Tag: Coworking

“Coworking is more and more about accommodating teams, not solely individual freelancers”

Eric van den Broek, Sophie Ozdzinski, Stefano Borghi and Augustin Riedinger are co-founders of Copass, a marketplace that offers a selection of workspaces around the globe: vibrant or calm, huge or small, classic or atypical, they got everyone covered.

We have interviewed Eric van den Broek to find out more about trends in nomad coworking as well as in new group working patterns.

Can you introduce Copass, the philosophy behind it and how do you compete in such a “coworking platforms” dense environment?

Of course! Copass is a global coworking membership enabling its users to access a network of more than 950 independent coworking spaces around the globe with one single subscription. Basically, it’s like being a member of a thousand spaces at once.

Copass was born 6 years ago, in early 2013 as the brainchild of former coworking space founders. I’ve been involved in the coworking movement since 2011. In 2014, coworking was growing rapidly and what started as a genuine bottom-up movement started to get structured as a market. Big players started to join the movement with big money and were able to open networks of locations. 

As I naturally became friends with many coworking space managers all over the world, we started discussing the possibility of offering a seamless experience for coworkers to work from any coworking space. The idea was the following: we could offer the value of a network to our members while staying independent at the same time. That’s basically how Copass started!

You were not alone on the market, were you?

In terms of competition, we’ve seen a lot of platforms come and go. Most listing platforms did fail as members would simply bypass the platform and deal directly with the space when they found it. Some competitors do work by focusing on meeting rooms and closed office spaces but that’s a very different audience. Copass stayed true to its roots by focusing on offering a seamless experience for coworkers and coworking space managers.

As we are self funded, we also could deal with a slower growth than what a VC funded company might expect. When we started, coworking was still pretty niche so the idea needed a little time to really make sense. Some say we’ve been patient but I would say we’ve been passionate.

You once said coworking leans towards “team consumption” instead of individual subscription. Can you elaborate? 

I often think back about the old times when we had to explain 10 times a day what coworking actually is back in 2011. Nobody had even heard of it! Now if you walk in a random café and ask the question, most of the people know exactly what it is and what is the benefit of using one. Coworking has become mainstream, and as it became mainstream, it went way passed it’s initial target audience that was mostly made of freelancers.

Teams and companies could now have instant access to cool facilities and ecosystems anywhere they want without the burden of a formal lease. This change also reflects on Copass. Companies can create groups, attribute individual memberships to their teammates or share a pool of daypasses, centralizing all their coworking expenses in one place. The value of a network for this new audience is even greater than for individuals so Copass is an excellent fit for them. I would say that today, around 30% of checkins are done by teams.

Shall coworking spaces focus more on “teams” rather than individual freelancers, then? 

It’s hard to answer this question as I think both approaches can be valid. Coworking Spaces focusing on freelancers can understand and answer their needs better. Community for freelancers is way more important than the actual facility as you’re talking to people who suffer from isolation when working from home. This isn’t so much the case for teams and companies. For them, the services and the facilities play a much bigger role. In a way, working with teams and companies is way more “transactional”.

In terms of community, teams usually don’t blend in as much as individuals as the team is “socially self sufficient”. In the early days of coworking, that was super community focused, this was actually a problem as too many teams in a space could affect the overall vibe of spaces and I remember having discussions with other operators on this very topic.

So I think freelancers and teams are actually two very different things. What happens is that, as coworking grew as a market and as the real estate pressure became stronger on space operators, coworking spaces needed to grow in size and to do so, they had to address different needs. Teams offer a more predictable income and working with teams is more “scalable” than working with freelancers as refining a service and a space design is easier done at scale than maintaining a unique community vibe.

I think freelancers and teams are actually two very different things.

The final answer would be: if you’re going into coworking for business and money, you should go big and find a way to accommodate teams within your space. If you’re going for the love of community, you might be able to go smaller and work only with freelancers. But there is no definite answer here.

From your data, it seems coworking users keep being more urban. Does it mean rural coworking remain an exception?

As much as I’d love to say no, I would have to agree on that. Coworking is still an urban phenomenon and there are many reasons for that:

  1. People feel the need for coworking spaces when they lack space at home. When you’ve got a 150sqm house in the countryside with your own office in it,  you don’t feel the urge to get out as much as when you live in a 30swm flat in Paris
  2. To make sense from a financial point of view for a coworking space, you need a certain density of potential members around.
  3. As you’re going away from big cities, the economy is a lot less about services and a lot more about the industry or agriculture. 99% of coworkers are actually service providers.

