers and 10% VC’s. Among our 1300 members, we have Turkey’s leading bank Is Bankasi, Turkey HQ of Yandex, successful startups that have expanded internationally and global VC’s such as 500 Startups.
What are the communication channels you mainly used to get out of anonymity?
As said, events have been the major driver for us. Once we put a great show, influencers posted it online, press wrote about it, participants shared on their social accounts and most importantly, it leads to a strong word of mouth. Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy, we remain close relationship with influencers and press and keep collaborating with artists which drives brand recognition and loyalty.
Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy
Is Turkey a coworking friendly the same way you see it in other European countries?
Culturally, Turkey has a great community history, which is the coworking’s pillar. However looking at the recent past, we have not been great at picking up and scaling the global trends. Shared economy and coworking is one of these lately picked habits. I believe it will just take a little longer for Turkey to penetrate, but the potential and the energy is out there so I believe Turkey is a good fit for building a coworking ecosystem.
Has it to do with a scarcity of financial resources? Or a lack of meaningful allies?
I believe financial resources can always be pointed as a limiting factor in any kind of business. However when you look at the bigger picture, having people understand what we really do here and the value we add to their business was the biggest barrier for us. Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment in their employees’ happiness.
Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment
Based on your experience, what would you recommend new operators in low “coworking-awareness” areas to do first?
People have always been eager to be a part of a community, regardless of their era, nationality, geographic location, or demographics. The coworking trend is just a reflection of that same sense of belonging. So it is not about the destination, it is about the process of how you bring those minds together under the same roof. And the starting point of that process should definitely be paying genuine attention to what those minds say. This will help them to build more appropriate and target-fit services, and product features.
What are the main challenges you have coped with since then?
We increased tenfold our size within the last 3 years in terms of surface, number of members and diversity of our community. While doing so, our biggest challenge was to keep improving our service at the same pace which required setting a strong technology backbone and acquiring the right talent. To be honest, I feel like we could have managed these two issues better. Once we realized that we came to a point where we couldn’t organize the events we wanted due to lack of team members or correctly analyze our membership data to make strategic decisions, we started to really move our investments to these two areas that I have mentioned above. Our team today grew to 43 people and we keep hiring great talent from a variety of industries which empowers us to create new departments such as technology so that we can continuously improve our overall service.
What are Kolektif’s plans for the future?
We help people grow their hearts and their businesses. All of our team is working on many exciting projects to achieve excellence on this mission. In doing so, we will expand both locally and internationally to over 30 locations to serve nearly 34,000 members by 2022.
Manuel Zea is the founder of CoworkingSpain.es and the organizer of the Coworking Spain Conference, one of the first national conference ever organized on coworking. Manuel saw coworking moving from a fragile new born to an industry on it’s way to disrupt the traditional office market. As of today, Spain is still the country with the highest number of individual coworking space per capita. A few days after the Coworking Spain 2018 conference, which took place in Madrid, it was a good time to ask him about the situation of coworking in the country.
Hi Manuel. Can you tell us about the story behind CoworkingSpain?
“CoworkingSpain.es” is born in 2010. That year, I was invited to speak at the first European conference on coworking. I had entitled my presentation: “An overview of the coworking in Spain”. Prior to the date, I reached out to all the existing coworking spaces at that time, in the country. I had collected so much information that I decided to start a blog called CoworkingSpain.es, which listed coworking space operating in Spain. The year after, I took part to the second Coworking Europe conference in Berlin. I said to myself: it’s time to organize a similar conference in Spain. This was 7 years ago.
What is the main learning you get out of such a longevity?
I think working with passion and love is what makes me work every year at the conference. Its a hard job with a really small team, so doing things with passion and love is key for us. As you mention, the competition is now rising between the 3 biggest international operators, now active in Spain. You can feel how they want to get market share and they are using marketing strategics to get more penetration into the market. Collaboration between spaces is possible but to a certain limit and easier between smaller spaces. Collaboration between big coworking brands is more difficult. Be will work on that, though.
Why, would you say, coworking spaces have an interest to collaborate with one another?
My opinion is that collaboration is a way to grow faster and organized and a way to learn faster. There is a lot of experience in every single person that can solve in a simple way a problem that seems big to you. Collaborartion is the perfect way to accelerate your serendipity.
