Search results forcoworking interview

Interview: Coworking for corporations

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I was psyched to be interviewed by Graham Snowdon for the Work section of The Guardian (along with Deskmag’s Joel Dullroy) about the opportunities for corporations adopting coworking:

Some observers believe that if new co-working spaces continue to thrive, larger companies could profit from sending employees to work in them. Peter Bihr, co-founder of digital strategy consultancy Third Wave, says it could bring together vastly different work cultures, as well as allowing employees and freelancers to learn from each other. “It could help develop and refine ideas and foster innovation in-house,” he says. “As a side effect, companies get access to great talent they might not otherwise be able to reach.” Bihr admits that as yet, relatively few larger companies have started working in this way: “Nasa is one example, having dabbled in a collaboration space in San Francisco a few years back. But we have been seeing many startups evolving out of co-working environments, and I expect and hope we will see a significant number of companies experimenting with co-working.”

Read the whole article here: A co-workers’ revolution?

Studio 70: New Coworking Space in Berlin

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Coworking at Studio70 Café at Studio70

As many of you know, I’ve been very interested in coworking lately, a way of working much for fit for the freelancer & web crowd than 9-to-5 offices or a permanent desk at the local coffee shop. (See my interviews with founders of coworking spaces, some thoughts on coworking, or this Barcamp session.)

I had been thinking about opening a space, but was at a very, very early stage and never expected to start anything soon. Enter Philip and Sebastian – Philip found a great space, Sebastian brought a bunch of us to a round table: Welcome Studio70 to the coworking world!

We’re not officially open yet, and there’s quite a few things to figure out before we really open our doors to the web-working public. There’s a few things I can say pretty definitively already, though: It’s a great bunch of fun & smart folks, we’ll be running Studio70 on a non-profit basis and we’ll encourage our coworking friends from abroad to drop by and spend their Berlin time here (be it via coworking visa, Hallenprojekt or some different system).

Easiest way to get in touch right now is via: Studio70 on Twitter. Studio70 is located just off Kottbusser Damm, U Hermannplatz, Berlin Neukölln.

Looking forward to seeing you at Studio70!

Studio70 Art Spontaneous art at Studio70

(Studio70 Flickr set)

The Folks Behind Coworking: Patrick Tanguay

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Station CPatrick 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.

The Folks Behind Coworking: Tony Bacigalupo

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New Work CityTony Bacigalupo is one of the heads behind New York City, a New York-based coworking space. In the third installment of my series of interviews on coworking, Tony shares his take on coworking.

What does Coworking mean for you?

Coworking means so many things to me, but overall I think it represents a big step in a larger shift in the way we work and live. The shift is one that moves away from white-collar work in centralized offices at set hours, and toward independent work closer to home.

What brought you to Coworking?

I was telecommuting, working from home, and it was awesome until it drove me nuts. I figured there were other people like me out there who needed to get out of their home and work alongside one another.

Every Coworking Space seems different. What’s the focus of yours, what makes it special?

We’re focused on freelancers and small startups in NYC, and we’re the only space in Manhattan dedicated to coworking. We want to help independent workers in NYC and also help make NYC a friendlier place for people to work on independent projects.

Where do you see Coworking in five years?

I see coworking in lots of different shapes and sizes. Many of them won’t use the word “coworking,” but the principles will be there. Dedicated workspaces, cafes, hotels, apartment buildings, libraries, executive work centers, libraries, home-based spaces, hybrid spaces… more and more people are going to be able to work anywhere, and they are going to work everywhere.

Where can we find you?

Right here at my desk in New Work City, in the middle of my amazing community of members :-)

Thanks a lot, Tony! Click here to read the other interviews with the folks behind coworking.

The Folks Behind Coworking: Alex Hillman

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IndyhallAlex Hillman cofounded Indyhall, Philadelphia’s answer to San Francisco’s Citizen Space. (On a personal note, when Indyhall was set up I closely followed the whole process in their blog, which I think really kick-started my personal interest in coworking. Go check out the earliest posts!) In this second installment of my series of interviews on coworking, Alex shares his thoughts and experiences.

