Category: Industry

“In Spain, small coworking spaces have less to lose from the rise of big brands than medium size ones”

Manuel Zea is the founder of CoworkingSpain.es and the organizer of the Coworking Spain Conference, one of the first national conference ever organized on coworking. Manuel saw coworking moving from a fragile new born to an industry on it’s way to disrupt the traditional office market. As of today, Spain is still the country with the highest number of individual coworking space per capita. A few days after the Coworking Spain 2018 conference, which took place in Madrid, it was a good time to ask him about the situation of coworking in the country.

Hi Manuel. Can you tell us about the story behind CoworkingSpain?

Manuel Zea

“CoworkingSpain.es” is born in 2010. That year, I was invited to speak at the first European conference on coworking. I had entitled my presentation: “An overview of the coworking in Spain”. Prior to the date,  I reached out to all the existing coworking spaces at that time, in the country. I had collected so much information that I decided to start a blog called CoworkingSpain.es, which listed coworking space operating in Spain. The year after, I took part to the second Coworking Europe conference in Berlin. I said to myself: it’s time to organize a similar conference in Spain. This was 7 years ago.

What is the main learning you get out of such a longevity? 

I think working with passion and love is what makes me work every year at the conference. Its a hard job with a really small team, so doing things with passion and love is key for us. As you mention, the competition is now rising between the 3 biggest international operators, now active in Spain. You can feel how they want to get market share and they are using marketing strategics to get more penetration into the market. Collaboration between spaces is possible but to a certain limit and easier between smaller spaces. Collaboration between big coworking brands is more difficult. Be will work on that, though.

Why, would you say, coworking spaces have an interest to collaborate with one another?

My opinion is that collaboration is a way to grow faster and organized and a way to learn faster. There is a lot of experience in every single person that can solve in a simple way a problem that seems big to you. Collaborartion is the perfect way to accelerate your serendipity.

According to your Spanish coworking survey, Spain counts about 800 coworking spaces, still one of the highest number in Europe…

Utopicus

This is a legacy from the economical crisis. Eight years ago, there was just a bunch of coworking spaces. Their mission was to spread the word about the coworking word and educate the world about what coworking was.  This was a really tough job. We can’t figure out something more complicated than to teach a market about a service one isn’t even aware there might be a demand for. That was our job from the beginning and it has been the mission of the Coworking Spain Conference all those years: Connect all the coworking space managers, support each other in resolving common problems, make noise around  the ‘coworking’ word in Spain.

Can you give us an overview of the growth of the coworking Spanish market, today?

The coworking industry in Spain is now growing by 20% annually. We experience a professionalisation of the sector. The industry is maturing.  Big brands are in Spain. They take a lot of sqm up. The coworking brands are now representing 3% of the total number of coworking operators in Spain. Though, they cover the 30% of the market. They are being very agresive and the penetration into the markets is being big.

The big brands are already in Spain getting a lot of sqm and growing already the 3% of the coworking brands own the 30% of the market.

The average size of coworking spaces in Spain is 200-300m2, which might sound pretty small according to the standards seen in other countries. What should be the strategy for small spaces to survive?

Since the begining of the “coworking era”, a great deal of the spaces in operation in Spain are proportionally small. This explains why Spain had such a high number of individual spaces when compared with other countries. Nowadays, the big names are changing the industry. As far as I see it, the small spaces shouldn’t be too much impacted. The can  focus ont their small communities or transform their spaces into another business. The managers of these small coworking spaces can easily change the model and turn their shared office place, for instance, into a design agency. They have a lot of flexibility, and didn’t invest too much money in their space. It’s another story for medium size spaces. Those will have to transform themselves. Coworking is their main activité. They invested a lot of money. The big international brands are more likely to hurt  them. They need to be ready for change and increase the value proposition to their communities.

The medium size spaces are the one who need to transform or change the most.

Are there still doubts about the rising importance of coworking in Spain?

Not anymore. Last year, coworking was everywhere. Credit to the big players. WeWork opened. Spaces, by Regus, continued its expansion. And the most commented transaction of the year was the acquisition of Utopicus by the Real State company Colonial. So the word coworking had been spreading a lot last year. We made it!!!!

