The Folks Behind Coworking: Patrick Tanguay
May 6, 2009 | By Peter Bihr |
Patrick Tanguay founded Station C, a coworking space in Montréal. (Currently, he’s coworking from Berlin.) Installment No 4 of my series of interviews on coworking, in which Patrick shares his thoughts on coworking.
What’s does Coworking mean for you?
I’m not sure it’s a good analogy but it’s been coming to mind often lately when I think about Coworking so here goes. Going from the “Cloud” concept that seems to represent the web more and more, I think a lot of coworkers work(ed) and to a certain degree live(d) in those clouds, participating in a variety of networks, groups, collaborations, etc. online. Yes meeting in person but largely in more fragmented and temporary ways. That storm of activities and connexions was always somewhat immaterial. I think you can see coworking spaces as the place where the eyes of those storms hit the ground. Coworking spaces to me mean the place where a lot of loose electronic connexions take a physical space, where a more classical kind of connexion and interaction can take place, in person. We still need that, the incredible growth of coworking shows that.
What brought you to Coworking?
It started with just wanting a place to work, initially it was supposed to be a shared space for a few freelancers splitting costs, nothing specifically community oriented, no dropins and members and such, just an office. We (with my business partner Dan Mireault) then heard of Queen Street Commons in PEI, Canada and then Hat Factory in SF, followed by Citizen Space. At the same time various groups and events were trying to get going in Montréal and couldn’t find a cheap place to meet. Our initial need for offices, mixed with the ideas from those spaces and the need for a meeting space “made for us” became Station C.
Every Coworking Space seems different. What’s the focus of yours, what makes it special?
There’s almost three questions in there. What makes us diffrent from other spaces I guess would be the investment we made in the look of the place, we dedicated quite a bit of time and some money to make it look good. We have both been at this freelancing thing for a few years so I guess we were less worried about investing a bit more and assuming the risk.
I think what’s made us special so far isn’t the same thing as our focus now. Initially it was simply being first in town, introducing people to the concept and, because of the founders and founding members existing networks, becoming a great hub for the web/tech community.
Our focus now is to broaden that base to many more fields, we want to be less of a web centric place, to bring more communities to interact and to make our membership a lot more diverse.
Where do you see Coworking in five years?
I see coworking as being more diluted and stronger at the same time. I think already the term is being hijacked by some who don’t share the original “ideals” of the first space and that trend will continue. I also see a very good natured and natural adoption of the concept by entirely new groups. I think coworking will become a tool for companies to find new ways to collaborate in-house and to setup cheaper sub offices, I think it will also become more and more popular as a service for larger companies to buy for employees, a kind of halfway solution between telecommuting and commuting.
If you look at new libraries (Amsterdam has a fantastic version of that), you will see a lot of people collaborating, studying and working there and the books are almost just the decor. I believe there is a great opportunity for cities to seize on that and make smaller, non library places to work, where the same crowds can go. Collaborations with coworking spaces or the creation of new spaces with coworking mindsets could make great additions to such places.
I think coworking will also be stronger because our physically disconnected but very web connected spaces are seeing more and more traveling between them, coworkers going to other cities for weeks or months and quickly finding footing and a new network in that city thanks to the local coworking space.
Where can we find you?
For the next couple of weeks at The Business Class in Berlin. Then at Betahaus, also in Berlin (both coworking space) and then back at my own space, Station C in Montréal, at the end of June.
Thanks a lot, Patrick! Click here to read the other interviews with the folks behind coworking.