That being said, in the long run, I could see a future where people move away from the cities and work remotely. I would actually love that as I think centralization causes many problems, but that’s a topic for another day 🙂 

In the beginning, you were more focused on coworking travelers. Now, it seems Copass users tend more to cast their coworking need locally…

I think the so-called digital nomad lifestyle is for people a bit like sex for teenagers: many talk about it but few actually do it. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been considered a Digital Nomad myself and I loved it. It’s just that looking at the media, it appears bigger than it actually is because it’s sexy and tickles people’s curiosity, especially when you’re stuck in a crappy office doing a job you don’t like and daydream everyday about quitting your job to go around the world 🙂 

It’s true that Copass has been perceived a lot like a tool for nomads and I think we suffered from it as many people would think “this product is so cool but it’s not for me as as I don’t travel that much”. At the end, most of our users actually roam within the same city and sometime travel with Copass! For urbans, coworking is the new normal and as they have many options around, it makes a lot of sense for them to not commit to one but to use different spaces based on their needs. If you’ve got a meeting with a client at the other end of the city, it doesn’t make sense to go all the way back to your homespace.

The office, which was a constraint before, has become a tool and you can now use the best tool based on your needs and constraints.

Do you see big differences between countries in the way people interact with coworking? 

I think in the end, what is the most striking are the similarities between spaces rather than the differences. From a sociological perspective, it’s very interesting to see that there is way more in common between a freelancer in a coworking space in New York City and in Indonesia than between this same freelancer and a farmer in minnesota. There is a global culture that emerged beyond countries which is a pretty unique phenomenon. You’ll still see some differences though but not that much.

How do you see the main coworking usage patterns and profiles evolve in the coming 2-5 years?

I see coworking as becoming a feature of almost anything. A lot of big real estate players already include coworking in their projects alongside restaurants and accommodation. Coworking has found a place in the real estate industry.

I’ve got mixed feelings about it and I know a lot of coworking pioneers also do. We came in this space and shaped the movement for the community and the values and not for selling square meters. The real estate part of it was only something we had to deal with. Let’s not fool ourselves: the intentions behind a WeWork or Spaces and an indy space are not the same…

That being said, there is no need to get too mad about it. That is the way things go and in a way, we all knew that was going to happen. Also, keep in mind that those big players address a different market I believe. For them, business comes down to flexibilizing the workspace, which is something companies need and have needed for a long time. When you’re creating a business, it all comes down to the problem you are solving. While pioneers in coworking solved the problem of isolation by creating communities, real estate players solve the problem of flexibility by offering office as a service.

Those two things are going to grow together, the latter being mechanically much bigger in size than the former.

Primalbase pioneers the blockchain technology based coworking business model

Ralph Manheim is the CEO of Primalbase, a company whose mission is “to provide physical environments for the tech community to realize their ideas and projects“. Primalbase works on creating a network where developers researchers and entrepreneurs can come to work, explore and collaborate with others in tech. With that purpose in mind, Primalbase started to open up coworking spaces, offering usual perks such as fast internet, free drinks and snacks, kitchen, meeting rooms, lounge areas and so forth. Primalbase is operational in Berlin, London and Amsterdam with locations set to open in New York and Singapore by the end of 2018.

What makes Primalbase specific? The company is one of the first coworking space to opt for a blockchain based technology to offer access to its members. A the center the model: the sale of blockchain based tokens, identified as PBT Token in the case of Primalbase. The PBT token was valued 4.700 US$ at the end of October 2018. The sale of  blockchain tokens helps to fund the initial investments in the space.

We interviewed Ralph Manheim on the the reasons why he pioneered this new coworking blockchain based model.

Hi Ralph. What is the interest of a blockchain technology based model to operate a network of coworking spaces?

This has a range of advantages for users and it is central to the creation of the community based coworking model that we believe the tech industry has been yearning for. Our tokens are also innovative in that they can be or will be the technology (nearly there) allowing to lease out the coworking access to another person temporarily. That way, token holders are enabled to get a financial benefit when they don’t use the token for themselves.

Ralph Manheim

Can you explain us what lies behind the so called blockchain tokenization of office real estate?

We issue tokens which are stored on a blockchain in order to ensure that they are completely secure. They are practically impossible to steal and cannot be altered. In the case of our PBT token, we are based on Waves and Ethereum blockchains.

