Category: Design

Softbank backed OYO buys Innov8 for $31 Mio: “We will deliver great quality experience to real estate customers as well”

Innv8 is among the first coworking brand launched in India. Last month, the company was bought by one of the biggest Indian hotel platform, OYO, for a total of 31 millions US$. Meanwhile, OYO announced the takeover of two other coworking brands (PowerStation, for corporations, and Workflow, more focused on startups), demonstrating a strong will to develop its position in the coworking field. Interesting to note, OYO is supported by Softbank, one of WeWork’s main investors. Innov8 is the fourth coworking acquisition by OYO. We interviewed Ritesh Malik, Innov8‘s founder, about the vision behind the deal.

Hi Ritesh. Can you tell us the story behind Innov8?

We launched our first centre at the Heart of New Delhi- Connaught in December 2015. We wanted to revolutionise how Indian work. Innov8 is not just a place for people to work, it’s a place for people to connect. We at Innov8 want to transform real estate into a beautiful and premium workspace designed to encourage community engagement for the creators and innovators. In June 2016, US-based fund Y-Combinator backed Innov8 for its investment in the coworking industry.

We were hoping to create a collaborative community where business opportunities and activities can take place freely. We were committed to delivering excellence through design, experience, and services. Our Vision was to revolutionize real estate into beautifully designed, experience centers to empower the process and journey of creating meaningful work. Our Mission: to be World’s Most Loved Workspace brand through excellence in design, experience and delivering value.

Innov8 is now taken over by OYO. Why are the two companies complementary?

Ritesh Malik, Innov8

Innov8 and OYO are both in the business of real estate and hospitality. It’s a perfectly complementary business. OYO already has a strong play in the real estate market worldwide both as a tenant and as a supplier, with existing offerings like OYO Home, OYO LIFE, and MICE offerings. Also, OYO already has thousands of corporate customers that help generate over 30% of OYO’s business. Additionally, in India, OYO works with over 8.000 asset owners, and many of them have ready space available for commercial business. The decision to, therefore, open managed workspaces is a natural transition and step forward. With vast experience of acquiring properties, creating processes and great user experiences, it will be great backing on Innov8 scalability.


With vast experience of acquiring properties, creating processes and great user experiences, it will be great backing on Innov8 scalability.

OYO is known in India as a hotel booking platform. Coworking seems quite far away from their focus, no? 

Firstly, OYO is not a hotel booking platform. OYO is a full-scale tech-driven hospitality company that operates over 18.000 franchised and leased hotels across 10 countries and 500+ cities globally. Interestingly, the company has globally leased or franchised over 200 million square feet of real estate, and have emerged as a preferred tenant of choice. Thousands of real estate owners around the world work with OYO and respect the company’s ability to upgrade all forms of real estate and deliver good quality experiences. OYO is also amongst the most preferred lesses and franchisors of real estate yields worldwide.

Over the last six years, OYO has invested heavily in building key competencies, where our operational expertise in supply acquisition and management, renovation, operations, revenue management, and distribution, through both offline and online channels, that has helped the company gain significant momentum, and emerge as the most preferred brand in the budget to mid-segment hospitality space in several markets like India and China.

We are certain that OYO’s existing competencies and international reach, will help us seamlessly deliver great quality experiences to our real estate customers as well. We are all therefore excited about our plans to create and deliver chic workspaces that will be designed to provide a hassle-free, comfortable and productive experience to coworkers, and cost-effective workspace solutions to corporates.

According to you, what does the transaction say about the office and workplace industry moving to a hospitality and services model?

The managed office space industry is inherently a unique combination of hospitality led real estate experience. With this transaction, it is a huge validation for Innov8 and the whole industry. The industry is extremely positive with the potential of office spaces market.

How would you define hospitality in the workplace world?

More than desks, chairs, coffee and office infrastructure, workspaces should provide the environment and support to make every company and coworkers grow and do their best work. Our community and value-added services make Innov8 a second home; creating an ethos of happiness at the workplace.

Would you say the Indian market is specific for this kind of approach?

Indian market is ripe for managed office spaces. India is one of the most penetrated markets by managed offices.

Startups are driving the coworking demand in India. Do you see or expect coworking to become a solution for SME and bigger corporations? Is it already happening? What’s Innov8 experience on those regards?

It is already happening. SME and bigger corporates now accepting the trend and it is beneficial for both the industry. Managed offices are the way to go for any workspace needs. At Innov8, we have already been focussing on and catering to ME and corporation. Majority of our clients are SME or corporates.