Talent Garden runs 23 coworking-campuses in Europe and re-invents education

 The Italian born Talent Garden counts, nowadays, among the major coworking brands operating in Europe. The Milan based company runs 23 “coworking-campuses” across Italy and the rest of Europe. Talent Garden was one of the first coworking operator to raise VC money in Europe, when coworking still was a tiny trend. Since then, the group has developed a strong education offering, making it quite a unique model in the coworking industry. We checked with Davide Dattoli, co-founder and CEO, what are Talent Garden today’s vision and plans.

Hi Davide. Why does Talent Garden speaks about “campuses” rather than “coworking spaces” when telling about your locations? What is the difference?

Davide Dattoli, CEO Talent Garden

 Talent Garden considers itself as an international innovation platform, who operates facilities where members can meet, work, learn and collaborate. We use the word “campus” rather than “coworking” because Talent Garden was founded with the aim to create ecosystems that would connect, support and grow the best startups within technological and digital arenas. We wanted to contribute to the professional development of future global innovators.

Is this a way for Talent Garden to differentiate from the competition while other international brands are gaining ground?

I wouldn’t say that. In opposition to some international coworking operators who look first at growing a real estate business, at Talent Garden, community is genuinely at the core of what we do. We focus on new ways to transform and connect both flexible work and education environments, as requested by digital entrepreneurs and businesses.

The Innovation School is an important part of your activity. Would you say that Talent Garden is today a training agency as much as it is a coworking spaces operator?

The two businesses coexist, giving value to one another. Education is a fundamental part of our ecosystem. In 2015, Talent Garden became active in the education sector with the launch of our School of innovation – a school that offers training in the fields of digital and innovation, with a focus on coding, data, design, marketing, and business. We really believe that this is an integrating part of our offer.

We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events. And it is exponentially growing: in 2017 we trained 500 students, 1,000 children, 2,300 professionals and involved over 70 companies in its programs.

You use to partner up with universities. Why do universities need Talent Garden?

We partner with universities that share our innovative approach. We recently announced the opening of our new campus in Dublin in partnership with Dublin City University (DCU), a new hub for digital innovation. This will be the first collaboration of its kind in Europe. In DCU, we have found a University partner with the same entrepreneurial DNA and ambition as Talent Garden. This made the selection process easy. The existing DCU Alpha community of digital and IoT innovators is the perfect home for us, whereas the University partnership will help us to scale our Innovation School offering globally.

We believe and invest a lot in the growth our Innovation School, which today accounts for 25% of turnover along with coworking (50%) and events.

Does it tell something about the future of education, would you say?

We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. We created our Innovation School in this context.  We train young people and professionals. We bring new cultures and skills to businesses and we offer upgrades and updates to those operating in the work environment.

We realize that there is an educational gap between the jobs on offer and the professional training required to fulfill those jobs. In this context, we created our Innovation School

We also believe in lifelong learning and change management within individual companies. Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities, and yet this is where companies devote 80% of their training budget. For this reason, we offer an innovative training methodology, putting people at the center of the learning process based on cross-pollination and co-creation, to make sure that the expenditure in training gives results in proportion to the investment made.

Today 70% of corporate learning happens at work thanks to on-the-job learning and relationships between colleagues, 20% through coaching and networking and the remaining 10% through traditional training activities

Talent Garden has partnerships with tech companies such as Google or Cisco too. How does it work?

We support corporates by analyzing their business needs and devising ad-hoc projects to help them embrace the opportunities offered by digital technologies to reach their full potential. Moreover, we allow their cross-pollination with our community of innovators and expose their brand to our stakeholders. This year we involved 180 partners (corporates and SMEs), providing them with the right tools to devise new, innovative ways of working. Corporates may have the capital and resources, but often lack the agility, internal culture, and expertise of startups that are essential for driving innovation and success.

Innovation is a key element of corporate growth and requires the right combination of people, processes, and technologies.

The wide majority of your spaces are located in Italy. How is the coworking industry growing in Italy?

Compared to other European markets, Italy is still at an early stage in the fields of startups development and innovation. That is why we are building a European network, to connect countries and leverage each other’s potential while supporting the best tech and digital professionals in their growth.

“Growing a strong community is the best way to differentiate from the competition”

Gargi Shah is the co-founder of one of Mumbai‘s first coworking spaces. When she opened The Playce in November 2012, the coworking concept was practically unheard of in India. Gargi spent many days dreaming up ways to explain what she did to her grandmother, who still believes that her granddaughter rents out offices for a living. The Playce has completed five eventful years – a proud home to creative, entrepreneurial and even outlandish co-workers.