According to your Spanish coworking survey, Spain counts about 800 coworking spaces, still one of the highest number in Europe…
This is a legacy from the economical crisis. Eight years ago, there was just a bunch of coworking spaces. Their mission was to spread the word about the coworking word and educate the world about what coworking was. This was a really tough job. We can’t figure out something more complicated than to teach a market about a service one isn’t even aware there might be a demand for. That was our job from the beginning and it has been the mission of the Coworking Spain Conference all those years: Connect all the coworking space managers, support each other in resolving common problems, make noise around the ‘coworking’ word in Spain.
Can you give us an overview of the growth of the coworking Spanish market, today?
The coworking industry in Spain is now growing by 20% annually. We experience a professionalisation of the sector. The industry is maturing. Big brands are in Spain. They take a lot of sqm up. The coworking brands are now representing 3% of the total number of coworking operators in Spain. Though, they cover the 30% of the market. They are being very agresive and the penetration into the markets is being big.
The big brands are already in Spain getting a lot of sqm and growing already the 3% of the coworking brands own the 30% of the market.
The average size of coworking spaces in Spain is 200-300m2, which might sound pretty small according to the standards seen in other countries. What should be the strategy for small spaces to survive?
Since the begining of the “coworking era”, a great deal of the spaces in operation in Spain are proportionally small. This explains why Spain had such a high number of individual spaces when compared with other countries. Nowadays, the big names are changing the industry. As far as I see it, the small spaces shouldn’t be too much impacted. The can focus ont their small communities or transform their spaces into another business. The managers of these small coworking spaces can easily change the model and turn their shared office place, for instance, into a design agency. They have a lot of flexibility, and didn’t invest too much money in their space. It’s another story for medium size spaces. Those will have to transform themselves. Coworking is their main activité. They invested a lot of money. The big international brands are more likely to hurt them. They need to be ready for change and increase the value proposition to their communities.
The medium size spaces are the one who need to transform or change the most.
Are there still doubts about the rising importance of coworking in Spain?
Not anymore. Last year, coworking was everywhere. Credit to the big players. WeWork opened. Spaces, by Regus, continued its expansion. And the most commented transaction of the year was the acquisition of Utopicus by the Real State company Colonial. So the word coworking had been spreading a lot last year. We made it!!!!
Pauline and Dimitar are the founders of Coworkies, a Berlin based company connecting like-minded professionals working out of coworking spaces and displaying job opportunities. For the last 2 years, they’ve been doing a coworking world tour. They visited 287 coworking spaces, in 30 cities around the world, with majority in Europe. They are sharing their main learnings and takeaways from an almost 2 years long tour.
Hi Pauline. Can you introduce yourself, the initiative you run and why you had the idea to tour coworking spaces in Europe?
With my co-founder at Coworkies, Dimitar, we started about 2 years ago and at the time, I was managing a coworking space myself in Berlin (called Rainmaking Loft, which rebranded recently as The Place) which is only for startups.
Dimitar was working for Startupbootcamp (a startup accelerator) that was one of our tenants. There, we realized that members were constantly seeking other professionals to work with but their opportunities were only limited to their physical space.
At the time, we knew the coworking scene of Berlin quite well but did not really know how other cities were doing coworking in the sense. Why did it started there? who are the local players? How do people use the space to connect? Why are people actually needing a coworking space and many more questions for which we were seeking answers? Instead of relying only on what we found online, we decided to pack our bags and travel the world of coworking! Traveling is for us an incredible learning curve, we get the chance to meet inspirational founders and managers and see really interesting coworking concepts.
How did you choose the spaces and community you visited?
Before going somewhere, we do a lot of research about the city we are about to visit. We strongly believe that coworking is about the people and not about sqm., so we look for spaces who are in coworking to build meaningful and impactful communities at work. Next to our own research, nowadays we also get a lot of tip from the network of coworking professionals we’ve created.
There are so many coworking spaces, what kind of criterias did you use?
In relation to the previous question. We prioritize recommendations by our network for coworking spaces with passionate founders. I think this is the most important one. There are no reasons for us to meet people who are not passionate about what they are building.
After having toured the Europe’s coworking scene, what are you three main learnings you come back with about the development of coworking on the continent ?
1.There is no best coworking space – each and every coworking space is VERY unique!
During our travels, we often get asked “so what’s the best coworking scene you’ve seen?”. To be honest, there is no best coworking space. Each and every coworking space we visited is very unique and has its own vision, vibe and community. In Europe, we were amazed to see how diverse the market is – there are so many different type of spaces: from makerspaces to coworking for parents or musicians, it’s really blossoming around many interesting topics.