Let’s say you buy our PBT tokens via an exchange (many exists). By owning one token, you are granted the access to a desk in any of our offices around the world.  A few months later, let say you no longer longer need a desk seat. You can then sell the token to someone else, who will then get access to the coworking space. Same thing would you be planning not to use your token for a while, you can lease it out instead of selling it out.

What are the advantages of your PBT Token as opposed to rely on a more traditional Real Estate transaction model?

Source : BlockchainHub

Our members benefit from the great flexibility that our token offers. Not only can you use it on an international basis, as you can access all our operational offices in Europe and in the world. You also can sell your token straight away would your office needs to cease. This means less administrative and costly steps. Basically, you are less bound and keep a higher level of control on your exact needs and spendings.

Who, typically, buys one of your tokens ?

Everyone can buy one of our token. At Primalbase, though, we are focused on the tech community.  It’s an open market. Our environment is geared towards the tech community. So, are you active in tech field, the benefit is most straightforward for you as you get an immediate access to a community of peers. That said, our community is diverse and shares the same appetite for innovation and collaboration.

Why does community building still make sense in this model?

As I mentioned, community building is at the heart of this†model. One part of our product is certainly the workplaces. They are  spacious, beautiful and cool places to work from. However, that is not the only component. The most important aspect of our product is the community that works within them, what they can offer each other, the energy they create, the shared sense of mission to co-create exciting new technologies together. This significantly increases the ability for individuals and companies to accelerate. 

Do you think that blockchain technologies are going to disrupt the commercial real estate market in the coming years? What could stop it?

We are still in the very early stages. Nonetheless, we feel that tokenization based on blockchain will certainly be transformative in real estate business. We feel that we participate in proving that we can revolutionize the way workspace lots can be allocated. We can change the way we see the interaction between supply and demand in the real estate sphere.

Should all coworking space operators switch their model to tokenization?

We are currently focused on ourselves and delivering on our promises. We are not here to judge other coworking operations on which model they should build up their developments. However, tokenization is well an integral part in our model. We feel it’s the right way to go and have faith in the flexibility and freedom that tokenization offers its users.

Ralph Manheim is a speaker at our Coworking Europe 2018 conference.

“You don’t take a cut on all positive externalities you made possible” – Mutinerie (Paris)

Mutinerie in Paris used to be the poster child of coworking entrepreneurs in the early 2010’s. Launched in the north of the French capital, the ecosystem always sounded genuine and unique, with, back then, one of the most beautiful space design one could experience. Seven years later, the van den Broek brothers and their fellow co-founders have decided to put an end to the story. Coworking is now huge in Paris, as it is now elsewhere. We asked Antoine van den Broek whether there is still room for independent coworking operators nowadays.

Hi Antoine. For those who have been involved in coworking for more than 5 years, Mutinerie is a name that inspired a lot of players within the coworking world. Why are you shutting down ?

Antoine van den Broek

We are shutting down our Parisian coworking space for three main reasons. First, running a small independent coworking space nowadays in an expensive city like Paris is a real financial challenge.

Second, more than six years had past since we opened our Parisian coworking space, in this period of time life has changed for us, we all have children now, with all that comes with it. We used to be in Mutinerie from early in the morning to late in the day when not at night, we would hold events two or three times a week, often on the weekend, we would have drinks with coworkers at the end of the long day, sometimes even sleep in Mutinerie… This life we enjoyed is no longer possible. Another life we don’t love less has replaced it. A very common explanation of why things change…

Third, the coworking scene has changed too. What use to be a movement has became a market. The energy of the beginning, the sharing spirit has faded away, and big business is following his own logic. This is not a moral judgment; this is the way innovation works. One mission we had as coworking early players was to raise awareness on the way work is changing, we can say we have succeeded in that. Coworking is somehow becoming a commodity; innovation is moving elsewhere. This is not a surprise. We knew it from the beginning, as I said in an ITW back in the days, pioneers will need to move to a new frontier.

The coworking scene has changed. What use to be a movement has became a market.

In 2018, can independent coworking spaces still thrive in metropoles such as Paris ? Or can only big brands stand and develop within the market, nowadays?

 I think independent coworking spaces can still work in metropoles such as Paris. Adding services around your core business, organizing significant events, and bringing business to your community acting as an “agency”, are solutions. The strength of theses old school coworking spaces is the community they gather and you have various ways to monetize this community. Some solutions like Copass can also bring the network effect to these independent coworking spaces so they can defend their position and philosophy against big players.

Bringing business to your community acting as an “agency” is a solution.

