Category: Coworking Europe

“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.

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.

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.

A coworking Hub is re-branding rural Ireland thanks to the joined efforts of Ireland main digital players

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.

LudGate Hub will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Europe 2017 conference in Dublin.

Coworking spaces in the EU getting ready to welcome UK leaving companies #brexit

Last week at the Social Workplace Amsterdam 2017 Conference, Eduard Schaepman, CEO of Tribes, told the audience that 26 companies from the UK already reached out to them to prepare the partial transfer of their team and activity to the Dutch city.

Eduard Schaepman, Tribes

“London established companies are using the passport multi-location flexible office brands offer to commute between cities and prepare themselves up for when the Brexit will be completed”, said the representative of another major network, based in The Netherlands.

For sure, coworking spaces in Europe are preparing themselves for a flow of requests coming from companies currently based in London, Birmingham or Liverpool.

One can more speak of a round of observation than a real rush, though. So far.

Dublin: most of UK company enquiries come from FinTech’s

Mike Hannigan, Coworkinn

Mike Hannigan from Coworkinn, in Dublin, the city where the upcoming Coworking Europe 2017 is to take place, made a small poll, last week within the Irish coworking scene.

Here is main feedback he received from his fellow spaces regarding the expected impact of the Brexit on their operations:

  • There have been a lot of enquiries, but few major moves yet.
  • A number of virtual offices are being opened, helping boost presence and quantify benefits of potential move
  • The majority of enquiries from financial and Fintech companies
  • An increasing number of Digital Marketing and Web development agencies are “talking” about moving to Ireland by 2019
  • Definitely more enquiries than actual moves. This might change now the Brexit process has started – but we need to wait and see.
  • A large volume of enquiries are from Northern Ireland.
  • Some existing Irish companies have reported securing new contracts as a result of Brexit, presumably beating competition from UK based competition.
  • Very small coworking spaces have seen no effect at all
  • On the Northern side of the border (i.e. in U.K. territory) they have seen an influx of Irish companies setting up virtual offices in the UK. This balances out the apparent rush to set up virtual offices in the South. The UK will remain an important market for S.Ireland.
  • Spaces on the border see opportunities in that their N.Ireland (non-eu) clients will be very close geographically to S.Ireland (eu).

A big move out to be expected in 2019?

The story seems similar elsewhere in Europe. More enquiries than real moves, yet.

That said, we all are getting ready, say representatives of some coworking spaces in France, for instance. 

“As far as we are, we certainly expect an increase in the demand of companies moving from the UK to France due to the Brexit, especially once we will have opened our new location at La Defense”, tells a spokesman at Kwerk, a coworking spaces network operating in France. La Defense is the country’s biggest business district.

The attitude remains as pragmatical in Berlin. The city is often told to be the main competitor of London in Europe as far as the startup ecosystem is concerned.

“So far, we didn’t receive more enquiries that what we deal with on a usual base”, tells Stéphanie Bison, from Ahoy! Berlin, a major coworking space based in the capital of Germany. “That said, everybody speaks about it, here”.

The big move could definitely happen closer to March 2019, once the Brexit will have formally taken place…

COWORKING EUROPE 2017 (Dublin, November 8-9-10) : REGISTRATION IS OPEN

Coworking in Asia to challenge traditional hierarchies and make room for innovation?

In January 2015, the Hubud team created and hosted Coworking Unconference Asia, which had around 120 attendees from around Asia. During the last session at the event, the team asked the audience whether or not they should form an Asian Coworking Alliance.  The simple question led to an impassioned discussion about the potential alliance, concluding with 3 coworking spaces offered to take the discussion forward. As many coworkers and space managers know, it’s difficult to get there types of projects off the ground, especially because they are often born from passion, not revenue.

Fast forward to the 2nd Coworking Unconference Asia in 2016, and the CU Asia team decided to get things off the ground and launched the Coworking Alliance somewhat unilaterally. In its first year, CAAP has 30 paying member spaces and has offered 17 webinars for coworking space owners and staff. We caught up with the co-founder of Hubud, Steve Munroe, to discuss the coworking scene in Asia and how the formation of a coworking alliance can help global coworking communities grow.

Coworking has grown exponentially in some parts of Asia. Is the model considered to be a viable option for corporate players and local freelancers? 

Like with a lot of things, the industry is younger in Asia but it is moving faster.  Corporate players are getting involved, which includes both CRE players and corporate customers. As a result, investment is scaling up, for example, Spacemob in Singapore just completed a $5.5. million raise.  At the same time, there has been an explosion of smaller players entering the market.  Last year when we held the Coworking Academy there were only 35 attendees, and this year there were over 100. Attendees came from major markets, such as Jakarta, as well as rural areas.

On that same note, what role do you see coworking playing in the context of redefining “traditional” work culture in the region? 

