From Passion to Purpose: The Buzz spotlight on Coworkies Co-FoundersChristina
Coworkies is a platform designed to bring together coworking spaces and coworkers to connect, share knowledge, and explore job opportunities.
Founders Pauline Roussel and Dimitar Inchev met in Berlin when Dimitar began working in a coworking space where Pauline was ‘Chief Happiness Officer’. They founded Coworkies after discovering a shared passion for the coworking concept.
Pauline had formerly spent most of her professional career in Paris working in marketing and communications, for companies including Ubisoft and L’Oreal. After nine years in Paris, she decided it was time for a change and made the decision to move to Berlin. Dimitar worked in fashion and e-commerce before he moved to Berlin to work for a start-up accelerator.
We caught up with them to find out more about the philosophy behind Coworkies, and to discuss their book “Around the World in 250 Coworking Spaces”.
Coworkies is a community forum and global job board for those working in coworking and flexible workspaces. What was the aim of Coworkies in the beginning?
When we initiated Coworkies back in early 2016, we wanted to build a network for people using coworking spaces. However, the emergence of larger players made things more complicated, as our platform could have become another avenue for them to poach customers. We didn’t want that.
Whenever we were traveling, we would present the Coworkies concept to the spaces we visited, and evolved the platform based on feedback.
“Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces”, published in 2021, is a curated collection of stories from the people, spaces, and products that are transforming workspaces today. Where did the inspiration come from?
The idea really came from the people we met while travelling. In 2017, we spent a few weeks in New York where we met Tomas Janka, the founder of a coworking space called Based In. Conversation naturally moved to the different experiences we’d had of coworking spaces and, as we parted ways Tomas said: “You guys should write a book about what you’ve seen, I’d love to discover stories of other coworking spaces from around the world.”
This really inspired us, and we started discussing the idea between ourselves, dreaming of what such a book would look like. Everything we do has a purpose aligned with our mission to make coworking better. So, when thinking about a book we asked ourselves how it would serve our overall mission.
A book is a physical product that has the potential to be displayed in many places and reach a wider audience, which was a very appealing thing to us.
After some iterations and additional suggestions from others to make a book on coworking around the world, we decided to make it happen.
Tell us about your programme of online events.
We didn’t feel we could replicate the experience of the book online, so instead, we created a Reader’s Club so our extended community could keep learning about coworking. Firstly, with weekly updates on the spaces we’ve featured in the book and how they’ve changed since we published.
Secondly, we run online events every month, to explore topics that are inherent to coworking spaces. We launched this event series quite recently but so far we’ve explored, interior design, wellness and wellbeing, web3, NFTs, DAOs, The Metaverse, AI, community, and coworking in smaller cities and remote areas.
Our upcoming events are listed on our Eventbrite page.
In FRAME, you mentioned FabCafe in Kyoto, which features CNC machines and 3D printers, do you think there’s a burgeoning market for specialist equipment in coworking spaces?
Alongside makerspaces like FabCafé Kyoto, there are now coworking spaces for chefs and food professionals, hairdressers and make-up artists, and even for doctors. The coworking model is so flexible it can work for many different professionals, particularly those whose jobs require a heavy investment in the beginning (Like chefs who may need professional equipment).
Understanding technology and its potential implications on the coworking industry as a whole is becoming more and more important and can indeed become an even bigger differentiator in the way each space operates. For instance, we see coworking spaces with almost entirely automated operational strategy, to the point that they spend 95% of their time focusing on other lines of business such as sales, community, or marketing.
How do you think the coworking industry has evolved?
Dimitar has an analogy where he compares coworking in the early days to a newborn. Today, coworking is akin to a teenager – it has a rebellious side, a stronger character in its design and offering.
It took some time for the world to truly understand what coworking offered, but we are getting there. The pandemic accelerated the understanding and interest of newer audiences like larger companies or institutions. For many, coworking is still not 100% clear (as in, the benefits of coworking, and how it adds value).
We are working on that every day through our consultancy twofifty.co, where we help companies, universities, and institutions better understand the different forms coworking can take and how it can help society at large.
What are your predictions for the future?
Coworking is on the path to prove a few things:
- It is becoming an increasingly interesting activation tool in any building: offices, residential spaces, hotels, shopping malls, airports. You can find coworking spaces in so many different environments and it adds tremendous value to each and every space.
- Coworking can positively impact a vast range of communities. Flip through the pages of “Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces” and you’ll quickly realise that coworking today works for freelancers and start-ups yes, but also for parents, chefs, the elderly, makers, beauty professionals and many more. The model is so flexible in its essence that many communities are just starting to create their own recipe for what coworking is.
Tell us about ‘Hack Coworking’, will it be returning?
Hack Coworking is a hackathon event series we launched in 2019 in HubHub, in London. The idea came from an eagerness to offer users of coworking spaces a chance to co-create a better future for the industry.
For 48 hours, participants were invited to create products and services that would offer better members’ experiences. Participants included students, marketers, architects, interior designers, and salespeople who all were users of coworking spaces.
We were supposed to do the 2020 Hack in Tokyo. We were in Japan from December 2019 to mid-January 2020, we’d secured a venue partner and amazing sponsors. But then, COVID-19 hit, and we ended up running the event online.
It was an amazing experience involving spaces and members from all over the world. The magical thing was that spaces from Asia were sharing their experiences with spaces from LatAm who were just entering the pandemic. It helped the LatAm community prepare for what was to come, and the Colatam Community (Coworking Latin America) even launched a safety label in partnership with Veritas (a corporation that does labels and safety) to show their members that they were safe spaces.
And yes, we hope the event will return, but we don’t know when yet.
What have you learned about coworking spaces over the years?
- Great teams make great coworking spaces. Do not compromise on hiring, and make sure you onboard your team properly and give them enough room to grow in their roles to retain them.
- The experience you offer starts online. Don’t under-estimate it.
- It’s never about quantity, rather about quality. Organise events for the community you can handle long term, because consistency is key
- Talk to your members. Don’t assume they want something, ask them, it will save you tons of time and resources. Believe us!
Do you have a favourite coworking space?
Every space we’ve been to is unique. While the coworking model is the base for every space, each space and each team makes the experience different.
There are some experiences we’ve enjoyed more than others. Of course. But that’s personal choice, like looking for a restaurant or a hotel. A hotel you love might not be my preference because we’re not looking for the same thing.
When people ask us for our favourite coworking space in Barcelona, Madrid, London, for instance, we ask: What do you need? What are you looking for? Is it just to visit the space? Are you planning to work from there? If you are planning to work there, what kind of work are you aiming to do? Quiet? Loud? All those parameters influence our answer.
If I have calls or meetings, I’ll look for a coworking space that has meeting rooms or pods so I can settle in easily. If I am looking to be surrounded by others to motivate me, then I’ll look for a coworking space with good office chairs (super important for me) and daylight.
Finally, if I’m looking for the social element of coworking, then I check the event calendar to see if they have an open event, I can go to meet the community
One of the pitfalls of what we do is that we see too many really cool coworking spaces and we get to stay there just for a few hours. The times I have thought “Oh I just want to sit here and do some work”.
We have loads in the pipeline, starting with a new milestone for Coworkies, which we will be announcing very soon.
We are organising more online events. We are growing our consulting branch, onboarding new clients from different industries and geographies, which is very exciting.
Finally, we are planning more in-person events around our book. The cities we have in mind for 2023 are potentially Paris, Istanbul, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Porto and Lisbon (after the Coworking Europe Conference in Porto in November).
You can order your copy of “Around The World In 250 Coworking Spaces” here