2.The coworking market in Europe stretches from mature markets to very new markets.
Europe is a very interesting place when it comes to coworking. If you take Berlin, where coworking started between 1999 (with hackerspace C-base) and 2005 (Betahaus) the market is now more mature. Some of the spaces have been around for more than a decade and have seen many spaces coming into their market. It also means that people are “aware” about coworking because they’ve seen it for so long. On the other side of the spectrum, if you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch to what it means to cowork and what is the difference compared to Regus or just a normal office.
3.There are way more independent coworking spaces in Europe than in Asia or USA
Our journey took us, so far to three continents. And when comparing Europe to the rest we see how here in Europe we have more independent coworking spaces, that means in Asia there are way more brands who have multiple locations. Related to that is also the size of spaces in Asia and USA, they feel significantly larger than those in Europe. Of course we have few mega-hubs like Station F or Maria 0-1 in Europe, concepts that have not catched up so much in Asia yet.
If you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch
Are there strong differences between cities or countries you visited ?
As I started to touch base on my previous answer, there is HUGE differences in every city we visited and there are few reasons for that:
Coworking did not start everywhere for the same reasons: in London, it started because prices for offices were too high. If you look at Barcelona, it started during the crisis, when Creatives decided to gather and share their workspace.
The scene of each city is very different: London has about 400+ coworking spaces of various sizes from 10 to 600+ people, with a huge part of the crowd being startups. If you take a city like Madrid you will find way less coworking spaces and a lot of them are actually for creatives and artists. It’s one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.
The way one does coworking is also very different from the north of Europe to the South. In Scandinavia or even in Germany, people use coworking spaces from early morning to 6PM whereas in the south of Europe it was very different! Before 10, there is not much going on and people tend to stay really late at night, so the coworking owners have to adapt to that rythm.
One big difference also occurs when the city is also popular among Digital Nomads (like Lisbon, Porto or Barcelona). Building a community that includes Digital Nomad can be really challenging sometimes, but all the spaces we met do it extremely well.
Madrid is one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.
Do space operators shared some of their challenges? What are they ?
Yes, they do! I think one of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model. We all know coworking has an extremely flexible business model, which means that for some of the spaces, generating stable revenue every month is not easy. Another one is how to deal with constantly fluctuating community as you need to have really strong culture to keep the vibe intact.
One of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model.
From what you know of coworking on other continents, what is specific to Coworking in Europe ?
I think Europe, thanks to its richness of cultures and languages has one of the most diverse coworking scenes in the world. As I was saying earlier, there are so many different type of spaces around Europe, it’s really fascinating and inspiring. I believe here is where a lot of the new coworking concepts are emerging before starting to spread around the world.
What did your tour inspired you about the future of coworking on the continent ?
It’s always very hard to predict the future but from what we saw, it looks like coworking will be even more curated, meaning spaces are rethinking their vision and narrowing it down to one vertical of interest. Be it creatives only, startups only, parents, musicians or any other type of community that comes together because they share a common interest and can learn from each other and collaborate. The power of community seems to become more and more important both for spaces and for coworkers. Follow Coworkies’ blog for the comprehensive report city by city
The Italian born Talent Garden counts, nowadays, among the major coworking brands operating in Europe. The Milan based company runs 23 “coworking-campuses” across Italy and the rest of Europe. Talent Garden was one of the first coworking operator to raise VC money in Europe, when coworking still was a tiny trend. Since then, the group has developed a strong education offering, making it quite a unique model in the coworking industry. We checked with Davide Dattoli, co-founder and CEO, what are Talent Garden today’s vision and plans.
Hi Davide. Why does Talent Garden speaks about “campuses” rather than “coworking spaces” when telling about your locations? What is the difference?
Davide Dattoli, CEO Talent Garden
Talent Garden considers itself as an international innovation platform, who operates facilities where members can meet, work, learn and collaborate. We use the word “campus” rather than “coworking” because Talent Garden was founded with the aim to create ecosystems that would connect, support and grow the best startups within technological and digital arenas. We wanted to contribute to the professional development of future global innovators.
Is this a way for Talent Garden to differentiate from the competition while other international brands are gaining ground?
I wouldn’t say that. In opposition to some international coworking operators who look first at growing a real estate business, at Talent Garden, community is genuinely at the core of what we do. We focus on new ways to transform and connect both flexible work and education environments, as requested by digital entrepreneurs and businesses.