What are the specific challenges Indian coworking players have to face, nowadays, to keep up with the pace of growth?

Identify prime properties, capital, and speed of scale.

Lately, we are reading that big international players such as Airbnb are also looking towards the coworking business. Do you think this can work? Why?

The coworking or managed office market is huge with rooms for different price points and variation of the product/ service.

Do OYO and Innov8 have plans to grow beyond India?

We plan to expand and cater to the huge Indian market first.

In general, Indian coworking brands are not very active outside India, yet. Do you expect it to change? 

Yes, most definitely. There is a lot of potential. Having said that, we are currently focused on strengthening our business in India. Once we have nailed it, then the sky’s the limit.

“The growth of flexible workspaces will continue as companies demand greater agility with reduced risk”

Founded in 1999, The Instant Group rethinks workspace on behalf of its clients, injecting flexibility, reducing cost and driving enterprise performance. Instant places more than 7.000 companies a year in flexible workspace such as serviced, managed or coworking offices workspace (Instant Offices hosts more than 12,000 flexible workspace centres across the world).  The Instant Group employs 230 experts worldwide. We asked John Williams, Head of Marketing of The Instant Group, about his vision of the evolution of the international flexible social workplace market.

How is the conventional property market anticipating the rise of the demand for flexible workplaces?

John Williams, Instant Group

We are witnessing a seismic change in the flexible workspace market.

Clients are demanding more from their office space and the growth in operators is serving this increasing and changing demand. Landlords are entering the market with a variety of flexible office solutions and there will continue to be consolidation of the market where there are opportunities for growth and a shift to an outsourced office model.

There is a clear difference in terms of market maturity between the UK, a handful of digital startups friendly metropoles (Paris, Berlin or Dublin), on the one hand, and the rest of the continent, on the other hand. Does coworking only fit with dense urban environments? 

Defining the differences in flexible working is critical, as coworking only makes up a small percentage of the market. Flexible workspaces offer all types of space including dedicated private offices, hybrid space and coworking. The growth of flexible workspaces and coworking will continue as companies of all sizes adapt and demand greater agility and flexibility with reduced risk. In terms of specific location growth, there are some factors which could make other European city contenders against London; largely whether Brexit will mean businesses no longer want to retain their portfolios in the UK.  Some businesses may seek a flexible solution in a key European city, with Dublin already being the European headquarters for some of the largest tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Paypal. Whilst markets such as Paris and Amsterdam continue to go from strength to strength seeing consistent growth, attracting a range of companies into the flex market as well as seeing an increased range of operators in these cities. Whilst London continues to be the most mature European market, other key cities are beginning to really tap into flex space with an abundance of new centres and operators launching in the market.

Defining the differences in flexible working is critical, as coworking only makes up a small percentage of the market.

Is the move supported mainly by coworking “multinationals” or by independent local operators?

The three largest providers of serviced office space in London in 2017 only made up 17% of the total market with a huge number of niche providers. These smaller operators cater for unique but growing segments of the market such as specialist TMT space or women-only centres.  As we have seen in the US, the number of smaller operators, who run only one or two centres, has continued to proliferate despite the growth of the larger players and represent a large proportion of supply to the market.

The three largest providers of serviced office space in London in 2017 only made up 17% of the total market with a huge number of niche providers.

Are traditional business centers all getting in and supporting the growth in offering?

Whilst the initial response was sceptical, many traditional landlords are beginning to see the benefits of flex space within their workspace. According to the Financial Times, increased client demand for flex space is having a significant impact on UK landlords.  As business demand for greater agility grows and the size number of requirements increases to all-time highs, in fact the number of deals done across London for 20+ desk requirements is up a staggering 46% in the last year alone.

Traditional landlords are seeking a new route to cater for this demand; Instant recently complete a first of its kind with a co-lease solution with landlord, Dorrington, for a client seeking a larger desk requirement.

The number of deals done across London for 20+ desk requirements is up a staggering 46% in the last year alone.

How does pricing and amenity provision compare, and what do you expect to be the respective USP’s (Unique Selling Proposition) ?

Service, Calibre of space, Quality of physical space, Additional amenities, Gyms on site, Community aspect and network (WeWork, The Wing, etc.).   Much like many other models; the higher the calibre of the amenities, the higher the pricing. However, desk rates are continuously climbing in correlation with increased demand.  We have commissioned a number of surveys over the last 24 months with our vast occupier database. They are seeking workspaces with amenities more akin to a hotel environment with gyms, creches’ and yoga spaces to name just a few – and operators are listening. 

