Category: Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

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

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

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

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

Coworking Grows Up: An interview with Jean-Yves Huwart, founder of Coworking Europe

Like many of the major players in today’s coworking scene, Jean-Yves Huwart, started off as an unsatisfied employee. Driven by a need for more freedom, Huwart quit his job at a media company and started working as a freelancer. Yet, it didn’t take much more than two weeks before he started to get cabin fever. At the same time Huwart was going crazy in his home office, there was talk in Brussels about creating one of the first European Hubs, Hub Brussels, which launched in 2009. Huwart was one of the first members to join the space and he quickly realized that coworking was the epitome of what he had been writing about as a business journalist. For him, this budding movement met the requirements of the rapidly transforming modern workforce and was much more than just a fad.

Hi Jean-Yves, what initially pushed you to start the first Coworking Europe Conference?

Jean-Yves Huwart: While I was working at Hub Brussels I was witnessing, first hand, a growing need for shared workspaces that prioritized human interaction over production. I started looking elsewhere for similar spaces to the Hub, and I quickly figured out that coworking was a growing phenomenon that could be found all over Europe. This was the initial inspiration to start the first Coworking conference, and because Brussels is the capital city of Europe, it made sense to identify as a European conference.

When did you have the first event, and what was coworking community like in its early stages?

The first event took place in 2010. We expected around 50 people but instead 150 showed up. At that moment, we understood that something was really cooking. At the time, spaces were still in their nascent stages, Betahaus in Berlin was just one year old, and many of the big names you see in coworking today were just starting out. Because things were still operating on a smaller scale, we were able to easily connect with a lot of people who were developing spaces, and also the individuals who had knowledge about the coworking movement.

What countries, at the time, had the most advanced coworking scene? And how did these developments help develop the Coworking Europe Conference?

In 2010, many of the people we met at the conference came from Germany, which was the most advanced coworking scene at the time. They were already organizing themselves into an association, Coworking Deutschland, which was something that was ahead of its time. After the conference, Coworking Spain started and you also had a strong Italian scene growing.

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Coworking Europe conference, 2015

Because of these coworking associations that were forming, people started looking at ways in which they could come together, thus the people in Berlin invited us to have our conference there for the next year, which was in Betahaus, and Club Office. Then, when we were in Berlin, we met the people from Paris who invited us for the next year and from there we gained more traction and the interested has never stopped growing.

From the first Coworking Europe, a real community was formed, so while the conference is still a yearly event always open to newcomers, it’s also an annual gathering of people who see each other as a family.

As someone who has been there from the very beginning, what are some of the major developments you have seen in the coworking over time?

In a lot of ways we grew up alongside many of today’s more developed coworking spaces, so we have really seen the ways in which the movement has changed over time. We also had the chance to see the way that spaces [have] experimented since the very beginning.

One thing that has changed over time is that coworking operators have learned how to monetize their spaces. Many of the people who attended the first conference were interested in coworking, not so much from a business perspective, but rather as a side project.

Today, the coworking community is playing a major role in how new economies will be structured in the future, as they are paving the way for an innovative workforce.

What are some of the major trends that you see currently in the coworking scene?

This year we had 360 attendees in Milan, which was comprised of experts in the field and also many newcomers. After Milan, we can really say coworking is steadily growing as an industry, which has become more and more mature, while still acting as a source of inspiration for various curators. One thing we’ve seen is that there is a whole new set of players interested in coworking, from government, employees to corporations.

These different sectors are interested in coworking because it is shaping the workspace of the 21st century. They realize that the function of the workplace is changing and that it is more focused on interaction and the human experience. Overall, the sharing economy, co-living, and collaboration are key elements to success in the business world today.

What do coworkers expect today that they didn’t before?

There is certainly more insight available, but what we do see, now more than ever, is that people are interested in growing a business and the proportion of spaces created purely as a social project has decreased. This doesn’t mean that the passion and the ideals have disappeared, but it does mean that coworking is approached in a more mature way. The more the movement grows, the more we understand the economics behind it, such as the importance of having private offices and services, which can generate income.

For example, the initial results of the Global Coworking Survey, which was presented at the conference, showed that more spaces than ever are looking to expand.

We also heard a lot about the emerging trend of coworkcation, what does that say about the way we approach contemporary work styles?

This year’s conference presented more data and hard facts than ever before. We are seeing the rise of different concepts driven by coworking, like “coworkation,” which presents a completely new approach to freelancing. We had several presentations on the topic, from Hubud in Bali and also Neo-Nomad. This increasing global mobility for employees and employers will be a cause a dramatic change in the way we see travel and it will also impact tourist destinations. In the future we could see a significant population of the workforce moving freely and it may eventually be the standard way to make global connections.

In addition to nomadic freelancers, many people are discussing the relationship between coworking and corporations. It has always been a topic, but now we see people developing strategies to make this relationship a reality. Corporations in the future will most likely look like today’s coworking spaces. In many ways, large enterprises need to look towards the coworking model in order to remain relevant in the future.

You also had the first Coworking Africa conference in Cape Town this year. What were some of the most significant takeaways and what did this experience tell you about the global coworking community?