Have the users’ profiles changed during all those years ? If yes, in which way?

Yes, it has changed. At the beginning, 50 percent of our members where foreigners, now that coworking has spread in France, it is more around 20 percent. We can also say that users of the beginning tended to be a little bit more “strange” than the one of today. They were early adopters seeking new experiences; they made this weird choice when few people did. With time, the public had “normalized”.

At the beginning, 50 percent of our members where foreigners, now that coworking has spread in France, it is more around 20 percent.

Would Mutinerie (Paris)’s business model and size do ok in a smaller city or town, would you say? 

I would answer yes. The rent being the main cost (with HR), having access to much lower rental makes it easier. In smaller town, the competition is also less important. But you need to be sure to have the critical mass. It’s hard to answer generally as each city has a specific context and population. Some medium cities that offers good quality of life that fits freelancers’ needs and expectation can be good places to open a coworking space.

Is 400m2 a viable surface for coworking in today’s world?

It depends of your model and ambition. Would you want your place to be more than a shared office, you have to invest a lot in animation and community support. This fixed cost will be easier to carry if it is spread among 300 coworkers than 30. But you can also say that in a smaller space, people will meet each others easily so you don’t need to invest that much in animation… 

At the end of the day, it really depends of your goal : you can be an association with members actively engaged in the space management, you can be a collective of professionals sharing the revenues you get from your clients and the costs related to the space you share, you can also have a more real-estate approach automatizing all the space management to offer an accessible workspace and nothing more. It also depends whether this space is your only one or if it is part of a network. In that case you can mutualise marketing, communication, financial and administrative at the company level allowing economies of scale to be realised and liberating your spaces from those costs. In France, La Cordée is successfully managing a network of medium size spaces, mostly in regional cities (only one in Paris area), that would be interesting to have their view on this.

Mutinerie is known for its wonderful community and vibe. Why isn’t it enough, today? Had you considered to partner up with other player to bring the community into a new environment? 

The Mutinerie community is special, it has always been the center and the goal of our project and we are glad to see how it flourished. Mutinerie has been the starting point of so many successful projects and beautiful friendships. A generation of disrupters started here. But what makes it so human is also what makes it difficult to scale. Relationships are personal, not exponential, and you don’t take a cut on all positive externalities that you made possible. There is no clear correlation between serendipity and cash flows. Partnering up with other players ? Why not. You can build or join a network of other existing spaces, you can also partner up with some big real estate players to scale quickly. We had considered these options but did not go further in that direction.

Relationships are personal, not exponential, and you don’t take a cut on all positive externalities that you made possible.

What should/could, according to you, have been done for/by Mutinerie to be able to go further with its coworking offering?

I don’t know how to answer. At the end, an independent coworking space, like us, relies on the shoulders of a few people. As long as you are happy doing it, it’s fine, you find the energy but comes a time when you want to move to something new or somewhere else. Most of us are leaving Paris. Our lives have changed, we want and need new challenges.

At the end, an independent coworking space, like us, relies on the shoulders of a few people. As long as you are happy doing it, it’s fine.

What would you recommend to independent coworking space operators, based on your experience?

For general advices, I’d recommend you check Ramon Suarez’s Coworking Handbook. But all spaces have specific issues, are in different stages, this environment is so diverse that it is hard to give a general answer. If I had to, such as now, I would say: think of yourself as the head of a collective of professional and find a way to bring more business to it. Being the source of new incomes puts you in position quite different from being the guy who sends invoices. Many enterprises are trying to give freedom to their employees, you can be the one who gives structure to free workers.


What’s next for Mutinerie, now ?

We are putting our attention on Mutinerie Village, the rural coworking space we launched four years ago. Some of us have already left Paris to settle in the Perche (the name of this beautiful countryside, located less than two hours away from Paris) and there is now a real Mutinerie community there. In fact the social life around Mutinerie Village is incredibly rich. Nowdays, as a freelancer, you can be living in a lovely natural parc and have a fulfilling professional life. To give a bigger echo to this lifestyle, we recently launched l’Ambassade du Perche (the Perche Embassy). The goal of this program is to help freelancers who wants to leave the city, move here in the region. Mutinerie’s center of gravity has changed but the community remains. We all met in an important time of our lives, we grew together and nothing can erase these precious relationships and this collective identity. Our Parisian coworking space is closed but we still see each-others and work together… What is dead may never die.