In Asia,  relationships are traditionally hierarchical, within institutions like companies and governments, as well as within society. So the flatter social systems that are typically seen, and also encouraged, in coworking spaces is a bit of a change.

Steve Munroe, co-founde Hubud, Bali

Are corporate entities in the region embracing coworking? 

Some, particularly in more internationalized markets like Singapore and Hong Kong where some corporates are placing some of their staff in coworking spaces. There are also examples of corporations hiring coworking space operators to consult them on how to ‘import’ the coworking culture into their internal environments, in relation to design, internal communications, etc.

Who are the most likely members to join coworking spaces in Asia? 

This varies greatly by location. The markets in Bali or Melbourne or Hong Kong are very different from one another.  In many countries, however, the early adopters tend to come from places where coworking has been around longer so they tend to better understand the value proposition, such as North America and Europe.

What are the benefits of forming a coworking alliance? 

In its first year, our focus was simple and modest. we aimed to create the kind of networking connections and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for coworking space operators in the same way that we do for our members. Therefore focus has been on hosting events, online webinars and just creating channels for us to communicate more frequently.

This year we are looking to move increasingly into collective negotiating, such as getting discounts from vendors that benefit both our members and/or their members. In addition to increasing beneficial relationships, we aim to focus on research and advocacy that will allow us to support operators looking to start discussions with their local governments/partners and approach regional bodies like ASEAN.

From your experience, what types of partnerships/collaborations have sparked from the alliance that would not have had otherwise? 

Again, the biggest thing for us this year was having members teach each other and share resources (templates, checklists) that benefit one another. Right now we are not actively collaborating with other bodies, but we would like to going forward. The truth is, any kind of alliance is challenging to operate and deliver meaningful value to its members and partners. When we started it, our stated commitment was that we would not start a ‘talking head’ kind of industry association.  So we will see how we and others do with that and navigate what works for everyone in the process.

 

 

COWORKING EUROPE 2017 (Dublin, November 8-9-10) : REGISTRATION IS OPEN

How to measure coworking business performances

At the most recent Coworking Europe conference, which took place in Brussels in November of last year, Anil George, Head of Operations at 91Springboard, India’s largest Coworking network, facilitated a masterclass on how Coworking spaces measure their business performance.

Here is a sum up of the workshop.

1. Determine the right metrics and indicators

Coworking spaces, like any other businesses, need to measure and quantify performance progress based on defined targets and goals based on various activities. One must consider KPIs (Key Performing Indicators) specific to running a coworking space.

Those metrics will have to be customized according to each activity related to the coworking operations.
We also need to ensure that KPIs are readable, as well as standardized and automated so that everyone can clearly understand these changes.

But first, let’s make sure we first have paid attention on the following things  :

  • Frequency of the action which is measured (daily, monthly, quarterly, etc)
  • Unit used (numbers, currency %, etc)
  • Source (such as sales CRM, or a software management tool like Essensys)
  • Checklist, dashboard, etc; the audience (team or organisation)
  • Target; and how we represent and interpret the final result.

2. Measure the coworking business performances

During the devising metrics masterclass of 91Springboard in Brussels, the participating group worked as one Coworking Space provider with multiple departments and arrived at different conclusions based on various metrics.
Key indicators were used as a way to measure activity in their departments and improve overall performance.

Here are three fields of measurement we can elaborate on : Operational performance, Business performance and Community performance. 

A. Operational Performance

We refer to those items around the regular day-to-day running of the coworking space : efficiency, smooth processes that continually improve with the help of reviewing relevant data…

Take the example of bandwidth management. What can be done to measure patterns of consumption ?

Example :

  • Create utilisation patterns across the day for different types of users
  • Do the same by weeks
  • Introduce a metric to understand the bandwidth consumption during events
  • Etc.

By groing through this, we will able to cater the best possible solutions for upgrades, downgrades and improved infrastructure (access points, router etc) as a whole.

Another example, more focused on qualitative inputs, is : “Good Resolution” by the team running the place.

This can be measured in terms of the number of support tickets for problem-solving, resolution time to close, the sentiment of members after closure and so on.

The overall idea of these operational metrics is to improve the running of the space by going deeper into each one of these elements.

B. Business Performance

The space and its business models must make unit economics sense, for sustainability and scale.

First and foremost, one needs to design the right metrics to provide with the right assessment. Thos metrics might be :

  • Revenue per square meter
  • Revenue per member
  • Revenue per workstation
  • Sales conversion ratios
  • Cost per lead
  • More

It speaks for itself that those are various measures to be reviewed on daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly bais would one want to learn from what’s happening with respect to the business performance, and how he/she stands against our predictions/forecast. 

So many proxy metrics of capacity utilization, occupancy, churn serve as second-level/dive-deeper metrics that links back to the root metrics of revenues and expenses.

