Category: Creativity

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

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.


“70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements”-Sam Rosen, Deskpass

Deskpass was born from the experiences of the founders of The Coop, a dedicated coworking space in Chicago. While all coworkers can appreciate the benefits of having a dedicated community, the growing freelancer economy demands variety and access to a range of communities and spaces. This is where Deskpass comes in. Founding member Sam Rosen, who also worked on Desktime, a software used for booking and managing spaces, based on work at The Coop, aims to bring the coworking world easy access to a global network of spaces.

Currently, Deskpass’s flexible membership allows the platform to partner with spaces and offer coworkers a monthly package in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver to give you access to all of them. There are also several plan options for people who want to cowork someplace new every day or just a few times a month. We spoke with Sam about the platform and why coworking memberships will be an integral part of the future workplace.

Hi, Sam. How long have you been operating and from your experience what have been some of the common threads that you’ve seen regarding worker’s needs? 

Deskpass has been in operation a little over a year and a half. In that time, we’ve found that most of our users primarily work from home, and like it!. Instead of replacing their home office, they are looking for a place to go once or twice a week. They either want a creative boost, a place to meet clients or a work base close to other things happening in their lives. While traditionally folks who use coworking spaces value location and community, Deskpass users also value flexibility and access to lots of spaces.

As coworking has become more popularized in recent years, it has attracted more traditional workers, and corporations. Do you see a lot of corporate players who are interested in programs like Deskpass?

It’s important for those of us who work in coworking to remember that it is still a new idea and that a vast majority of people may have never heard of it before. We’re seeing more and more mobile and remote workers across industries. Pair that with companies starting to adopt alternative workplace strategies, and innovative options like Deskpass become more and more compelling.

Sam Rosen

Sam Rosen

For example, suburban companies want flexible options downtown for talent recruitment and retention. Forbes tells us at least 70% of employees would quit their current position for more flexible work arrangements. One study from GWA showed 95% of employers say remote work has a high impact on employee retention & 36% of employees would choose it over a pay raise.

Businesses that want to compete for the best people need to keep those things in mind but also don’t want to rent offices all over the place.

What are some of the experiences that you’ve had with more traditional workers that have signed up for Deskpass? 

Most of our folks use Deskpass to augment an existing setup. They like working from home, or from the office most of the time, and Deskpass serves as an attractive alternative a few times a month. Maybe they need to travel for work or they just want to get out of the house. Again, for many people, coworking is still a new concept. We find that a lot of folks are trying coworking for the first time and come to wonder how they have worked so long without it.

On that same note, would you say most of your users are full-time freelancers and part-time remote workers who are able to leave the office from time to time?

We’re pretty evenly split between freelancers and remote workers. We definitely expected to be more freelancer-based when we launched and have been excited to see the benefits membership offers remote workers.

As Deskpass encourages flexible use of space, what is your take on the future of real estate in the workplace? 

There’s little doubt in my mind we are in a transformative moment for our concepts of the office. For the first time ever, “work” doesn’t have to both be a thing we do and the place we do it.

We’re going to see more variance in and more kinds of ecosystems for work. I imagine folks will still have a traditional office available to them but will be equally empowered to work from home. This could be done from wherever it is that’s going to allow them to get the most work done, be more focused and have a better quality of life. An ideal environment might change based on the personality type and the job. Furthermore, my ideal environment might change based on what specific project I am working on or what my schedule feels like for the week.

Overall, we’re going to see more hybrids with less dedicated space and more awesome thoughtful drop-in environments supported by better and better technology.



“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.

“Many people who came to work at Starbucks discovered that the coworking environment was a much better solution”-Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor runs both Creative Blueprint and Foundery in the vibrant city of Toronto, Canada. The newly renovated 15,000 sq ft community hub is an accessible venue run by Ashley and her business partner, Jake Koseleci, who also owns the property and leases space to Creative Blueprint and Foundery, in addition to a Starbucks.