We spent some time talking with her to get her impressions about running a coworking space in one of the biggest, densest and fastest developing city in the world.

We use to claim coworking is all about community. Some players say tenants just appreciate the flexibility and a convenient environment. How do you see it?

Gargi Shah

Coworking is NOT just about the community. Customers come with different goals. Some are looking for a productive office space, some are looking to find like-minded people, others for an affordable setup still, others choose coworking for the unprecedented flexibility it provides. 

Coworking is NOT just about the community. Customers come with different goals.

Having a strong community in a coworking space makes the space attractive, but it is one of the many things that space offers. It can be one of the best ways to retain customers, especially teams.

Is Coworking just a smart Real Estate game?

Coworking is generally much more than simply a Real Estate calculation. There are community, flexibility, affordability and a host of other useful services offered to the customer.

That said, there are many cases where coworking is a way to leverage non-premium properties. In these cases, it starts with a smart Real Estate Game. The premise in question is typically not a premium property for a variety of reasons – location, floor plan, market conditions etc. This makes it tricky to rent out the entire premise to a single lessee.

The owners of such Real Estate premise have come to realise that coworking can give them a quick-fix to their rental requirements. Running a coworking space is a clever idea because the premise generates at least some revenue (even if it is less than market rent) instead of lying vacant. Coworking customers are looking for affordable workspaces even if it means that they have to compromise on certain other parameters. It’s a win-win for both the parties.

Mumbai is one of the biggest and crowdiest metropoles in the world. Coworking is booming. Is community less important in big cities?

The community is just as important in the big cities, perhaps even more so because the coworkers (entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, etc) are working in a highly competitive market. They need all the support and encouragement they can get. It certainly helps them to know that there are others like them who are sticking their neck out for their idea. The support of the community and kindred souls is invaluable when an entrepreneur is starting out. 

The community is just as important in the big cities, perhaps even more so because the coworkers are working in a highly competitive market.

On the flip side, a coworker has many more options in a big city – cafes and restaurants (long the ‘offices’ of lone warriors), extra unused desks in traditional offices, apartments etc. This makes it harder for coworking spaces to retain customers.

How do we fill in coworking spaces in India?

India is rather diverse and most coworking spaces have their own niche offering. Some offer unbeatable prices, some offer creative interiors, some have simply located themselves in a high-demand location and some have an organic community built over a period of years. In Mumbai, there are diverse demographics who need a coworking space to suit different needs. It is mainly an overwhelming demand for flexible office spaces that drives the coworking market of Mumbai.

Most coworking spaces have their own niche offering. Some offer unbeatable prices, some offer creative interiors, some have simply located themselves in a high-demand location and some have an organic community built over a period of years

Fun, conviviality, learning, networking… Is it only for startups or Gen Y and Z?

Oh no, not at all. In all our workshops and events we have seen incredibly large participation from established freelancers and folks in their forties, fifties and even a few in their sixties. One would expect that startups and Gen Y/Z folks would be a big part of the fun and networking, but more often than not they don’t have the time and inclination to get out of their personal space and explore. They are buried in their startup challenges and personal journeys. It is the 30s and over a crowd that tends to have a more long-term perspective and are an integral part of the fun, learning and networking side of things.

One would expect that startups and Gen Y/Z folks would be a big part of the fun and networking, but more often than not they don’t have the time and inclination to get out of their personal space and explore

 

 

 

Business centers and coworking spaces : now two sides of the same coin ?

Eduardo Salsamendi is involved in the industry of flexible workspace since 1990. That year, he founded his first business center Klammer located in Northern Spain. 

In 2008, Eduardo Salsamendi founded the European Confederation of Business Centers Associations (EUROCBCA ), headquartered in Brussels. while being the president of the Spanish Worskpaces association  ProWorkSpaces.

We talked with Eduardo about how the evolution of the flexible workspace industry, and especially how the coworking culture is now influencing the sector.

Hi Eduardo. Could you offer us an overview of how the flexible workspace industry is doing in Spain, as we speak? 