C. Community Performance

Community is a core element of the why we all love coworking. The idea of creating unique communities that are defined and created by the members for members, which is facilitated by the space providers.

We can improve and measure the internal community dynamic, the external community dynamic, as well as the level of performance regarding events management.  

Here are some quantitative and qualitative metrics that can be used to assess the level of engagement of a coworking community:

  • Surveys, to deem members’ satisfaction
  • Synergies and collaborative projects between members
  • Connections and friendships
  • Success stories
  • Event attendance
  • Quality of event feedbacks
  • Event attendance patterns
  • Etc

Understanding values, beliefs, character, and goals of the space, metrics, which vary from one space to another.

Tracking metrics in a systematic way will develop unique insights, which will make room for new metrics to evolve.

Overall, it will help to draft strategic goals, which can be broken down into more metrics that will answer questions related to personal needs.

Perfect metrics do not exist. However, based on his/her experiences and goals, space managers will find the best metrics that work for them.

Download 91Springboard Metrics presentation :

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The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions-Ben Gattie,The Working Capitol

Ben Gattie, the co-founder, and CEO at The Working Capitol wanted to nurture creative work environments in his home country of Singapore. After working for a real estate developer focused on SoHo loft conversions in New York City, Ben returned to Singapore about 8 years ago and set up The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate company specializing in the redevelopment of neighborhood shop houses. Deciding to enter a more meaningful and multifaceted industry centered around creating inspired work environments for companies big and small, Gattie co-founded The Working Capitol with his sister, Saranta.

Today the professional landscape in Singapore is changing, and it’s all thanks to places like The Working Capitol. We caught up with Ben to discuss these changes and how his work is enabling more open and flexible work environments.

Hi, Ben. What is work culture like in Singapore? Have people embraced social workspaces? 

It was quite conventional in a lot of ways until a few years ago with the mainstream emphasizing job security and working out of the central business district. Singapore has made a conscious effort to decentralize, and independent operators such as ourselves have legitimized fringe locations and social workspaces. Thankfully, Singapore is accustomed to change at an aggressive pace and is very adaptable to new things. Singapore apparently has over 60+ co-working spaces so I certainly hope this means people have embraced social workspaces! That said, in our earlier days, it was essential to educate people about what we were doing and to adopt a genuine spirit of giving before we could expect to get in return.

Does TWC aim to promote shared work culture and if so, how?

Ben Gatti

Definitely. We try to promote shared work culture across as many touch points as possible. The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions, ensuring there are different environments suited for different types of work or social engagement.

We want all our members to feel a sense of ownership of the entire building regardless if they may have signed up for a dedicated workspace. Our events and programming ensure that people come together across different points of interest, which we populate according to the verticals of arts and culture, personal and business development, health and wellness and lifestyle and entertainment.

Furthermore, our team is genuinely interested in what our members do and aims to facilitate interactions and connections whenever possible.

When TWC was being developed, was special attention paid to design? 

Yes. Design with intention is key  i.e understanding why the spaces exist and for what purpose it serves. Design is always best when it puts the member experience first and naturally weaves these human experiences into the built environment.

In your experience, what type of design promotes a better work culture, while also increasing productivity?

Specifically, in the case of The Working Capitol, the flow of one space into another, the incorporation of natural light, a lively color palette and ensuring there are different types of micro-environments suited for different types of work made accessible to everyone have been major contributors to our unique energy.

Do you believe that the physical design of a shared workspace is an essential part of the model? 

It is an essential part of the model. It directly influences not only how well we can perform operationally, but how successful we can be at creating the right energy and interactions. If the hardware is poorly designed, it makes it that much more challenging for our team and all their efforts to bring the space to life successfully, ensuring people are inspired to do their best work.

What types of members do you attract? For example are you focused on the local community or do does TWC extend themselves to digital nomads? 

Our members truly span a broad cross section. Being fortunate enough to have an international upbringing and exposure to different cultures, it was extremely important for us to champion diversity in terms of the type of industries we cater to, as well as different stages of development. We welcome everyone from solo-preneurs to large companies. That diversity can only help to provide different perspectives and learnings to local businesses in Singapore and enable people to grow in both business and personally.

On that same note, do you have corporate members or business partners? If so, why do you think that they are drawn to a place like TWC?

Our corporate members tell us the main draw has been to attract and retain the best talent. They want to provide their teams with access to inspiring spaces, access to amenities and opportunities to engage with other members and companies.

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“Coworking can bring tired workspace back to life”-Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

In 2012, husband and wife team Patrick and Suzanne Murdock took a big risk. They decided to develop a coworking space in Newry, Northern Ireland, at a time when the city was still in the depths of the recession. Three years later, The Hub Newry is still standing, offering a community environment for start-ups, freelancers, small businesses and community groups based on a sustainable and ethical working ethos. With a “combination of hard work, perseverance, and the support of the local business community”, the Hub is now one of the leading coworking spaces in Northern Ireland.