They [occupiers] are seeking workspaces with amenities more akin to a hotel environment with gyms, creches’ and yoga spaces to name just a few – and operators are listening.

What are, according to you, the other growth areas – and the reasons why we think they are going to expand ?

Events, meeting rooms, gyms etc, concessions (pop ups, etc)… Operators are beginning to diversify and add value to existing clients; for example WeWork has begun providing pop-ups for retailers within their locations, providing a one-stop shop for occupiers.  Other ventures include single use meeting rooms. Within the wider market, adding value with improved or innovative amenities will help operators stand out from the crowd. 

What could slow or stop the expansion dynamic ?

There are several key trends that will significantly shape the future of what is still a nascent industry. The flex market is only 30 years old, at most, but the majority of its growth has come in the past decade with supply ramping up and more operators joining the market. This rapid growth and increasing interest in flexible solutions from the more traditional side of the property sector is already creating issues that the market will have to address. As competition grows across the market and is compounded by increased cost to operators of taking space, square meters allocation per desk has fallen dramatically to ensure margins are retained. We have also witnessed consolidation of the market through a number of acquisitions. In APAC, WeWork has been acquiring a number of local operators including Naked Hub and Space Mob. There are over 5.000 centres across EMEA and we have witnessed growth of 15% in the last 12 months. A number of operators including Mindspace and WeWork have expanded their footprint in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Tel Aviv.  While there is growing demand in all markets for flex space, there are a few factors which could impact the growth of the flex market : 1) Saturation of the market with too many; 2) operators, Recession / Financial down-turn; 3) Consolidation of the market.

As competition grows across the market and is compounded by increased cost to operators of taking space, square meters allocation per desk has fallen dramatically to ensure margins are retained.

John Williams will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Europe 2018 conference. 

Picture : The Space – Source : Instant Offices

“Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity, specialized communities, will risk getting lost in the noise”.

Kelsea Crawford is the CEO and cofounder of Cutwork, an architecture and design studio focused on designing new ways to live and work. Based between Amsterdam and Paris, Cutwork has  5 years of experience design in furniture and spatial concepts for coworking spaces, innovation hubs, private offices, and coliving spaces. Cutwork has been involved in the famous Station F project, the world biggest startup campus, based in Paris, France.

Hi Kelsea. You design coworking spaces. Can you explain to us what is your approach and what do you start with when you are asked to design a flexible workspace?

At its core, we aim to design workspaces that encourage the meeting of people and ideas. We begin every project by thinking about how we can use design to encourage collaboration, to cultivate strong communities, and to foster meaningful work.

After a 2 year collaboration with Station F (the largest startup campus in the world and home the European hubs of Facebook, Microsoft and Ubisoft) and speaking with over 200 coworking spaces last year, we have developed our approach to flexible workspace around three key ideas:

  1. Mobility – the ability to change one’s surroundings and move between different types of space for different styles of work and collaboration.
  2. Versatility – the use of smart furniture designs that have multiple uses and functions.
  3. Flexibility – the ability to easily transform or rearrange a space for different uses.

We start the design process with an open dialogue about where we can add the most value as design partners. For the most part, this includes developing spatial design concepts that will scale across multiple spaces, furnishing a space, and designing custom products. One of our biggest advantages is that our furniture design process is built on digital technologies that make it simple for us to modify any of our existing products to develop unique, custom solutions for our clients. 

While we use a lot of technology to make things super efficient on the manufacturing side, we’re pretty old school when it comes to the actual design – we like to sit together around a table with a big piece of paper and draw. This way we can really map out the challenges and limitations currently presented by the furniture and spatial design, and come up with the best solutions that fit the space and budget.

It’s simple for space operators to survey big name spaces and think, this is what appeals to my market of millennial freelance workers!

We see some recently designed coworking spaces looking the same. Are designers becoming lazy? Or do space operators lack inspiration when submitting their requirements and guidelines?

More than becoming lazy or lacking inspiration, I think the market is just maturing. New spaces are easily lured into copying established models of success. It’s simple for space operators to survey big name spaces and think, “this is what appeals to my market of millennial freelance workers! If I can do that, my space will also be a success”. The problem with this is that everyone is asking the same question and coming up with the same solution. While this can make for a safer bet in the short term, the real risk in this strategy becomes evident when looking at the numbers: the coworking market is predicted to double in size over the next 4 years, from 14,000 spaces to over 30,000 spaces (Small Business Lab’s December 2017 Survey). This is insane market growth! For coworking spaces to succeed in the long term and survive this flood of competition, there’s a real need for original, distinct, and innovative design.