The Innovation School is an important part of your activity. Would you say that Talent Garden is today a training agency as much as it is a coworking spaces operator?
The two businesses coexist, giving value to one another. Education is a fundamental part of our ecosystem. In 2015, Talent Garden became active in the education sector with the launch of our School of innovation – a school that offers training in the fields of digital and innovation, with a focus on coding, data, design, marketing, and business. We really believe that this is an integrating part of our offer.
We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events. And it is exponentially growing: in 2017 we trained 500 students, 1,000 children, 2,300 professionals and involved over 70 companies in its programs.
You use to partner up with universities. Why do universities need Talent Garden?
We partner with universities that share our innovative approach. We recently announced the opening of our new campus in Dublin in partnership with Dublin City University (DCU), a new hub for digital innovation. This will be the first collaboration of its kind in Europe. In DCU, we have found a University partner with the same entrepreneurial DNA and ambition as Talent Garden. This made the selection process easy. The existing DCU Alpha community of digital and IoT innovators is the perfect home for us, whereas the University partnership will help us to scale our Innovation School offering globally.
We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events.
Does it tell something about the future of education, would you say?
We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. We created our Innovation School in this context. We train young people and professionals. We bring new cultures and skills to businesses and we offer upgrades and updates to those operating in the work environment.
We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. In this context, we created our Innovation School
We also believe in lifelong learning and change management within individual companies. Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities, and yet this is where companies devote 80% of their training budget. For this reason, we offer an innovative training methodology, putting people at the center of the learning process based on cross-pollination and co-creation, to make sure that the expenditure in training gives results in proportion to the investment made.
Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities
Talent Garden has partnerships with tech companies such as Google or Cisco too. How does it work?
We support corporates by analyzing their business needs and devising ad-hoc projects to help them embrace the opportunities offered by digital technologies to reach their full potential. Moreover, we allow their cross-pollination with our community of innovators and expose their brand to our stakeholders. This year we involved 180 partners (corporates and SMEs), providing them with the right tools to devise new, innovative ways of working. Corporates may have the capital and resources, but often lack the agility, internal culture, and expertise of startups that are essential for driving innovation and success.
Innovation is a key element of corporate growth and requires the right combination of people, processes, and technologies.
The wide majority of your spaces are located in Italy. How is the coworking industry growing in Italy?
Compared to other European markets, Italy is still at an early stage in the fields of startups development and innovation. That is why we are building a European network, to connect countries and leverage each other’s potential while supporting the best tech and digital professionals in their growth.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
captain’s’ lunches, strictly focused on bringing together the CEOs of the companies at Ahoy;
drinks after work;
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.
Skibbereen is a 3.000 inhabitants town located on the Southern coast of Ireland, in one of the most rural and remote areas of the country. In 2015, in order to re-create a dynamic of opportunities in the region, a range of major companies, associations, and public players joined forces to build up a platform supporting entrepreneurship, connected to one of the fastest broadband connection in Ireland: Ludgate Hub.
After two years, the main results of the Ludgate Hub include the formulation of a digital strategy for a rural town, the creation of new jobs for the area, introduction of new families into the area, a boost of expenditure in building, and services.
Ludgate Hub illustrates how a concerted action supported by a coworking space might pave a set of new options to address the challenge related to the economical desertification of many rural zones in Europe and beyond.
We interviewed Gráinne Dwyer, CEO of Ludgate Hub, who told us more about the initiative.
Hello. Can you tell us how did the Ludgate Hub project started?
The initiative has been developed by a steering group consisting of a group of local entrepreneurs, digital ambassadors and business owners of local enterprises. The board felt it was important that the initiative came from the ‘bottom up’ and came from the community as it was a more sustainable method of town development. There was also a general feeling of neglect of the town by local authorities and national Government.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
The board of eleven members includes representatives from major organizations, such as RTÉ, the national broadcaster, Google, AIB bank, Vodafone, a.o.
Reasons why the group has become involved is firstly to create opportunities for the younger generations of the area and give them an option to live and work in the area when they are older. They aim to stem the tide of youth emigration and provide meaningful sustainable opportunities for the town in terms of connectivity, investment and jobs.
After the board was formulated, the next step was to identify buildings suitable to develop a digital hub. Corporate sponsors were sought to further support the development of the hub and to contribute towards the operational costs.