Eduardo Salsamendi

Spain has a different workspaces ecosystem than the neighbor countries. We have a lot of smaller independents business centers that are representative of their owners’ own way of living. That said, the average size of the spaces kept steadily growing over the last 15 years. With an acceleration in the 24 months. The average size of our spaces in square meters has evolved from 600 to 900 m2 over the last five year. This figure might be misleading, though, due to the break down between the very big and very small spaces. If we have a look at cities, Madrid counts nowadays for more than 1/3 of the total flexible workspaces number in Spain, followed by Barcelona. 

According to you, what are the main challenges traditional business centers are facing now? 

The good news is that we are no more just speaking about money or space, but about the people’s needs. The flexible workspace industry now works on making people feel good while working, supporting them in the making of more efficient work. Technology changes the way we work. Users mentality changes too. 

What kind of distinction would you make, today, between a coworking space and a business center?

To us, the distinction between coworking and business centers is something more and more of the past, as flexible workspace operators today embrace elements of both worlds. At ProWorkSpaces we now define a flexible workspace operator as someone offering a combination of space, services, technology, and community. And the “traditional” kind of paid services are permanent offices, virtual offices, and spaces sold by the hour or by the day (meeting rooms, training rooms, offices, workstations…). Everyone makes his own recipe based on these ingredients.

Coworking has brought more visibility to the flexible workspace industry.

Would you say that the rise of Coworking benefited the traditional flexible workspace industry, so far?

The irruption of coworking made a revolution of the flexible workspace industry possible. Traditionally, real state players were focused on space, business centers were focused on service – Space as a Service- and Coworking operators were focused on community. In the early days, one of coworking’s biggest challenge was profitability. However, coworking quickly pivoted and incorporated elements of the “traditional” business center, usually more profitable.  Coworking has brought more visibility to the flexible workspace industry. It made flexible workspace cooler. We understood that we needed to work on communities of users. In addition, we learned that offering different environments across our spaces was an added value. Many operators include different kind of spaces and ambiances: open common spaces, more informal ones, different types of meeting rooms, workstations in an open space…  

We will continue to work on the SaaE concept (Space as an experience).

Where do you see the industry going in the coming years?

The industry will continue to change and grow very fast in the coming years. We expect different kinds of workspaces looking for their specific customers. The people in the industry love putting labels on what is a business center, what is a coworking space… but users don’t care. They look for a workspace that solves their needs where they feel comfortable. We will continue to work on the SaaE concept (Space as an experience). For me, the best reward is when a lead comes for a tour and says: “Wow, I want to work from here”. On the other hand, corporations build teams for projects. They collaborate with freelancers. The new economy includes uncertainty. The flexible workspace industry is the perfect solution for this, with flexibility and immediacy. You can know what you need today. However, you are never sure about what you will need tomorrow. We have an enormous growth horizon ahead of us as, nowadays, we still only represent a tiny portion of the whole offices market.

The people in the industry love putting labels on what is a business center, what is a coworking space… but users don’t care at all.

Picture source : Spacesworks Madrid

A big yet untapped potential for coworking in small towns and rural areas (survey)

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Coworking is not a ‘city only’ phenomenon. Since a while, singles, young couples and families are moving away from the noisy pace and high costs of metropoles to settle within remote areas, looking for wellbeing and affordable cost of the countryside.

If Coworking in small towns and rural areas isn’t new, it keeps nowadays growing, as the last Coworking Europe conference’s editions confirmed. 

Therefore, it made sense to more specifically survey this segment of the coworking market in order to understand the coworking realities experienced outside main urban centers.

1/The Survey sample

Spaces from all over Europe and the world took part in the survey.  Within the final sample, France, Germany, Austria and Spain are the most represented countries.

Most of the surveyed spaces (62%) are located in towns with a population 50.000 to 150.000 inhabitants big. About 20% of the survey spaces are located in towns with less than 10.000 inhabitants and a 4% in the pure countryside.

The respondents operate rather small coworking space in size, between 100 and 200 m2 on average. Only 17% operate surfaces larger than 501 m2.

A majority of the spaces have been in operation for more than 3 years. One third of the spaces represented in the sample are 4 years old or more.

2/ Competition is still low

The lack of awareness about the existence of the “Coworking” concept is mentioned as one of the biggest challenges coworking spaces struggle with in small town and rural areas.

The positive flip side of the situation, is that they face few or no competition in their immediate surrounding.