Established in 2006, Creative Blueprint is a pioneer and leader in Toronto’s arts and coworking communities. Creative Blueprint provides studios, services and support for artists and entrepreneurs. The CB Studios in downtown Toronto are home to practicing visual artists, designers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Ashley to talk about what it was like to partner with Starbucks and how coffee culture can help coworking spaces grow.

Hi, Ashley. Can you please tell us a bit about the current state of Foundery and Creative Blueprint?

Established in 2010, Foundery currently operates two Coworking and Event Spaces within The Foundery Buildings. Foundery is one of Toronto’s first coworking spaces and we are home to a diverse and vibrant community of passionate, independent freelancers and artists. Foundery provides 2 unique shared coworking environments in addition to private offices and meeting rooms.

In the new year, we are planning to launch an exchange program with our newest Creative Blueprint location in Seattle, Washington (in partnership with Office Nomads).

Why did you decide to partner with Starbucks rather than opening your own coffee shop? 

My original plans for a coworking space included art studios, as well as an art gallery and cafe. The businesses are all complimentary and they support each other. The Foundery Buildings were the first venue where we could open all of these elements under one roof. Yet, we had an entire building to renovate and a mortgage to cover, so we decided that it would be a good idea to partner with an established anchor tenant that we didn’t feel bad about charging market rental rates.

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

At the time when we bought the building, there was construction on the street and we needed to increase foot traffic. Also, coworking was not as popular as it is today and many people were still unfamiliar with the concept. Thus, the cafe gave people a reason to come by and check out the newly renovated building.

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

Yes. Overall, it’s really events, coffee and casual opportunities that make connections and what helped to introduce the community to our space and to the coworking movement.

It has been a great way to find and to introduce people who need a community to the coworking concept. The partnership also offers a secure stream of patrons for the cafe and a secure revenue stream for the building. It also works out well when we need breakfast or coffee for our in-house workshops and events!

What are some of the specific benefits of having a partnership with Starbucks and what does it bring to the tenants and to the space owners?

Our members love coffee. We drink coffee all day and we also like snacks. Since we have our own desks next door, we don’t take up precious real-estate in Starbucks.

As a coworking space operator, I also visit the cafe to tell those people who are working on laptops that there is a better option that’s right next door. I’ve actually invited many cafe customers in for a trial day at Foundery and that worked out well both for Starbucks and for us.

Does having a partnership outside of the space provide the ability to impact the greater community on the whole as you have a wider reach?

Our reach was initially wider with Starbucks as a tenant, but now we have since established our location and our own community. Today, our events and members attract new visitors, like the CB Gallery, which is open to the public during exhibitions and we also participate in many city-wide initiatives that open our doors to the community.

Have you found that there could be a potential risk that your members would want to work in Starbucks, rather than your space?

Quite the opposite. Many people who came to work at the cafe discovered Foundery and decided that the coworking environment was a much better solution. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going out for coffee, but I’d rather work from the Foundery rooftop patio or in my studio with friends. I’m so much more efficient and productive in a coworking space than I could be in any cafe.

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

Now that we have established the model at this location, we’d like to see another service provider operating in the space. We are actually in the process of replacing the Starbucks with an independent operator that is more in line with our vision and mission for the space and community.

As we are a building full of independent artists and entrepreneurs, so it would be nice to see our peers using the space. Yet, we are taking our time in looking for the right cafe partner or collaborator who can provide amazing coffee, healthy food options and catering options for our members and many events.

Coworking in Japan is still in its nascent stages, we hope Startup Retreat Japan can help popularize the movement.

Daniel Klose was working as a project manager in Berlin, enjoying the vibrant startup scene, but looking to get outside of the city. Having always dreamt of working remotely, but not willing to commute on a daily basis, he decided to change things up in a big way. He and his wife packed up their things and moved to Japan and open a Café in the countryside. Combining the café and web development they got settled in Setouchi-Shi, Okayama. Today, Daniel is working on brining coworking retreats to Japan, though Startup Retreat Japan and navigating the startup scene one day at a time.

Hi, Daniel. Can you please tell us a bit about how you established Startup Retreat Japan? 