What does Coworking mean for you?

We say that coworking isn’t about the desks. The desks are a vehicle, part of a clubhouse for a wider community. Having a clubhouse provides a focal point for interaction in a community. That community embodies trust, communication, collaboration, socialization, and a mutual respect for place and each other.

Ultimately, coworking is a community of workers, and that means more than a collection of workers sharing space.

Furthermore, coworking is a movement, a shift in higher purpose when it comes to not just where, but how, people are going to work in the future.

What brought you to Coworking?

I was introduced to coworking by two of the movement’s earliest catalysts, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt, who co-founded The Hat Factory (the first permanent coworking space) and then went on to open Citizen Space, both in San Francisco. Even before becoming a freelancer, I recognized that this could be valuable for Philadelphia as a way to bring together the disparate communities in my own city. As the project evolved, so did the vision, which included teaming up with Geoff DiMasi. Working with Geoff has brought a finer tuning to the purpose of IndyHall’s version of coworking.

Every Coworking Space seems different. What’s the focus of yours, what makes it special?

Our focus is 100% on individuals, humans. We don’t rent desks to companies, we have members join our community and have desks as a resource. When you take a holistic community approach to a coworking space, a lot of things fall into place that normally would take a lot of work. That’s not to say community development isn’t a lot of work, but it’s a whole lot easier to build something sustainable when the community groundwork is laid first.

By decoupling the desks from the real “magic” that takes place at IndyHall, we can accomplish things that couldn’t be done without the community being in place.

Where do you see Coworking in five years?

5 years isn’t a fair prediction, because the whole movement is less than 3 years old itself. Considering in the last 3 years, we’ve gone from less than a dozen spaces, mostly concentrated on the west coast, well over a hundred all around the world and a wider recognition of coworking as a buzzword, I think we’re on a stratospheric trajectory. The fact that coworking gets talked about by people who aren’t even aware of the movement and it’s history means it’s growing and growing fast.

My biggest hope is that coworking becomes more than a buzzword used to represent people sharing desks and that people really latch onto some of the fundamentals of coworking that set it apart from the otherwise failed business model of office suites and hot-desking. If more people understand what makes coworking really work (in the situations where it does work), I think it stands a chance of really turning business on it’s head and changing the way that companies utilize space, teams, and communication. All of these changes, obviously, are for the better.

Where can we find you?

At IndyHall, of course. IndyHall is in Old City Philadelphia, and online at www.indyhall.org. We’d love for you to come meet our community members and see what we’re up to.

Thanks a lot, Alex! Click here to read the other interviews with the folks behind coworking.

The Folks Behind Coworking: Chris Messina

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Citizen SpaceChris Messina is one of the folks who started it all. Together with Tara Hunt he founded Citizen Space (San Francisco). Also, Chris and Tara put a strong focus on the philosophy behind coworking to put it all into context: Coworking is not just about space, but also ideal. So here’s the first installment of a series of interviews on coworking.

What does Coworking mean for you?

Well, coworking is kind of a means to an end. It’s on the one hand a community of like-minded folks who don’t want to just work alone. On the other, it’s an operational framework — and something of an imperative that describes how you might go about creating a physical institution that people want to join, become a part of make their own.

I mean, at its root is a self-granted permission to create a work environment and reality that you want for yourself. And the community is there to push you forward, in order to turn your vision into reality.

What brought you to Coworking?

Well, as a cofounder of coworking, I initially just wanted a space that was somewhere between a cafe and an office — but that felt more spontaneous and had a lighter atmosphere about it. Since no one else had really done it — and sustained it — it seemed like it was time to try my hand at it!

Every Coworking Space seems different. What’s the focus of yours, what makes it special?

Well, I’m actually “between spaces” right now!

Where do you see Coworking in five years?