A big deal of the respondents in rural areas provides with traditional coworking services : meeting rooms, hot-desking in an open space, fixed desk in an open space and event venue.

Mokrin House (Serbia) is an example of a very successful coworking project located in the countryside.

Product such as ‘content production’, ‘private offices’, or ‘sponsorship’,  are offered to a lower extend in rural area located coworking space.

More than 80% of the surveyed spaces operate without any public subsidies.

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3/ Rural “satellite offices” aren’t hot yet

The biggest part of the surveyed coworking community members live within a range of  5 to 20 km from their space.

According to the respondents, the first motivation of members to join the space is : “looking for a business minded work environment“. They “look for a place where they can discuss with other peers and find new opportunities” in second place. The third motivation is : “we like the atmosphere of the space“.

The coworking communities are mainly composed out of freelancers, SME’s, employees and startups.

The coworking space is barely used as a satellite office of corporate employees aiming to avoid to commute to their company’s HQ.

4/An untapped potential 

The main takeaway from the survey is likely that coworking in small town and rural area still offers a big untapped potential.

A big deal of the faced challenges are related to market education.

The coworking market outside big cities still is in a fairly young stage of maturation. There is room for growth, as the average surface and the level of local competition appear pretty low.

Moreover, so far, the opportunity for larger organizations to use small town located coworking spaces as satellite offices is widely unnoticed.

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Reminder

Coworking spaces play a key role revitalizing small towns and rural areas bringing the talent back. A good example is The Ludgate Hub located on the Southern coast of Ireland, in one of the most rural and remote areas of the country. After two years, the main results of the Ludgate Hub include the formulation of a digital strategy for a rural town, the creation of new jobs for the area, introduction of new families into the area, a boost of expenditure in the building, and services.

See the interview here.

Pacific Workplace : “What we learned from the takeover of a coworking brand”

A few months ago, Pacific Workplaces, a California based business centers network, took over Next Space, a coworking brand with locations in Berkeley, Santa Cruz and San Jose.

Why did a business center operator buy one of the best known historical bay area’s coworking brand ?

What was the vision and how is the integration going ?

Laurent Dhollande, CEO of Pacific Workplaces and boss of CloudVO, one of Coworking Europe 2017 conference‘s partners, shared his insight, last November, in Dublin, during one of Coworking Europe’s session (cfr video below).

Strong community, weak processes

“No one can curate a community as well as Next Space”, says Laurent Dhollande, first. “They have a solid brand recognition and informal culture, which is an asset”.

“Independent coworking space management is a hard thing to operate, though, adds the CEO of CloudVO. Many are run by very passionated people who focus on the community, but often overlook the monetization of additional services as well as the improvement of the operational side.”

“Next Space different locations, for instance, were too remote from one another to manage the network easily. The management was very decentralized. There  processes were not up to date. They didn’t leverage technology to run the space, for rooms online booking, for instance. They had an insufficient number of meeting rooms. They didn’t kill inefficient new initiatives fast enough“.

Word of mouth marketing vs SEO

“Next Space marketing was mainly made through word of mouth and social media, whereas we focus a lot on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM)“.

Next Space’s financial situation was weak, whereas Pacific Workplace financial situation is strong.

According to Laurent Dhollande, Next Space wasn’t good enough with the development of additional side revenues, aside of the revenue stream generated by coworking subscriptions.

“At Pacific Workplace, Virtual Office, makes 30% of our revenues, as opposed to a mere 6% at Next Space”, illustrates the CEO of CloudVO.

Complementarity and ultimate convergence

Despite some flaws, Pacific Workplaces choose to keep the Next Space brand alive as well as the website. The identity is strong and the complementarities with the mother company seem clear.

“The is a convergence between the models, observes Laurent Dhollande. Within the coming 5 years, the two brands and customer experiences might become only one“.

 

London: The coworking market sees signs of a price war looming

Hector Kolonas is the founder of Included.co, an online platform organising group purchases for a network of over 200 coworking communities in the world. The service helps the spaces to buy supplies and services at a discounted price, thanks to the generated volumes.

As a London-based startup, which initially started to work with the London coworking ecosystem, Hector is ideally positioned to depict the evolution of the coworking market in one of the most innovative and dynamic cities of Europe and the world. The competition is becoming fierce, as somehow confirmed the discussions which took place at the recent eOffice London Coworking Conference.