Daniel Klose

Daniel Klose

I was still following the startup scene and tried to get involved as much as possible with tech expats in Japan. I quickly realized that for some reason this is a huge correlation between tech company employees and their interest in the Japanese culture.

At the same time I saw the potential for growth in my area as it used to be a touristic resort area during the Japanese assets bubble. So you the environment was in place, but there was no one around anymore to populate it. So my co-founder Aimable and I decided to just give it a try.

What was the coworking scene like in Japan when you first started Startup retreat? 

Startup Retreat Japan is still in its beginnings at the moment. We are currently evaluating some potential clients but have not yet had any bookings in place. In general coworking spaces in Japan are not much of a thing.

Freelancing in japan is still pretty much ten years behind the rest of the world and is considered “unprofessional” I suppose. The city of Okayama has 2 coworking spaces, but they seem to be mostly used by sales people for companies. Also, I have yet to meet any developers there.

Is the concept of work in Japan still traditional? 

I would say that South East Asia is especially popular due to its nice weather and more importantly cheap cost of living. Japan is not necessarily known for neither, especially not cheap cost of living! Whilst the tourism sector in Japan is seeing the strongest growth in all of Asia, it is still well behind the tourist hotspots like Thailand, or Vietnam. Also, tourism in Japan is largely dominated by South Korean and Chinese tourists. I saw some numbers showing that these groups make up about 75% of all the tourists at the moment.

How have people responded to the overall movement in comparison to coworking in other Asian countries ?

I believe the concept of co-working can not at all be applied to Japan as it is seen as in for example Thailand. We were discussing our project with the tourism department of our town and they weren’t even aware of the concept of remote work and especially not work retreats. It is important to understand that we only market our services to foreign companies because of this. Whilst it would be easier for Japanese companies to use our services I think there is far more potential in targeting modern businesses.

You are based in Okayama. As it is a relatively rural area, was it difficult to get the project off the ground? 

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

Startup Retreat Japan, Okayama

To be honest, it was surprisingly easy. As mentioned above the area used to be a Japan tourism hot spot in the 80s and 90s. Nowadays almost all the space run under capacity and they are desperately looking for ways to improve their situation. The city was very cooperative too.

What are the benefits of offering a program to coworkers in a more natural setting?

I believe the most important aspect for any business is to get things done and ship. There are usually two types of work retreats nowadays. Team building retreats and the ones where a team should actually work. We try to market our space towards the second one. Getting things done in a beautiful environment, without distraction. This is also why we offer a complete package experience, which includes airport pickups/drop-offs. We also offer a concierge service, meal delivery and transport to restaurants, activities, etc. Basically we keep all the noise away and make sure that you can reach that milestone.

What types of members do you usually attract? Are you focused more on nomadic workers, or are you more focused on the local community?

As mentioned earlier we are mostly looking abroad. There seems to be a great affection for Japan and their culture in the tech economy especially in NA and Europe. I would be happy to welcome Japanese firms in the future but I believe we have to wait a few more years before work retreats becoming a thing here.

What are some of the unique qualities of coworking in Japan that might interest coworkers who travel frequently?

I believe one of the biggest advantages that Japan has to offer for digital nomads is their broadband connectivity. Countryside town cafe surrounded by farms, with 1gbps up and downstream fiber, you find it here. Besides Korea, Japan is probably one of the only places in the world that opens the digital nomad door for people who have to handle a lot of data to make a living e.g. video editors and such. Other than that, I believe Japan is still a place that is relatively untouched by Western cultures, so you experience these “wow” moments quite often.

How to bring balance between Automation and Human interaction in a coworking space ?

As human-centric workspaces are rise, so are workplace management tools.

Nexudus Spaces co-founder, Carlos Almansa has recognized the need for optimizing everyday tasks in the workplace.  

Technology as a compliment, not a replacement

Some might be sceptical of running operations digitally, out of fear that it might take away from the human experience. But that just depends how we look at it. Technology can help, but not without a strong management team at the core of the coworking space. Tools such as Slack, Facebook groups or  WhatsApp are not enough.