Hi, Patrick and Suzanne. What inspired you to open the Hub Newry and can you please tell us a bit about the space today?

Patrick: We had just returned from England and I was self-employed working out of our spare room and living a solitary existence where days could go by when the only face to face contact I would have was with family. I needed to be a part of a coworking space and the only way this was going to happen in Newry was by starting our own.

The Hub Newry was born from modest beginnings, located behind the boarded up façade of an old pub, which had become another victim of the recession. Today the space has evolved into an established city centre fixture, housing a community of entrepreneurs and micro businesses who work in partnership with each other to achieve the most elusive of business goals in recent years. We recently won the award for ‘best premises’ at the 2015 Greater Newry Area business awards, which comes hot on the heels of the Hub achieving “Gold” sustainability certification during the summer by Green Tourism.

What is the coworking scene currently like in Newry and did you need to introduce the community to the concept?

Suzanne: It has not been without its challenges. When we relocated from the UK, which is essentially a pro- business environment, we had no idea of all the difficulties that we would face when dealing with the infamous Northern Ireland red tape. Many of the things that we took for granted in London came as a shock in Newry, especially coworking!

It took a good year at the onset of our project to roll out the concept of coworking to Newry and the surrounding areas. Even though there were shared offices, hacker spaces and technical hubs, coworking, in the true sense of the word, didn’t really exist in Northern Ireland.

What types of action did you take in order to introduce the public to the concept?

In the early days, a second business helped to fund The Hub Newry as the office was literally empty. The first residents were those who were travelling or who worked abroad and had already seen the benefits of coworking. But, we were resilient and our ‘can do’ culture helped us to overcome many of the problems we faced. A lot of networking and obscure events including hosting the Oktoberfest Promo Video helped us along the way!

How does the coworking scene in Newry differ from the very advanced community in London?

Newry certainly has some “quirks”. A very strong sense of community and the need to succeed helps to drive the coworking concept here. We seem to attract various clusters of industries, which are successful in Northern Ireland including building, construction as well as creative & digital businesses, which all work together effectively.

What are some of the different needs/expectations of your members?

Businesses here seem to have to work harder in order to be profitable. There is far less start-up capital and most of the local government money is allocated to public sector and charitable projects. Despite this, coworking is now very effective and residents have higher expectations. Desks are far cheaper than in London and our businesses feed off each other well with regards to referrals, contacts and shared expertise.

In your opinion, is coworking self-sustainable and why is that? What do you think can be done to increase sustainability?

Yes, very much so. The local government has recognized the benefits of coworking and also sees a need to lower local taxes, which applies to coworking spaces. There is also much more collaboration between coworking spaces and local traditional businesses, but there is still work to be done in regards to solidifying partnerships between these businesses. Overall, coworking is certainly more sustainable if there is a “twinning system” or more of an international network of coworking businesses to give residents access to international offices.

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

Coworkers at the Hub Newry, Northern Ireland

The Hub is now planning to expand and will be opening a second premises in 2016. Since we are growing and we have basically mapped our growth to that of our residents, we have received feedback letting us know that our members are outgrowing our workspace, but that they still want to continue to be a part of our community.

Can the open workspace/coworking model play an important role in regenerating communities? 

Definitely. Tired workspace can be brought back to life for low cost and in a very sustainable way.

We now have a huge expertise to tap into when engaging with local colleagues, communities and businesses. This not only works from a business perspective but also allows us to mobilise members to work on voluntary and community projects such as the urban garden.

Why is this innovative model of work important in regards to how we understand the future of work?

Coworking plays a vital part in giving work experience placements, interview practice, coaching and assisting the resident businesses as well as the coworking business.

The Hub Newry is very community driven and also a big champion of green ethics, sustainability & culture for which we’ve recently been awarded the “Gold” certification by Green Tourism UK. Being very involved in community initiatives for both local businesses and social groups, we’re also really keen to participate in wider geographical areas with other coworking groups, businesses & community groups both Irish, UK & European.

Have you been to the Coworking Europe Conference before?

This is our first conference! We’re looking forward to gaining an international taste of what’s happening in the world of coworking. We are also very much looking forward to sharing experiences and ideas while simultaneously promoting our country and city to an international audience.

What will you be speaking about at this year’s conference?

We will be speaking about establishing a coworking space in an economically disadvantaged area. We will discuss the challenges of bringing a new concept to a traditionally conservative audience, and how our space helped resident businesses succeed. We will also speak about what it takes to establish a coworking space on a budget while still being able to remain sustainable and achieving a design excellence on a budget.