Hi Hector. The coworking offering strongly increased, during the last three years London. What are the main drivers of the growth, according to you?

Hector Kolonas, Included.co

Indeed, we enrich over 50 business communities across London, up from just 2 when we launched in the city. This is at a similar pace to the number of new spaces opening up. This growth includes serviced offices adapting space into open-plan, flexible workspaces; new coworking brands; expansion of existing coworking brands; and new takes on what coworking could look like for different niches.

There are two main drivers behind the rapid growth of coworking communities in the city, namely economic and social.

First up, rent in London is crazy expensive, as can be expected for any thriving capital city. So the notion of ‘sharing’ office expenses like rent, electricity, coffee and workspace management is a no-brainer. The increasingly flexible terms (mostly month-to-month) allow for businesses to invest in growth and their staff, instead of into sunk costs normally associated with office rentals. But that’s the same everywhere, and a reason why coworking has exploded across the globe.
What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing. With the growth in popularity of entrepreneurship in the UK (and Europe) a lot of passionate and brilliant people have converged in London.

What’s most interesting in London though, is how rapidly the workspaces that ‘get community right’ are growing.

At the beginning, everyone went at it alone, hiding the lessons they’d learned as competitive advantages for their businesses. Community-focussed coworking spaces broke down these barriers and showed members that they could grow faster by sharing knowledge, experiences and contacts.
With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe. It won’t be long until a few start launching in the US too.

With this combination, it’s no surprise that London has begun exporting some of their coworking brands across the UK, and into Europe

Are major brands supporting the development of the coworking market or is it fueled by the multiplication of more and more independent project?

The Sillicon Roundabout, in London, around which gravitates a number of startups focused coworking.

The two seem to be resonating in London, creating opportunities for each other.
The big brands (both in the coworking sector and from other enterprise-focussed businesses) are creating huge spaces that create a buzz in the media and promote the fundamentals of sharing workspaces on more flexible terms than traditional rentals.
The independents are either becoming large brands in their own rights or carving out perfectly built oases for specific business niches. Whilst we’ve definitely seen a few independent spaces having to shut their doors, a vast majority are working on the expansion, with 2nd, 3rd or even 4th locations opening in the coming 12 months.
Businesses are increasingly switching between the two, based on the kind of employees they want to attract; customers they serve, and the additional costs they can shrink.

How about the profile of the new tenants: mainly freelancers, startups, SME’s or corporations?

As London is a melting pot of epic proportions, there’s a space (or subset of spaces) for almost every profile. From large polished spaces for consultants, professional services and the likes; to workspaces built around reclaimed furniture in warehouses.
Some spaces limit membership to specific niches or business types, others are happy to accept any member that doesn’t create negativity in the workplace.
There is definitely a growing shift of corporations moving autonomous teams into these coworking communities, but there’s still a lot to be learned about how to integrate these teams with the other non-corporate members, in a way that isn’t detrimental to the corporation.
Wherever there are startups, there are passionate and creative people, and thus a growing number of freelancers can be found in and around the most buzzing coworking communities in the city.

Is the demand growing fast enough to absorb the growth of the coworking offering in London?

Work.Life is among the coworking brands expanding fast in London.

The growth in the flexible workspace is astronomical. We’ve literally lost count of the number of shared workspaces available or being used in London, with new coworking spaces opening almost every day or two.
We’ve been exploring when market saturation will occur and helping the operators of our partner workspaces to prepare for the coming dip in demand.
At the current rate (and according to our back-of-a-napkin calculations) there should be enough demand to sustain the current workspace growth for the next 20ish months. From their workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start haemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

From there workspaces who only offer wifi and desk space will start hemorrhaging members to the community-lead spaces who’ve attained enough economies of scale and additional revenue streams to push down their membership fees.

With some of the traditional commercial real estate players also exploring the coworking sector, the fight for not only tenants but brand loyalty will move from location and price to tangible value and stability.

Speaking of pushing down membership feels, some players noticed the beginning of a price war in the coworking market. Do you see this? 