“Indeed, these tools, including our Nexudus platform, help people communicate with one another, says Carlos, but ultimately if the management team doesn’t work on a day-to-day basis to bring people to these tools and encourage them to post content, it won’t work”

Better understanding member needs through automation

Take an example of a good synchronization between automation and human interaction : check-ins.

Automatic check-in technology can help you better understand your member’s needs. “It  provides operators with a considerable number of detailed reports on how you space is used, so they can discover useful information, i.e. the most active members, peak hours in the space, busiest day of the week, etc”, says Carlos.

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

Kisi Access Control for coworking spaces

That way, you can monitor when the space is most used.

Knowing who is coming and going can create a sense of ease for space managers, which plays into how operators choose to secure their coworking space.

If space operators choose to automate physical access to the space, they also can do so by implementing “access control systems, such as Kisi or DoorFlow”.

Such tools allow both operators and members to enhance their coworking needs, by tracking hours of operation and providing flexible use of the space, adds Carlos Almansa. As a result, the human driven operation will just come out better. 

Community Building : again, online AND in person

While it would be nice to offer a personalized experience to each and every member each day, the tasks pile up, and most likely members will be more disappointed rather than satisfied with the results.

Remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Take the booking process :  “Allowing your space members to book resources and rooms online makes day-to-day space management a lot simpler.”  

That way, you can focus on building better relationships with your members, rather than waste time with manual low adding value tasks.

And tomorrow will be taken over by A.I. ?

Having an active blog running for your coworking community also plays an important role in shared workspaces. As coworking evolves, the community aspect has gone beyond the walls of the coworking space and has become an all encompassing world.

We are not there, yet, but let’s think about A.I, in a not to distant future, which may be the running mate for atomizing the workplace.

Sure, but at the moment, it hasn’t quite got the human touch so vitally needed for human-based communication. co-working blog

However, when it comes to the future, we know that we haven’t even seen the beginning of the level of advancement from technology. For Carlos, the interaction between community members and coworking spaces is going to escalate in coming years. “The technology behind these spaces  should be there to foster such change, such as providing tools that encourage people to work together”.


“The word Digital Nomad doesn’t reflect the big trends behind the movement”- Sophie Ozdzinski, CoPass

Like many coworking projects, Copass was created out of necessity. Three years ago the coworking membership program, that now has a network of 700 plus individuals and companies around the globe, was born. Since the majority of Copass founders have been involved in the coworking movement since its very beginning, creating a network came naturally. With friends and fellow coworking space owners all over the world, it seemed natural to develop a way for people, not just digital nomads, to easily work from any of the numerous unique spaces around the world.

Sophie Ozdzinski, one of the four Copass founders, spoke with us about what it means to be professional in a time where we can work from anywhere.

Hi, Sophie. Can you please tell us a bit more about what Copass offers to coworkers? 

Today we are capable of working from anywhere.  Our platform offers freelancers, independents, digital nomads and remote workers the ability to work everywhere. This is the freedom to work across the street, across town, across the country or across an ocean, today. For companies, this flexibility means to go global. We offer startups and firms an elegant solution to their low-overhead, high-flexibility workplace needs. This is the simplicity of one worldwide membership to hundreds of spaces, today.

We still have a lot to achieve and a lot of exciting features to develop – with our recurrent question: Does it make the access to coworking communities easier for our members?

How did you realize that there was real digital nomad community developing that would allow for a platform like Copass to be successful?

Well, when we started Copass we didn’t even focus on the digital nomad community. There actually wasn’t even a name for this community. We’ve developed Copass to answer a need we already had ourselves, and we guessed that there would be more and more people willing to travel and work at the same time. We were right on this prediction!

Copass Camp

Copass Camp

Our focus is on everyone who needs flexible and enjoyable places to work from. The majority of our users actually use different spaces in the same city and aren’t digital nomads per say. Some do use it in many countries, but this is just a part of our users. We want to facilitate mobility at work and this is not limited to digital nomads.