“Events have been the main communication tool to increase coworking awareness in Istanbul”

Kolektif House is born in 2015. The Turkey based operator depicts itself as “More than a co-working space : a platform for creators who love what they do and believe in the power of sharing“. Today, Kolektif House claims it connects  1300 freelancers, startups, investors, corporates and mid-size companies, in Istanbul. Ahmet is the co-founder of Kolektif House. The company operates two locations in Istanbul and will soon open a third one.

Hi Ahmet, can you tell us more about the story behind Kolektif House?

We started Kolektif House when my close friend Civan, one of our partners and current CDO, returned back to Turkey after graduation in the US. He was then searching for his dream office. He asked me for help to find an inspiring and affordable workspace; soon enough we realized that there was a big gap in the market for such a product. This led us to start our own project, Kolektif House, to not only create an office space but actually transform the concept of ‘working’ to a feeling of ‘creating value and belonging’. 

You said there was no market for coworking, in Istanbul, back then. How about that?

There was a market potential, but, frankly, not a significant enough supply or adequate products to support that potential. What was established in Istanbul, back then, were standard office spaces whereas our aim was to challenged the status quo by focusing on the community aspect. We strived to create such a community that not only worked under the same roof but also interacted with one another at a social and professional level, where people shared their opinions and did business together to create something inspiring every day.

How did you raise the awareness about coworking? 

We had almost no budget for marketing and only a few people in our team. Our main awareness builder has been our events policy. We held events with local artists and offered them our walls so that they could display their expressions, ideas and artworks in our space. We invited an ice sculptor from the other side of the world to one of our Sunday breakfasts for a live performance. We hosted Turkey’s greatest comedian, musicians and actors in our talk show series. Besides, we attended One Love, one of the biggest festivals in Turkey, by convincing organizers to provide us with free space in exchange for a creative idea to showcase at the venue. So, we printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto. As far as the corporate brands in Istanbul are concerned, we invited executives to hold their events in our place with no charge and promised to serve them the best service they could find elsewhere. I would literally clean up the place every morning and Civan would serve tea just before we change to our suits and greet guests at the reception area. We would do everything we could to compensate for our deficiencies which went as far as lighting up the room with candles in our hands when we lost electricity during a very important conference that was held in our space. And today we evolved to a stage where we host events for leading brands such as Nike, Vodafone, Accenture, Is Bank, Yandex and many more.

We printed 1,000 photos of attendants and lighted up the festival area with a heart shaped artwork made of printed photos under the “Thousand Faces of One Love” motto

Who were the people/profiles you had first to convince?

Regardless of their business, our aim, since day one, was to lure people who are passionate about what they create. Due to the nature of the coworking space, our first members were mostly freelancers and startups. As we grew, we saw greater opportunity in diversity and in having different types of companies from various sectors. Today we have a member portfolio consisting of 10% corporates, %30 startups, 30% SME’s, 20% freelancers and 10% VC’s. Among our 1300 members, we have Turkey’s leading bank Is Bankasi, Turkey HQ of Yandex, successful startups that have expanded internationally and global VC’s such as 500 Startups.  

What are the communication channels you mainly used to get out of anonymity?

As said, events have been the major driver for us. Once we put a great show, influencers posted it online, press wrote about it, participants shared on their social accounts and most importantly, it leads to a strong word of mouth. Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy, we remain close relationship with influencers and press and keep collaborating with artists which drives brand recognition and loyalty.

Today we have a 360 degrees approach in marketing; we have a platform called KoMag to publish inspirational contents, we have added paid promotion on top of our organic Social Media strategy

Is Turkey a coworking friendly the same way you see it in other European countries?

Culturally, Turkey has a great community history, which is the coworking’s pillar. However looking at the recent past, we have not been great at picking up and scaling the global trends. Shared economy and coworking is one of these lately picked habits. I believe it will just take a little longer for Turkey to penetrate, but the potential and the energy is out there so I believe Turkey is a good fit for building a coworking ecosystem. 

Has it to do with a scarcity of financial resources? Or a lack of meaningful allies?

I believe financial resources can always be pointed as a limiting factor in any kind of business. However when you look at the bigger picture, having people understand what we really do here and the value we add to their business was the biggest barrier for us. Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment in their employees’ happiness. 

Initially people only thought of the economic advantages of moving to a coworking space, but today even the most traditional corporates see the benefit of offering flexible working hours, interaction with a community and an inspirational work environment

Based on your experience, what would you recommend new operators in low “coworking-awareness” areas to do first?