The reaction was very positive. We saw that in the same way that coworking is important in Europe, it is equally, if not more, important in developing countries. For us, basic standards like fast internet in an office space is a commodity, but this not the case in Africa. In the coworking community in Africa, the primary role of the movement is to provide basic infrastructure at an affordable cost. In addition to meeting basic needs, coworking also brings a lot added valued in regards to social engagement, both on a local and global level, in the African community.

What do you predict the future of coworking will look like?

If we keep seeing the value system of the sharing economy as a main force behind the development of new economic models, coworking spaces will be one of the most visible parts of this transformation. The coworking movement will go beyond the conceptual stage and become the physical manifestation of the collaborative economy. While walking through a cityscape, coworking spaces will line the streets, much like factories and offices did in the last industrial boom.

Note: This article was originally posted on Shareable

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”.

 

Global Coworking Survey 2017

The Deskmag Global Coworking Survey 2017  is out. Survey

The first results where presented at Coworking Europe 2016 (Brussels, Nov 28-30).

Download the worldwide data and statistics here below.

As of today, there is close to 1 million coworkers worldwide.

carsten

“Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space”-Joe Griston

After many years of working around the world, Joe Griston joined freelancer.com as the Director of People & Talent. For the last 3 and a half years, Joe has been responsible for all HR and Recruitment operations globally at one of the biggest job finding portals for freelancers. In this time, Freelancer.com has grown to have 500 staff in 7 offices across the globe.

After moving back to his hometown of London earlier this year, Joe is now focusing on the growing user numbers and operations in Europe. We spoke with Joe about how freelancer.com is changing the way freelancers find work, but also about how these digital platforms will greatly contribute to overall innovation and growth in Europe’s professional landscape.

Hi, Joe. Many freelancers today use online platforms to find work. Since there are so many out there, how does Feelancer.com provide results and also protection for independent workers?

Our freelancer profile pages act as an effective CV, but one that provides thorough and detailed metrics to promote the freelancer’s skills, abilities and past successes to potential employers. Traditionally, a freelancer’s CV will say they are ‘hard working’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘good at solving problems’, but these words actually prove nothing. But, our metrics do. It is up to the freelancer to make sure these metrics are as strong as possible, which in turn allows for greater results in being hired.

We also have similar metrics for employers, ensuring security in every way possible. Our desktop app tracks hours worked and we also recommend using our Milestone Payment System, which gives payments to freelancers throughout their work rather than just upon completion of the project.

You are based in London. Why do you think that the freelance community in London is not only growing but also thriving when compared to less successful communities around Europe?

The gig economy is upon us and England and London are very expensive places to live. However, average salaries in these areas have not increased in the same way rent and living costs have. Therefore, we have a number of freelancers also in full-time employment who earn money to supplement their existing income. We also have a number of freelancers who started this way and quickly realised that they can earn more money than provided by their regular traditional employment. They also saw that earning money in this way and being your own boss was a far better lifestyle for them when compared to the 9-5 grind.

This is one of many reasons why London and the UK and growing in numbers, however, I do not think there are any unsuccessful freelancer communities in Europe. This is a solution for everyone and growing in all regions. We facilitate the connection to employers from all over the planet, this greater choice of work benefits everyone.

Do you believe freelancers need a community, like a coworking space, to help them grow? 

It depends on the freelancer. We have many who are working remotely, with the likes of companies like Udacity, etc. Thus the wealth of the world’s knowledge is now online, allowing anyone to learn and up-skill themselves. Their social situation or cultural background may prohibit any other form of work. However, teams of freelancers can be very happy physically working together and that is why coworking spaces are now all over every major city around the world.

Joe Griston- freelancers

Joe Griston

Also, many communities in London support themselves, not only in working together but in how to grow a successful business and then become employers of freelancers themselves. Barely a day goes by where I am not visiting a coworking space and the communities here are very supportive to one another. The choice of how to work has never been greater. Studies vary, most claim 50% of all workers should be completing some form of freelance work by 2020.

What does this mean for the future of work?

It means that platforms like freelancer.com are the future of work. How do you get a job by sending in a text CV that sits in a pile of 300 other CV’s on someone’s desk? Trying to get a job in a big corporation in a big city is far harder than trying to get a job on freelancer.com. Technology allows us to work together in a far greater capacity than ever before.

Do you believe that an increase in freelance workers overall is better for innovation and professional progress? If so, why?

Yes. Imagine that you are a small business and you would like a logo designed. Do you employ a full-time graphic designer permanently that you can’t really afford? Do you allow yourself to be pitched by a design agency for enormous amounts of money? No, it would be better for you to  post a contest on freelancer.com and have greater choice and knowledge about with who and how you want to collaborate. Working together with freelancers in this way allows business to grow and makes room for greater flexibility on how to spend your revenue.

Also, we have seen a number of businesses now totally operate on freelancer.com. The product is designed, the website created, the SEO and sales all arranged and completed online. The only limit to work in this way is your imagination. You mentioned professional progress, and this is an example of how to help both the employer and freelancer to work in a far greater capacity. To illustrate the scale of working successfully, we, for example, partner with NASA, who use us to aid in space exploration. So, freelance platforms are not just for low-paying small job. High quality and well-paying work is everywhere. This is the absolute future of work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you accommodate their needs and help them integrate?

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

Nacho Rodriguez

Nacho Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

You describe your space as intimate and personal.

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

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