That being said, the digital nomad community definitely exists today and it keeps on growing at an impressive rate. As a team, are part of this amazing community. We’ve met many people from this movement during the camps we’ve been organizing around the globe. Our camps act as temporary coliving/coworking communities based out of cool places like Lisbon, the Canary Islands, San Francisco, Bali and more…

Copass has been active long enough to see the coworking community grow and change. What are some of the major changes that have taken place?  

Soon after we launched Copass, we took part in the Digital Nomad (DNX) Conference in Berlin. Since then, we’ve attended the event multiple times. The last one for us was in Bangkok. The kind of people attending those events has clearly changed a lot over the years. We went from a vast majority of people dreaming of being digital nomads to a vast majority of people actually living the digital nomad lifestyle. We went from an idea to a reality.

That being said, there are different breeds of digital nomads. Some stay more than 6 months in each place and some only stay for a few days or weeks. Some travel full time, others only travel 3 months or less a year. Some have a place they call home, some don’t. What they all share is a desire to explore new places while getting some work done and having the flexibility to work anywhere.

Sophie Ozdzinski

Sophie Ozdzinski

As for statistics, it’s hard to find to find concrete ones concerning the movement. Digital Nomads are hard to define, as they are scattered over the globe and they are pretty independent people who aren’t in a permanent state. I am convinced the vast majority of digital nomads will only be full-time nomads for a small time in their lives. Probably somewhere between 1 and 5 years. At some point, people can get a bit tired of the loneliness or might want to settle down and have a family. Right now, it’s still pretty complicated to combine family and nomadism, although some people do it, it’s still very niche.

Overall, growth in the digital nomad movement is mainly something we all feel and experience, not something that produces concrete numbers. It’s definitely something that would help the movement.

In your opinion, why are coworking spaces so important to the development of remote professional communities?

When you work remotely, you can quickly suffer from loneliness and procrastination. In fact, loneliness and isolation are by far the number 1 problem that digital nomads report. That explains why camps like Copass have been so successful. It’s the best of both worlds.

Working from a coworking space helps remote workers to meet new people, and get their work done in a stimulating environment. Coworking spaces are fantastic gateways to new places where you can quickly meet like-minded people from around the world speaking several languages.

What are some of the current demands of digital nomads today?  

The digital nomad movement is at a stage where the term is now being taken seriously. It is intriguing to a lot of people. Some are in a more traditional job and dream of becoming nomads, some run large companies and can see the trend of nomadism and remote work.

How have they created a standard for remote work?

I believe digital nomadism and remote work can be a real chance for companies, especially those who struggle to recruit and retain talents in the younger generation, to grow. From our experience, and for many millennials, being offered the opportunity to work anywhere, at least part time, is a huge advantage. Some say it also is a good way to cut real estate costs for companies, but most of the time new types of expenses like company retreats will diminish this advantage.

What do you see as the potential workplace norm for the majority of employees in the future?

The problem with the word Digital Nomad is that it doesn’t reflect the big trends behind this movement. Not everybody can / wants to / will be a digital nomad. The big trend is that today a lot of work can be done from anywhere on a laptop as efficiently if not more than in a traditional office. This is the real new thing.

Whether people choose to travel the world, settle in the countryside, work from the local café, keep on going to the office is another story. We simply cannot ignore this new fact and organization and individuals can choose to redefine the way they work with this in mind. Offices will stay, but their form will change to match this new reality. Digital Nomadism is simply an extreme and very visible part of this massive change.

The digital nomad community has been criticized as only catering to a more elite class of workers. Do you think that there is a way that remote work could be available to more people? 

Becoming a remote worker is not so much a question of prices or revenues, it’s more a question of mindset and opportunities. All professions can’t be done abroad and some never will be. For example, the fact that being a digital nomad is expensive is a total myth. In fact, most nomads are nomads because the money they earn can afford them a much better lifestyle in Bali than in Paris or NYC. With 1500€ in Bali, you can live a very comfortable life, whereas you’ll struggle in Paris.

The limiting factor for digital nomadism is more about who CAN be a nomad, meaning who has the profession and freedom that allows it, and who WANTS to be a nomad. Not everybody wants this lifestyle.