People have always been eager to be a part of a community, regardless of their era, nationality, geographic location, or demographics. The coworking trend is just a reflection of that same sense of belonging. So it is not about the destination, it is about the process of how you bring those minds together under the same roof. And the starting point of that process should definitely be paying genuine attention to what those minds say. This will help them to build more appropriate and target-fit services, and product features. 

What are the main challenges you have coped with since then?

We increased tenfold our size within the last 3 years in terms of surface, number of members and diversity of our community. While doing so, our biggest challenge was to keep improving our service at the same pace which required setting a strong technology backbone and acquiring the right talent. To be honest, I feel like we could have managed these two issues better. Once we realized that we came to a point where we couldn’t organize the events we wanted due to lack of team members or correctly analyze our membership data to make strategic decisions, we started to really move our investments to these two areas that I have mentioned above. Our team today grew to 43 people and we keep hiring great talent from a variety of industries which empowers us to create new departments such as technology so that we can continuously improve our overall service. 

What are Kolektif’s plans for the future?

We help people grow their hearts and their businesses. All of our team is working on many exciting projects to achieve excellence on this mission. In doing so, we will expand both locally and internationally to over 30 locations to serve nearly 34,000 members by 2022.

Ahmet will speak at the Coworking Europe 2018 conference in Amsterdam.

“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!!!!

“Barriers between hotels, office space, restaurants and residences are more and more broken down.”

THS (The Student Hotel) has been developing  a co-living and coworking offering for more than a decade. Founded in The Netherlands by Charlie McGregor, a Scot born in Edinburgh, THS operates 10 locations in various cities in Europe, among which Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, Paris or Barcelona. TSH plans to open up a total of 40 locations in European cities by 2021. Florence, Dresden, Bologna, Madrid, Berlin, Rome, Vienna or Toulouse are in the pipe.

Hi Charlie, can you introduce yourself and tell us about how The Student Hotel started?

Charlie McGregor

My father built the first purpose-built student rooms in Edinburgh, where I grew up.  At 25 I bought a small student accommodation company and sold it 10 years later when I moved from London to Amsterdam and started The Student Hotel. The first Student Hotel project was completed just as the full implications of the global financial crisis unfolded. But we pressed on.  

You offer many different perks within all your locations, going from hotel services, gym, food, up to coworking spaces (TSH Collab). Do you operate everything yourself ? 

We operate the accommodation and coworking ourselves.  In some we also operate The Commons – our restaurants and bar brand; in other places we work in collaboration with local companies.  In Florence, for example, we partner with local restaurant, La Menagere and at TSH Campus in Barcelona the partnership is with Grupo Raval.  At TSH Amsterdam City we have an Olympic length (50m) pool and crossfit Vondelgym run by local celebrity athletes.

Is TSH a student only place, as the name indicates it?

TSH is much more than student accommodation. We have students staying for a term or a year, but we also have hotel and co-living guests.  That’s just on the accommodation side.  Then there’s the local startups and entrepreneurs in our Collab coworking spaces, classrooms and auditorium.  All our hotels are open to the local community who come to enjoy the restaurants, bars and super fast, free wifi in the communal spaces and we actively encourage this mix.  We want people make connections they may not find somewhere else.

Why having a specific coworking offering on top of your other services makes sense? 

There was a demand.  Guests and the local community needed coworking space.  TSH Collab was created to answer that need – a step up from working on a laptop in the lounge or bar.  The upward trend of entrepreneurs, startups, freelance workers, and digital nomads is growing fast.  With TSH Collab we can offer everything under one roof.

TSH Collab

The benefits are that all our guests – whether they are studying, staying in the hotel, or working – have a place to connect with each other.  It creates a dynamic vibe that enables people to get things done. 

In addition, parents, friends and family need somewhere to stay when they visit our student guests, they need somewhere to eat and socialise.  Our co-living guests need somewhere to meet and work.  We are continually asking ourselves what future guests will need and add services that make sense.  We call it the Complete Connected Community.

Are the co-living ‘guests’, in majority, the users of all the other different services? 

TSH is open and inclusive.  You don’t have to be a guest to eat or drink here.  You don’t have to be a TSH Collab member to stay or use the communal spaces.  We have an amazing mix and are happy that people can take advantage of the things they want to use. We are a Complete Connected Community.  That runs through everything we do – the community feeling is central to both co-living and coworking at TSH.

Guests and the local community needed coworking space.  TSH Collab was created to answer that need – a step up from working on a laptop in the lounge or bar. 

