Future of Work

How Collaboration Is Transforming Coworking

February 27, 2018
Coworking collaborations

It was not very long after CUAsia 2017 that I was already missing it.

And now, two weeks after Penang, despite having been kept very busy with travel,  jet-lag, work and meetings in the meanwhile, it’s happening again: I am craving for another dose of CUAsia.

One year ago, Cowork7x24 was still in ideation stage. CUAsia had served as a reaffirmation for me that I am in the right business area. Not only because coworking is so fast growing, but mainly because of the people I had met. The positive vibes, the collaborative spirit, the smiles on everyone’s face : I had to be part of this community, and I had to serve this community.

Last one year has been intense for us, and time has flown fast.

Exactly one year later, CUAsia, again, served as a reaffirmation for me: that we are on the right track. That we are doing the right thing. But that is not exactly what I wanted to write about.

On the very last night, even after the closing party, while having drinks at a hidden bar, Steve Munroe, organisor of CU Asia and founder of Hubud asked me if I had to define CUAsia with one word, what would that be.

I said “sincerity”.

This was not a word I had thought about before, but as if I was just waiting for the question, the answer left my lips autonomously and sincerely: ‘sincerity’.

I’ve always believed there is ONE, BIG coworking community that we are all part of.

This is with all due respect to every coworking space who is trying to build their own community. And I think every single one of them is doing a great job in their own context. Still, we have to acknowledge that we are one big community, with each of us having an interest or loyalty, in one, or a couple of, particular coworking spaces at a time. And that loyalty is not eternal. Still, we are all one collective mind and spirit that defines and nourishes coworking.  

CUAsia was a sincere reaffirmation of this. I’ve witnessed many coworking space operators who in the normal course of business would count as competitors of each other, were now sharing opinions and learnings sincerely with each other as it was meant to grow the bigger community and the ecosystem. The level of collaboration, consciously or unconsciously, was impressive. It’s hard to internalize this for someone like me, who in his previous life had to get clearance from HR and corporate communications to speak at a conference where competition might be attending, and where going for a drink with “competitors” would be the eternal sin, but that’s a story I’ll leave to another blog.

It is going to be this insane collaboration that will continue to grow coworking, transforming the way we all work. 

Those who collaborate will win. 

Those who “will keep it to themselves are destined to lose. Collaborations will lead to consolidations. This will happen more on the service providers side.

Today, there are many great apps that serve the coworking spaces (and coworkers!). More and more of such apps will come out, as programming becomes a commodity. Those who start to collaborate for a win-win will soon join forces to offer one great product together, instead of two alike products. This will be a natural outcome of sincere collaboration.

Collaborations will lead to alliances.

  • Many coworking spaces (from different cities, countries, parts of the world) will come together virtually to form alliances, firstly in the form of coworking visas allowing each other’s members to their own spaces, but later in true scaled business partnerships. This will not happen just because the operators are so friendly, nice and collaborative, but will happen because this is what coworkers want. The demand will shape the supply.
  • Some alliances will be formed as a response to well-funded coworking space chains, or as a defence to new forms of coworking businesses.
  • Some alliances will be formed for scale-buying. This is a must for individual/independent coworking space operators to survive against bigger chains who have a negotiation power. If you can’t sell for more, you have to reduce your costs.

These alliances will demand new solutions and services that don’t necessarily exist today. This is a great opportunity for new brave start-ups to stand up, for those who can make good predictions.

I can’t predict what will happen after alliances, but what I can predict is that, unlike in any other industry, these transformations will not take decades, but just months to come to life, driven by sincere collaborations among all of us, enabled by events like CUAsia.

Photo: Hubud Bali

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