The key to building a successful coworking platform is to understand your community

After the financial crisis, Spain was one of the countries that faced some of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. As a result, many professionals, freelancers, and business operators began to reimagine the professional landscape. In 2011, Ruth Martinez had a baby on the way and her husband had just started freelancing. In this time of change, they were exploring new options and had heard about the concept of coworking. After some time and research, they decided to start their own coworking community, Coworkidea. Next  week they will be celebrating the launch of their newest space, so we caught up with Ruth to find out more about the process of developing a space in one of Europe’s coworking capitals and what it means to be a successful coworking space operator.

Hi, Ruth. Coworkidea started out small but is now developing rapidly. Can you tell us a bit about this process and what steps did you take in order to properly develop?

When we launched 5 years ago, we went through some difficulties and at that time we were far from growing our idea. But, step-by-step, we slowly improved our business, learning how to offer better services to our members. The coworkers that came really liked the space, as well as the energy and environment. I believe that your project is what you attract, so we focused on creating a cool community, based on honest people, and community friendships.

Today, we have a solid community of workers who have been loyal to us since the beginning. As I said, they started off as freelancers who grew and Coworkidea has grown alongside them. We decided to expand with another space in the same building to help host our members as well as her freelancers. Our goal is to keep generating connections and enriching opportunities for freelancers.

What type of community do you provide and what types of members do you have currently working there?

We cater to a multidisciplinary community. Although, two main groups naturally developed. One is made of tech specialists (software and app developers, integrationists, programmers, designers…). And the other group is comprised of professionals within the building sector (architects, engineers, builders, and technical architects…).

Spain is known for having one of the most established coworking networks. Was it difficult for you to enter this market that some might say are overly saturated?

In 2011 there were only a few coworking spaces in Spain. Barcelona had more spaces than other cities, but there was still a lack of awareness, both within the sector and also amongst the general public. Although we all started without a clear reference, there were actually very few successful cases to follow. We basically went through the normal ups and downs, making mistakes and learning. We were gradually growing, and in 2016 we became established and have opened up a whole floor of around 450 square meters.

What is the current state of the Spanish Coworking market? And what makes it unique to other cities?

Today, we can say that our coworking sector has matured and has become more sustainable. There are some factors that triggered the high demand for coworking spaces was the major increase in people who lost their jobs after the crisis. Another remarkable fact is that Barcelona is now positioned as a tech and freelancer hub, which encouraged people to create startups and small businesses. Moreover, the city is a natural attraction for tourists and, therefore, digital nomads.

Would you say coworking has actually improved the job market, if so how?

I have no doubt that coworking has helped to improve the job market. The startups and small companies generate business, and I witnessed that from my work with Coworkidea. Some projects were launched three years ago as a freelance venture and over time have become a solid team of people.

In cities where here are already a lot of coworking spaces, what can new ones do to build successful platforms?

Ruth Martinez

Ruth Martinez

Barcelona has a lot to offer in regards to coworking, and the city also has strong competition. According to Coworking Spain, the main coworking platform, Barcelona currently has over 200 spaces registered on the platform, but it’s important to know that not all of them are actual coworking spaces. Those cases are when people with some extra space in their office decide to define themselves as a coworking space simply because they are renting out a couple of tables.

Of course, these aren’t considered actual coworking spaces, as the movement isn’t simply about renting out space but more about the people and growing a professional community, which brings value to members. On that note, my advice to all future space operators is that the key to building a successful platform is to understand your community and help it to organically grow.

Is it important for coworking space operators to embrace other spaces and work together?

Sure! Collaboration is a key element needed for the development of the sector. It allows spaces to speak as a unified voice when dealing with local institutions, ultimately allowing us more visibility and access to sponsors and partnerships. It also allows us to work together when facing common problems, while also inspiring new ideas and the chance to help coworkers achieve mobility, especially for those who are nomadic workers.

As the movement has matured, many coworking spaces in Europe are looking to expand their networks. What advice would you give to those looking to grow?