How do you position yourself as opposed to other workspace operators?

TSH employs a Connector in each location and that person plays a crucial role in all The Student Hotels, ensuring that our guests and community members have the possibility to truly connect during their stay and before or after via our digital- and social channels. The Connector position is the glue that holds together our co-living, coworking, co-dining communities. The TSH Connector is more than just the leader of our fun squad. A true connector turns our mishmash of hotel guests and coworking professionals into a cohesive community of both students and students-at-heart. The Connector position is the glue that holds together our co-living, coworking, co-dining communities. He/she encourages people to meet and inspire each other by events and programming based on the four brand themes of The Student Hotel: Social&Cultural, Health&Sports, Learning, and Career&Entrepreneurship. The Connector is the open door for everyone who likes to join our community because they are the most connected person in our buildings.

A true connector turns our mishmash of hotel guests and coworking professionals into a cohesive community of both students and students-at-heart.

You don’t introduce yourself so much as just an accommodation provider, and focus more on the co-living side. What is the difference between the two concepts? 

Our student guests can stay for a term to a year as part of their international studies.  Co-living guests are usually with us for a couple of weeks to a few months; digital nomads, freelancers or contractors who find themselves in a new city for work.  Hotel guests usually stay from a night or two or a week.  The co-living element comes from the community feel – we don’t differentiate, we don’t separate.  Everyone gets to live side by side, use the same facilities, regardless of how long they are with us.

The co-living element comes from the community feel – we don’t differentiate, we don’t separate.

By 2020, you expect partnerships with 1.500 universities. Do you position yourself as the solution provider to move away from the “student housing crisis” that some campus face, with innovative models? 

The world of higher education and training is subject to massive changes: rising international student mobility; transnational campuses, online learning, summer schools and life-long learning have dramatically altered the demand for accommodation. We see a growing demand for short-term and flexibility coupled with a sense community and shared values and purpose. It was a void between hotels and student dorms that TSH is filling with its variety of coliving arrangements. In that sense we are complimentary to the current offering.  

It was a void between hotels and student dorms that TSH is filling with its variety of coliving arrangements.

Based on your experience, should the coworking industry take its inspiration from the accommodation and hospitality industries?

We should take our inspiration from everywhere; the reason CO applies now to living and working shows a growing space of new opportunities. Hospitality teaches us the importance of service. Accommodation, the importance of a home and a sense of community. At the current architecture biennale in Venice the Dutch pavilion is dedicated to Work and it underlines that since Yoko Ono and John Lennon demonstrated for peace in bed we have started using the bedroom as a space to work. We constantly see new opportunities to improve our concept and operational model; new technology enables us to connect and stay in touch with our growing customer base while the way our customers study, travel, sleep and work is changing year on year.  We see more and more barriers between hotels, office space, restaurants and residences being broken down. That is why is say we are – also operationally – a Complete Connected Community. Hybrids like The Student Hotel will become the norm as we are satisfying more needs than just a place to work or a roof over your head.

Since Yoko Ono and John Lennon demonstrated for peace in bed we have started using the bedroom as a space to work.

 

World tour takeaways : “Coworking is way more diverse in Europe than it is in Asia or in America”

Pauline and Dimitar are the founders of Coworkies, a Berlin based company connecting like-minded professionals working out of coworking spaces and displaying job opportunities. For the last 2 years, they’ve been doing a coworking world tour. They visited 287 coworking spaces, in 30 cities around the world, with majority in Europe. They are sharing their main learnings and takeaways from an almost 2 years long tour.

Hi Pauline. Can you introduce yourself, the initiative you run and why you had the idea to tour coworking spaces in Europe?

With my co-founder at Coworkies, Dimitar, we started about 2 years ago and at the time, I was managing a coworking space myself in Berlin (called Rainmaking Loft, which rebranded recently as The Place) which is only for startups. 

Dimitar was working for Startupbootcamp (a startup accelerator) that was one of our tenants. There, we realized that members were constantly seeking other professionals to work with but their opportunities were only limited to their physical space.

At the time, we knew the coworking scene of Berlin quite well but did not really know how other cities were doing coworking in the sense. Why did it started there? who are the local players? How do people use the space to connect? Why are people actually needing a coworking space and many more questions for which we were seeking answers? Instead of relying only on what we found online, we decided to pack our bags and travel the world of coworking!  Traveling is for us an incredible learning curve, we get the chance to meet inspirational founders and managers and see really interesting coworking concepts.

How did you choose the spaces and community you visited?