Wow, well… it’s grown into something much bigger than I might have imagined, and I’d thrilled about that. What I hope happens is that coworking will move down the cultural stack and become something that people expect of a city — like libraries or coffee shops — and that private and public coworking spaces will crop up — open to anyone, especially those affiliated with the network.

I also hope that the social networking behaviors that are common now bleed into the physical world and support the coworking movement worldwide.

Where can we find you?

Heh, that depends. Physically or digitally? Truly, I’m aiming to be a global citizen, and at the same time a citizen of the web. So, everywhere.

Thanks a lot, Chris! Click here to read the other interviews with the folks behind coworking.

What does the perfect Coworking Space look like?

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Citizen Space, San Francisco

What makes the perfect coworking space? The answer should will probably be very different for different people, depending on what they’re looking for. Some spaces are very community-centric, others rather are service providers; some are more artsy, others more corporate.

Here’s what I imagine the perfect space like. Please note that this is more like a snapshot of what I’m thinking right now, and it will certainly develop over time, so I hope to revisit and rewrite this text over time, too.

It’s about the people Taking a hint from Alex Hillman, my top priority would be the people who congregate at the space to work together. It’s about working not just alongside, but with inspiring folks. This also means that the space must encourage openness, sharing, collaboration. It also means that the space needs to be a fun place to hang out.

Built with them, not for them Building a space for others can easily backfire. The space shouldn’t be run as a money-making machine or any kind of service provider where you pay money for a desk and that’s that. Instead, it should be built by a group of dedicated coworkers. A way to encourage this culture could be to run the space on a membership basis instead of a pay-per-use basis. It might make sense to have a tiered system where a core group of members runs the place behind the scens, and a looser member group is involved primarily in the social aspects of the space.

A place for local and international geeks alike Yes, that’s right: It might very well be slightly geeky. That said, I would always prefer a space that seems inviting not only to Berliners, but also to international folks who’re in town for the days, a week or a month. That also means that it should be perfectly normal to switch to English if folks from abroad are around, that everybody will be extra helpful if someone’s in town the first time, and of course that there’s always a spare power plug adapter in one drawer or another.

Consistent style, but no styleguide Personally, I like a place that looks kinda stylish, kinda edgy. This of course is totally subjective. That said, I’d make sure to have a consistent style for the basics (desks etc.), but leave the rest for everybody to figure out themselves. Don’t over-regulate. A styleguide or design by committee: maybe no.

A good price, discountable Pricing is a touchy subject. Particularly in Berlin, where rents are (by international standards) fairly low, pricing might make or break a space. You don’t want it to look cheap, but you don’t want to exclude those with a limited budget. So what’s the solution? I guess besides a reasonable pricing scheme it’s important to allow for discounts for those who might need it at this point of their career. One possibility could be to allow for decent discounts for those who get particularly involved in the space, like by taking on an organizational job: Think treasurer, webmaster/admin, resident artist. This would provide another incentive to get involved, and a good way for the temporary needy to share the space.

Challenges There’s challenges, too. If you have any ideas on how to tackle these issues, I’m grateful for your input. The main problems I see at this point: Insurance (what do you need, where to get it, can an insurance handle the flux of folks?), decision-making processes (might involve complex decisions or turn out to be a no-brainer), legal basis (without having looked into it, I would suspect that in Germany you need to get a lot of paperwork right before getting started).

So that’s my initial take. Nothing to reinvent the wheel here, but I think it’s important to think about the culture you’re aiming for.

Luckily, there’s others who’ve pioneered the whole movement, and who are far more experienced in setting up and running coworking spaces. Luckily, when I asked them to share their experiences they kindly agreed. (Thanks, guys, you rock!) So I’ll be posting a number of brief interviews about coworking, starting with Chris Messina, who basically co-started the whole movement.

All the interviews will be tagged coworking + interview, so click here to read the interviews. I’ll post them as they come in.

Image: Citizen Space by hyku (some rights reserved)