We see a lot of recurrent gimmicks in workspace designs, Silicon Valley inspired kind of workspace, for instance… What do you think of it? 

Station F (Paris)

These types of “gimmicks” and trends are typically playful, easy to understand, and straightforward to implement, which is why we see them turning up all over the place. While they can be effective when done well, I think the bigger conversation here is that coworking spaces should be wary of adopting these kinds of trends just for the sake of it. This risks missing a meaningful opportunity to use design as a means to encourage collaboration, help build strong communities, and make the space more valuable to its members.

Do furniture providers do their job of supplying a wide enough variety of products or are we stuck with “prêt à porter” giving little room for design creativity in the workspace?

There aren’t many companies out there today that are designing furniture specifically for coworking and flexible workspaces. For now, most spaces are stuck making traditional office furniture work, or they end up designing their own because so few options exist in the marketplace. A coworking space is not a traditional office – so why are people still furnishing it like one The opportunity to design for these new usages is what’s most exciting to us. With our latest collection of furniture, we worked with our clients to map out the most common gestures and habits of the modern coworker, looking at all the tools and objects they carried with them and designing for their natural workflow; modular boards for writing or displaying sticky notes, hooks for headphones, shelves for screens of all sizes, and organizers for the daily tools.

What’s really exciting about coworking spaces is that there is such a new story to tell – this fundamental shift in the way we work and where we do it.

More broadly speaking, how does space design support the branding story of a coworking/flexible workspace? Do space providers understand that, nowadays?

In a general way, spatial design is the physical representation of a brand. What’s really exciting about coworking spaces is that there is such a new story to tell – this fundamental shift in the way we work and where we do it. With this comes many opportunities to use architecture, interior design, and furniture as visual tools to help express a brand’s values in an immediate and impactful way. Aesthetics are really important because it sets the tone and qualifies the audience the space attracts, and that audience will eventually become the space’s community. I think space providers are definitely beginning to understand how valuable these tools are, especially as competition becomes more and more fierce. Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity or built tight-knit, specialized communities will have a much harder time standing out and risk getting lost in the noise. 

Can a corporate-focused, flexible serviced office develop inspiring and disrupting workspace environments, or are these things limited to startup and freelancer-focused coworking spaces?

They can, and we are already beginning to see this transition take place. Most serviced offices are simply following the model that traditional corporate offices have established – a model which is definitely being challenged and influenced by startups and coworking spaces. Corporations have already begun testing the waters by housing teams or departments within coworking spaces, dissolving the boundaries of the office culture and embracing startup working styles to accelerate innovation and growth. And it’s definitely catching on. Just last year, business employees became the largest demographic in global coworking spaces, surpassing freelancers. And the early signifiers are clear: the employees surveyed in coworking spaces are happier and more fulfilled in their roles, and these satellite departments are moving faster and are more productive than they had been in the traditional office environment. As traditional corporate offices continues to adopt these concepts and work styles, I think we’ll see a similar influence in serviced corporate offices.

Spaces that haven’t designed a unique visual identity or built tight-knit, specialized communities will have a much harder time standing out and risk getting lost in the noise.

What do you expect as being the upcoming trends in coworking space design, in the 12-24 months to come?

There are three key trends we’re watching for in the next 2 years:

1. Specialization. As the market matures, we’ll see coworking spaces becoming more and more specialized to support specific communities. Coworking spaces for women, coworking spaces with daycare services, coworking spaces for app developers, etc. These niched communities will have unique needs and usages, and spatial design will evolve to meet them.

2. Investment in Design. To stay ahead of the competitive curve, coworking spaces are making serious investments in design to set themselves apart. Today, the average space dedicates around 40% of the total opening budget to furniture and spatial design. In the near future this figure will only increase, as many more companies are able to raise investment capital in the wake of WeWork’s success.

3. Coworking + Co-living. As cities densify and the cost of living continues to increase, we expect the increase of shared coliving spaces will be nearly as dramatic as the rise of coworking. Furnished, flexible apartments that service a young, freelance workforce will build on the same movement as coworking, and we think many of the big players in the coworking market will lead the way

Just last year, business employees became the largest demographic in global coworking spaces, surpassing freelancers. And the early signifiers are clear: the employees surveyed in coworking spaces are happier.

Photos credit Handover

Kelsea Crawford will be a speaker at the upcoming Coworking Europe 2018 conference, in Amsterdam.

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.


“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.

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.