Even though I’m confident that the ‘war for tenants’ will be fought on the value and community front, there is definitely signs of a price war looming in the London ecosystem.
Operating costs for coworking communities are growing due to business rate increases; the gentrification of specific burrows; and the ‘sexiness’ of coworking sneaking into rent-renewal negotiations with landlords.
This opportunity has been seized by some of the bigger players to drop prices, offering what are essentially loss-leader memberships to attract tenants and potentially starve off competing spaces. We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

We’ve had reports of members within some space being directly targeted with unsolicited marketing about workspaces “at half of what they’re currently paying”.

With more and more sales teams being hired to fuel expansion, being able to absorb losses to acquire potential long-term customers is becoming a weapon of choice.
But the line between sales and community is also being crossed more and more. With some members even reporting having received messages congratulating them on personal milestones (possibly mined from private social media channels) before offering them a free tour or discounted membership as a gift.
I should obviously note that this isn’t the whole industry though, as many coworking space managers are actually and actively collaborating behind the scenes to help each other out.

With London’s center being so dense and expensive, do you see an expansion of the coworking offering in the suburb? Are those spaces different (size, positioning…) from those located downtown?

Second Home has opened a location in Lisbon

There are actually two interesting trends here.
Firstly, great community-focussed spaces from outside Zone 1 and 2 are opening new workspaces towards the centre or on other sides of the city. By leveraging their knowledge, brand equity and operational experience they can offer more affordable or valuable workspace offerings. These workspaces can either be smaller satellite-style offices or grander whole/half buildings with new features designed specifically based on the requests/needs of their existing members.
Secondly, larger brands are diversifying their market exposure, potentially hedging against the coming market saturation and price wars. This means they’re opening locations in cities like Dublin, Manchester, Lisbon, Barcelona and others. In smaller cities, the new workspaces are normally larger due to lower rentals and operating costs. A number of local coworking brands have also raised VC funding to fuel this growth.
Whilst no brand wants to ever be seen to be ‘fleeing’ the centre, some communities are moving further outwards to keep their businesses feasible. With superb community coordinators, and when well explained, this can happen without any long-term detriment to the brand, and can sometimes even strengthen members’ relationships to the community.

You mentioned it above. Coworking spaces diversify their revenue sources. What can you say about it?

From all the communities we observe, assist and enrich, we’ve picked up on 3 different avenues for revenue diversification. These are excluding the renting out of registered addresses and meeting rooms, which can be expected in any thriving metropolitan ecosystem.
The first is sponsorship, which is arguably the most attractive, because who wouldn’t want to have ‘free money’ thrown at them? Professional service and technology brands are happy to write cheques to community coordinators, to lock in the exclusive promotion of their offering. What we’ve found is that around 75% of the time, these offerings are not what the member businesses need or even want, but the community manager’s hands are tied by the agreements with sponsoring firms.
The second is the merger of partnerships and affiliate revenue. Normally delegated to community managers, this creates a bottleneck for the operating team. Not only do they have to deal with a huge amount of non-stop inbound partnership requests, but they also need to somehow figure out if:
a) the service/product supplier is legitimate,
b) the offer will create value for their members,
c) the workspace will make enough revenue to recoup this invested time.
The third is actually where we work every single day. We handle inbound partnership requests, negotiate on behalf of 200 communities, and ensure that the workspaces get a fair apportion of generated revenue on a long-term basis. As we don’t offer any exclusivity, members will never be tied to a single provider, allowing them to discover solutions that their coworkers are using, and saving money with.
This means that the members of each space in our network get access to a growing set of solutions, and the community coordinators can focus on implementing creative ways to connect their members to the solutions. Some of our partner communities are saving their members £1,000’s in unavoidable expenses each month, driving up their own long-term revenue and building great brand loyalty at the same time.
With the price war looming, and the costs of operating increasing, it’s no wonder why so many coworking communities are becoming included too.

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

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

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

Jean-Yves Huwart

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

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

This is the focus of the interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source Hok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Head pic. Hotel Schani, Vienna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Munroe, co-founde Hubud, Bali

Are corporate entities in the region embracing coworking? 

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

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

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

What are the benefits of forming a coworking alliance? 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

How to measure coworking business performances

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

Here is a sum up of the workshop.

1. Determine the right metrics and indicators

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

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

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

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

2. Measure the coworking business performances

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

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

A. Operational Performance

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

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

Example :

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

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

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

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

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

B. Business Performance

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

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

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

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

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

C. Community Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download 91Springboard Metrics presentation :

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