To help the board of 11 and the management team of two, the group found members of the public to help with the project through voluntary ambassador roles. The board recruited individuals interested in education, retail, agriculture and other key sectors of the project to lead sector specific projects.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
It has to come from the bottom up
What were the initial purposes of the project?
The initial purpose of the project was to facilitate jobs and stimulate the local economy through a four pillar approach :
1 – The Ludgate Hub
Developing the Ludgate Hub was key, the hub is a 10.000 m2 state of the art coworking space with a 1GB connection.
The building was donated by a local businessman John Field and was once a cinema and then a bakery in the middle of the town. The hub has meeting rooms, training space and state of the art video conferencing facilities, & has attracted international start-ups from LA, Chicago, London, South Africa, Spain and world wide. The hub is now a beacon of innovation and has already started to encourage fringe enterprises and collaborative projects as a spin off.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
Companies like the BBC, National Geographic, Google, Facebook and Reuters have all used our hub in the last six months.
The long term vision is to make Skibbereen a hotspot for technology start-ups and multinationals to locate and prosper at a global level enhanced by the 1GB connection.
The long term objective to create 500 direct jobs and 1000 indirect jobs via a sustainable digital economy for Skibbereen and the wider West Cork area.
Visions like these are unheard of in rural Ireland – but now connectivity is making the impossible, possible. We provide, mentoring and business advisory in the hub, we can also offer virtual mentoring and advice via video link.
2 – Facilitate Digital Literacy
We knew we needed to reach all levels of our community – young and old. We wanted to create an inclusive society – digital for all a connected community.
A key pillar to our initiative was to make sure the community knew about our 1GB connection, but more importantly that they knew how to use it.
We rolled out iPad and tablet training classes, which enabled all members of our community to email, shop online, bank online and video call with their relatives worldwide. This combatted rural isolation and empowered our community.
We rolled out coding classes in our local secondary school enabling students aged 16-17 to learn how to code, and how to develop websites. We opened our doors to the local Coder Dojo group which train young people how to use programmes like Scratch, Minecraft and learn HTML. We have kids from age 6- 16 and their numbers have doubled since moving to the Ludgate Hub.
3. Create eStreet : encourage retailers to trade globally
Ireland’s first initiative to encourage traditional retailers to trade globally.
The third task was to economically enable our community, we developed Ireland’s first digital Main Street www.estreet.ie. eStreet is a collaborative, eCommerce model it is set to become Ireland’s first fully, inclusive eCommerce community portal.
The platform gained national and EU recognition for its solution to help combat rural disadvantage and economic decline; via a multi-pronged digital strategy.
eStreet is paving the digital path for other towns and areas to follow and shows rural towns how to help themselves to a better future. Eleven of Skibbereen’s retailers are pioneering this project to increase their online visibility, sales and open up to new markets.
4. Re- Brand rural Ireland
We created Ireland’s first National Digital Week a digital conference set in rural Skibbereen. The hugely successful event attracted 1,600 attendees to West Cork and hosted over 80 international and National speakers.
The vision for the event was to showcase that rural Ireland is ready to embrace technology and it certainly worked, Skibbereen is now considered the Digital Capital of Ireland.
What are the roles respectively played by Vodafone, Google, the Cork County Council, AIB, and all the others involved ?
All of our sponsors support us through corporate donations or free services, services include free legal support, or accountancy services.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
Their motivations stem from believing in the regeneration of rural Ireland and the importance our rural areas have on our regions, our cities are heavily reliant on the success of the rural hinterlands.
All companies that have supported us have done so as a leap of faith to back a very ambitious project, their commitment to the Ludgate Initiate reinforces their own ambitious targets and support for SMEs nationally.
We believe the hub is sustainable as the community is heavily invested in the project, both the community and board are safeguards of its future success.
Since our inception in 2015 we were declared Ireland’s first rural digital hub – a case study which has inspired 22 other towns and villages to develop their own community backed enterprise initiatives. As 95% of our projects are privately funded through donations or corporate sponsorship we have a strong track record in raising capital to support the project.
The factors that ensures its success is to curate the Ludgate Community, by ensuring the needs of the community are met, that we can offer the same services as urban areas to grant equal opportunities for rural start-ups as those of their urban counterparts.
It is essential that we have a continuous stream of seed fund capital to further encourage start ups to relocate here, it is also essential that we maintain a stream of mentors to encourage and support start-ups in the Ludgate Hub.
Is the coworking space open to anyone?