When we started it was completely different than it is now. Anyone who knew about coworking knew that we learned by taking action and especially by making mistakes. Today, we have a lot of experience and knowledge. We also have a second space, for which we have designed a strategy and business plan for expansion, including a very accurate financial study. Aside from that, we have collaborated with 2 coworking experts, Andrea García and Vanessa Sans, who helped us to design and launch the new space. Andrea designed the space and Vanessa drew up the strategy as well as the  content plan for the launch.

What are some things that should or should not be done when looking to properly expand, without compromising the community dynamic?

My advice for those looking to grow and expand should be that they make sure to have a consolidated and empowered coworking community. It is also very important to design a strategy as well as a business plan. Overall, coworking is a business and has to be profitable, so it is very important to know the viability of your project.

70% of our users are digital nomads in the Canary Islands 

It’s no surprise that there are now several active coworking spaces in the Canary Islands. The combination of scenic beauty and the relaxed and warm local culture is not only perfect for a vacation but attracts more and more digital nomads and freelance professionals. One of the most international spaces is CoworkingC, based in Las Palmas. The small yet vibrant space aims to build an international community while also changing work culture in the region.

CEO and local, Nacho Rodriguez is working to create positive change in the community via CoworkingC as well as strengthening the position of the Canary Islands as an international hotspot.

Hi, Nacho. Can you please tell us a bit about your history with coworking and also about CWC’s history?

CoworkingC  started two years ago, first as an office space to host a spin-off of the IT department from one of our companies. Eventually, it turned out to become an international workspace, which currently hosts local entrepreneurs and digital nomads that are working remotely from Las Palmas. We pivoted heavily during the process and keep learning and trying to improve every day.

You are very involved in the coworking community. As the moment has developed substantially over the years, what observations have you made? 

In my opinion, the coworking market is starting to mature. After some years of substantial growth, it is now starting to become more sustainable and at the same time it keeps growing. It’s remarkable, the fact that some administrations start regulating their public offer in order to avoid unfair competition with the private sector, which has been a problem in the past.

What are some of the most exciting and novel directions you see coworking moving?

I am very enthusiastic about all the transcendent changes that go along with the coworking movement. Remote Work, Distributed companies, Coliving, and Digital Nomads are all changing the way we understand work, collaboration, and human interaction.

From these observations do you see coworking as a viable option for the standard office space, or do you think it’s better to have coworking remain as an alternative option, in order to preserve more community-oriented models?

In my opinion, coworking must be part of the DNA of a company or business. But, I don’t see this work philosophy in many sectors just yet. While it is rapidly evolving as more and more people realize the benefits of coworking, some sectors will most likely remain traditional.

We all know the Canary Islands are beautiful and are also rapidly attracting digital nomads. What percentage of your community is comprised of nomadic workers?

70% of our community are digtal nomads that arrive attracted by the weather and beauty of the Canary Islands. They also decide to stay longer when they realize that we have much more to offer than just the beach and sunshine.

How do you accommodate their needs and help them integrate?

The official language at CWC is English, although we encourage our visitors to learn Spanish, which helps long-term visitors to fully integrate with that local community.

Nacho Rodriguez

Nacho Rodriguez

We also recently activated a coliving center to help facilitate our visitors integrate, and also help in finding them affordable housing in an efficient and flexible way. We also organize Meetups and events to accelerate the generation of value within our community.

What impact does a more internationalized community have on the locals, and is coworking responsible for this international wave?

Our market is fairly small, and opportunities for locals scarce. Having an international community allows locals to have a broader perspective on the global market and also gives them the chance to access new opportunities, while also helping them to improve their English skills.

Currently, some of our local members are working abroad with other international coworkers, taking advantage of the Erasmus+ programs and enjoying a great personal experience.

You describe your space as intimate and personal.

Intimacy allows us to cover the personal needs of our visitors, offering a much better value proposition than bigger networks. As long as we manage to provide effective networking and opportunities to our members, we believe we provide a better service than larger spaces .

Our maximum capacity is 25 people. We believe that there are many advantages of having a small space. Although we do understand that smaller in size makes is more difficult to become profitable. Currently, we are planning to expand, not in size, but rather in the number of spaces across the Canary Islands. We are also thinking to expand internationally as well.