Before going somewhere, we do a lot of research about the city we are about to visit. We strongly believe that coworking is about the people and not about sqm., so we look for spaces who are in coworking to build meaningful and impactful communities at work. Next to our own research, nowadays we also get a lot of tip from the network of coworking professionals we’ve created.

There are so many coworking spaces, what kind of criterias did you use?

In relation to the previous question. We prioritize recommendations by our network for coworking spaces with passionate founders. I think this is the most important one. There are no reasons for us to meet people who are not passionate about what they are building.

After having toured the Europe’s coworking scene, what are you three main learnings you come back with about the development of coworking on the continent ? 

1.There is no best coworking space – each and every coworking space is VERY unique!

During our travels, we often get asked “so what’s the best coworking scene you’ve seen?”. To be honest, there is no best coworking space. Each and every coworking space we visited is very unique and has its own vision, vibe and community. In Europe, we were amazed to see how diverse the market is – there are so many different type of spaces: from makerspaces to coworking for parents or musicians, it’s really blossoming around many interesting topics.

2.The coworking market in Europe stretches from mature markets to very new markets.

Europe is a very interesting place when it comes to coworking. If you take Berlin, where coworking started between 1999 (with hackerspace C-base) and 2005 (Betahaus) the market is now more mature. Some of the spaces have been around for more than a decade and have seen many spaces coming into their market. It also means that people are “aware” about coworking because they’ve seen it for so long. On the other side of the spectrum, if you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch to what it means to cowork and what is the difference compared to Regus or just a normal office.

3.There are way more independent coworking spaces in Europe than in Asia or USA

Our journey took us, so far to three continents. And when comparing Europe to the rest we see how here in Europe we have more independent coworking spaces, that means in Asia there are way more brands who have multiple locations. Related to that is also the size of spaces in Asia and USA, they feel significantly larger than those in Europe. Of course we have few mega-hubs like Station F or Maria 0-1 in Europe, concepts that have not catched up so much in Asia yet.

If you take cities like Warsaw or Bratislava, coworking is a much newer concept and they need to educate the market from scratch

Are there strong differences between cities or countries you visited ? 

As I started to touch base on my previous answer, there is HUGE differences in every city we visited and there are few reasons for that:

  • Coworking did not start everywhere for the same reasons: in London, it started because prices for offices were too high. If you look at Barcelona, it started during the crisis, when Creatives decided to gather and share their workspace.
  • The scene of each city is very different: London has about 400+ coworking spaces of various sizes from 10 to 600+ people, with a huge part of the crowd being startups. If you take a city like Madrid you will find way less coworking spaces and a lot of them are actually for creatives and artists. It’s one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.

The way one does coworking is also very different from the north of Europe to the South. In Scandinavia or even in Germany, people use coworking spaces from early morning to 6PM whereas in the south of Europe it was very different! Before 10, there is not much going on and people tend to stay really late at night, so the coworking owners have to adapt to that rythm.

One big difference also occurs when the city is also popular among Digital Nomads (like Lisbon, Porto or Barcelona). Building a community that includes Digital Nomad can be really challenging sometimes, but all the spaces we met do it extremely well.

Madrid is one of the cities where we’ve seen the least amount of computers vs. the amount of hand-craft-makers.

Do space operators shared some of their challenges? What are they ?

Yes, they do! I think one of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model. We all know coworking has an extremely flexible business model, which means that for some of the spaces, generating stable revenue every month is not easy. Another one is how to deal with constantly fluctuating community as you need to have really strong culture to keep the vibe intact.

One of the biggest challenge that anyone always struggle with is about the business model.

From what you know of coworking on other continents, what is specific to Coworking in Europe ?

I think Europe, thanks to its richness of cultures and languages has one of the most diverse coworking scenes in the world. As I was saying earlier, there are so many different type of spaces around Europe, it’s really fascinating and inspiring. I believe here is where a lot of the new coworking concepts are emerging before starting to spread around the world.

What did your tour inspired you about the future of coworking on the continent ?

It’s always very hard to predict the future but from what we saw, it looks like coworking will be even more curated, meaning spaces are rethinking their vision and narrowing it down to one vertical of interest. Be it creatives only, startups only, parents, musicians or any other type of community that comes together because they share a common interest and can learn from each other and collaborate. The power of community seems to become more and more important both for spaces and for coworkers. Follow Coworkies’ blog for the comprehensive report city by city

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Station F (Paris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos credit Handover

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

“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