The coworking space is open especially for ‘digitally enabled businesses’, we do not take in call centre staff or manufacturing companies. We aim to attract companies which will use or bandwidth but are complementary to each other, e.g.. we will not take in ten website developers as it will lead to unsustainable competition.
Our main tenants include, web designers, app developers, graphic designers, animators, online services, online tourism providers, online education platform providers and services which are traded online.
How about the results and impact of the Lugdate Hub project so far ?
The main results of the Ludgate hub include the formulation of a digital strategy for a rural town, the main benefits include, the creation of new jobs for the area, introduction of new families into the area, a boost of expenditure in building, and services.
In total the hub has engaged with:
4 University Collaborations
250+ Active Members of the hub a month
25 Co-Working Companies
Supported 15 Community Groups
Serving West Cork Population of 80,000+ (West Cork)
attracted 1600 Attendees to National Digital Week every year
Attracted 400 Pledges of support from National & International Companies
Some other benefits are :
We have delivered coding classes to 25 students per year
We have delivered digital innovation classes to 15 students per year
We have taken on over 40 secondary school students per year for training and work experience
We have delivered iPad training for 45 people in 2016 aim to deliver to 120 people in 2017
We have enabled 11 rural retailers to trade online through our eStreet platform.
We have employed over 11 people throughout the year
Spent over 1.8 million euro on local services & trades since 2015.
Have a seed fund of €500,000 euro, donated by private individuals attracting companies to Skibbereen – including the funding of four start up companies.
We have supported the ‘coder dojo’ club of 65 kids who learn coding, minecraft and web development.
We have supported over 2,800 bed nights in the local area due to Ludgate events and operations.
We have attracted over 15 new Ludgate members to permanently move to West Cork with their families
What are the main challenges you had to face rolling out the project ?
Our greatest challenges include local services, not meeting the needs of tech start-ups (eg. local solicitors with little start up experience). However all of our local service providers have retrained or provided new specialists to meet the needs of our tech start ups.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
Also mention the lack of Government funding. The largest challenge with regard to the setting up of the Ludgate Hub is the lack of supports for capital funding. e.g.. funding to support the capital refurbishment of a building, or to assist with the internal reconfiguration of a building.
In terms of marketing, due to our large marketing presence, we have been inundated with requests for tours of the hub. As our human resource hours are tight, tours can take up too much time of our working day and hence we have reduced access to the hub and declined tours due to lack of resources.
Ultimately, not having a blueprint to work from, we did not engage in a feasibility study as we have very little state data on who lives in the area and what sector they are in. Census records do not depict adequate information for rural areas to demand a feasibility study of a project of our size.
Why is the 1GB bandwidth capacity such an important element in the whole storyline ?
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
We started this project 18 months ago, & realising a vision for rural Ireland as a ‘Gigabit Society’ was not an easy task – but we engaged with the community early on, we held information evenings, town hall meetings and organised inclusive workshops so the community – and the community alone would shape this project.
We looked internationally and saw what was achieved in rural Kansas, the Google Kansas project landed a 1GB connection and within two years over 121 new companies were formed – could this be achieved in rural Skibbereen? With the 1GB connection, it will give the young people of Skibbereen the opportunity to create the next Google or Facebook.
The board pushed to get a 1GB connection. SIRO a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone heard our story and came on board as a partner and selected Skibbereen as a demo town for their fiber optic 1GB roll out. Skibbereen became the first 1GB rural town in Ireland.
I think in summary our visionary 1GB connection – which does not create an environment which places rural Skibbereen on-par with urban centers, but excels them further was one of the most successful aspects.
We have companies moving from the US, Spain, and London to Skibbereen which is something conceived as impossible in the past, however with our 1GB connection now everything is possible.
Could coworking spaces play a key role revitalizing rural areas bringing back skilled well-paid job?
I think coworking spaces are the future for rural areas as it facilitates communities to get access to research, access to meeting spaces and networks, ideas, funding, and mentorship.
Communities that feel confident, inclusive, organised, and those that ultimately feel influential are those that are most likely to succeed.
Coworking spaces are the future for rural areas.
Looking ahead 30MBs is not enough for rural areas a 1GB – 10GB vision is needed. Key opportunities lie in the future of mobile workers as by 2020 80% of large corporations will offer agile working. We need to give young people the opportunity to help shape their home communities.
We need to support coworking spaces, give opportunities for smaller businesses to become digitally enabled and give an opportunity for the incubation of companies in rural areas. We need communities inextricably linked to the development of digital hubs – diversifying all local rural sectors of their local economies.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
The core strengths of our project is a strong organising board, access to capital and community support. Communities who want to develop their own projects need to spend adequate time planning and finding out what will work with their own local strengths.
Every community needs to find their niche and USP. Communities need to ask themselves what will attract people from urban areas to move to rural areas, they need to package those offerings and market it.
Communities also need to look internationally for examples of best practice or successful case studies eg.
Google Kansas is an example of a 1GB connection which transformed the region, attracting 121 new companies from 2012-2014 and spurred on over €3 million worth of investment in projects across many sectors.
The core strengths of our project is a strong organising board, access to capital and community support
Ludgate Seed Capital Funds is the startup program you are running. Who is supporting it?
We run an open call for start-ups to relocate to Skibbereen since November 2015, the program is very attractive for start-ups as it not only provides seed capital but a wealth of world-class mentorship, success is only a part of a roadmap for seed companies which locate in the Ludgate hub.
All companies that locate here have access to our sponsor supports including support from AIB, Ronan Daly Jermyn, Moore Nathans and KPMG.
How different are rural digital businesses when compared with their “urban” peers? Are their clients rural only?
No we believe there is no real difference, if anything rural businesses are becoming more savvy as they do not have the luxury of a natural domestic market, rural businesses believe opportunities are now global.
Rural businesses believe opportunities are now global.
What can the Ludgate experience teach other rural communities in Europe who experience economic desertification?
Source : Flickr
The Ludgate Hub was only made possible due to many conditions :
1. Broadband connection
Broadband was the upmost important factor to the success of the project. Our Siro/ Vodafone 1Gb connection, not only put us on par with urban areas but excelled our rural town further than urban areas.
The combination of the 1Gb connection in the town now meant that we had the same broadband speeds as Singapore which was a pull factor for digitally enabled businesses which needed this high-level connectivity (eg. web developers, designers, fin tech, online services, video production). The high-speed connection has attracted high-value jobs which have a greater impact on the local economy than entry level/graduate jobs like (call center services or customer support).
The combination of the 1Gb connection in the town now meant that we had the same broadband speeds as Singapore which was a pull factor for digitally enabled businesses
2. Skibbereen’s geographical position.
Skibbereen is located 100kms from its nearest large urban center (Cork City) making it an undesirable location for an effective commuter town – this creates opportunities and challenges for the town. But This creates a busy town atmosphere with cafes, restaurants, and shops full throughout the day. The town is also located 2kms from the coastline in the South West of Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way. The area is known best for tourism, outdoor activities, and artisan food.
So, the area acts as an ‘alternative’ option for people to work from. The town has a number of primary schools (ages 4-12) and secondary schools (ages 12-18) with the capacity to take on new students at all times. This is in stark contrast to urban schools which often have two-year waiting lists or suffer from over crowding.
The town has a number of primary schools (ages 4-12) and secondary schools (ages 12-18) with the capacity to take on new students at all times. This is in stark contrast to urban schools which often have two-year waiting lists
The availability of education for young families is a very attractive offer for those working in Dublin city and acts as a pull factor to the area.
Projects like Ludgate has attracted high-level workers away from Dublin, these workers are often high value to a company and the company will allow remote working to retain their staff. Rural digital hubs like Ludgate can act as an effective counter-balancing measure to the congestion seen in our capital city. 3. Community Support
We engaged early on with the local citizens and community by hosting ‘town hall’ style meetings. Our first meetings kicked off inviting various stakeholders in a range of sectors to attend. Stakeholders included; local business and service providers, retailers, teachers, farmers, students and local authority officials.
Picture: Emma Jervis Photography
Our community meetings were transparent and informative which led to trust building in the community, the style of the meetings was inclusive and we asked attendees to help shape the early plan for the project. By keeping the community informed we gained significant support from the beginning as they felt the project was theirs from the start.
The board of 11 members who created the project all work on a pro-bono basis, their expertise and international network was a crucial part of the success of the project. Our core sponsors AIB have been instrumental to the success of the project, and have truly shaped the direction of where we are going into the future.
Packaging and marketing of the town: We needed to get the town to sell ‘itself’, so we worked with the local chamber of commerce to help them to do up their website. We encouraged banks and service providers (accountants, solicitors etc) to make their services “start up” friendly, and to make their services seamless for young people to access who are returning to the area from international locations.