What is a coworking space? And how is it relevant to corporate? by Taylor Tran

NAB Village Melbourne

NAB Village Melbourne

A coworking space is where a lot of businesses come together to work on their own business but work in the same space. There is an idea around community and collaboration. Coworking spaces have traditionally been associated with tech startup, though now, with 14,000 spaces around the world, there is a space for every need, including very high end corporate.

The largest coworking space operator in the world, WeWork, is worth $16 billion, which is around the same market capitalisation as Westfield in Australia. The key difference to note is that Westfield was started in 1960 and WeWork was founded in 2010. However, we quickly note that comparing WeWork to Westfield, Lendlease or Regus is like comparing AirBnB to hotels - they're different businesses.

General consensus within the coworking industry, is that the 'coworking' concept started in 2005, based around, included WiFi, coffee and shared desks. The most important aspect about a coworking space is a good community manger and a sense of community. Otherwise, it's just a rented space - which has been around since 'office' was invented.

For a regular punter the fundamental indicator to note about about a coworking space is the offering of a 'month-to-month' membership (leasing) arrangement. This offering is important due to the fast moving nature of being a startup.

I estimate that there are around 500 coworking spaces in Australia and growing rapidly. This is not to say that it's a profitable business to be in. Largely coworking spaces are started by founders who have other businesses and a coworking space is an add-on opportunity for their other businesses. Of course there are pure coworking space operators who make it their main business. To do this you need to do it at a certain scale to be viable.

As I often get asked for advice about starting coworking spaces, I often say, "don't start a coworking space, start a community". Many people who start a space for the space's sake, quickly come up with the problem of needing to fill the space. Without a sense of community and purpose, the value proposition would not be strong enough to complete with regular shared-office or rental office models. Having said that, coworking operators of all shapes and sizes are adapting new business models (aka "pivoting" as they say in startup) to become sustainable and we can expect the coworking industry to be here for the foreseeable future.

I would say that it's a useful concept for corporates to consider as part of their innovation programs. Many large corporates like Telstra, NAB, Coles, Commonwealth Bank, Australia Post and large consulting firms run some form of innovation labs and some take up membership at coworking spaces for their staff to immerse in the startup culture. 

Running a 'hackathon' at a coworking space is probably one of the most cost effective forms of problem solving technique I've seen, especially for corporates who spend hundreds of thousands on annual powwows and strategy sessions to drive innovation and change culture.

Coworking spaces are working more closely with corporates in any case, as in the future more than half of the workforce will be self employed. With the rise of advanced technology and the trend towards work flexility, people tend to freelance and consult back to corporates, often working out of coworking spaces. There is now also coworking spaces with childcare which makes an excellent bridge for return-to-work parents, either as self-employed or corporate return-to-work.

From a regional and outer suburb perspective, coworking offers a further opportunity for corporates to engage with talent who would otherwise prefer a "sea or tree change". Not to mention, by leveraging coworking spaces as an extension to the CBD office, corporates can play a role in reducing the need to travel to a central location and hence reduce traffic and congestion. In terms of regional coworking spaces, they can also act as an innovation hub to solve regional problems and become a key connection point for the broader innovation economy.

So coworking overall, is a simple concept yet it can play a key role changing the way we work, solve broad ranging problems and innovate. As I said in a recent article, the coworking industry is, "becoming an adult. Just like grunge music one time it was a niche and now it's mainstream."

You will hear more about coworking, not least through the upcoming, second edition of my book and I think that all businesses, if they have an open and collaborative approach, and are seeking innovation and entrepreneurship, would benefit from working with a coworking space in one form or another

Prepare for an event by Taylor Tran

Once open, events can be the lifeblood of a coworking space - whether they be the Opening Event, Friday Drinks, Topical Meetups, Professional Services Education, Annual Parties, Partnership Events, New Membership Tours or Induction Events.

Life is an event it itself and such activities create opportunity and vigour for a coworking space. Late winter in Victoria is time for the Small Business Festival and Digital Innovation Festival.

The first step to creating an event is to think about the audience that you want to attract and what would add value to that audience.

In the context of the Digital Innovation Festival, have a think about how Digital will bring opportunities to your region and space. Digital topics you could consider include can be about:

  • How to better leverage or improve your current broadband connectivity to create new opportunities in your region? check www.connecthack.com.au
  • Can digital play a role in improving social outcomes in your region?
  • How can digital play a role in the creative sector?
  • How Big Data, IoT, Blockchain and AI will revolutionised the next 10 years?
  • Can a self driving car make it all to the way to your region without a driver? And if so, what does it mean for your region?
  • Can you trust a robot on your farm?
  • What technology is required to bring Elon Musk's Hyperloop to your region? Otherwise, are you on the map for a fast train? Or new airport? (and how can digital mapping help?).
  • How can traffic optimisation in the cities bring opportunities to the regions?
  • How to use technology, including social media, to improve tourism in your region?
  • How will the digital economy bring greatness back to regional areas?
  • How digital innovation will help realise Australia's potential as the premium food bowl of the world?
  • What are some of the greatest AgTech (including AgBioTech) you've never heard of that have taken the world by storm?
  • And so forth...

Once you've figured out a topic that would add value (or have an interested audience). Pick a date between 23rd August and 6th September 2017 and have word with Innovation Coworking to make it happen. Start thinking....1) Audience 2) Topic 3) Date - Done!  

How Innovation Coworking and DIF will help by Taylor Tran

This year the Victorian Government's Digital Innovation Festival has partnered with Innovation Melbourne (and the soon to be launched book; Innovation Coworking) to put a spotlight on the coworking industry across regional Victoria.

Married to the regions Taylor Tran is keen to support our great regions in driving an emerging regional coworking movement.

DIF through Taylor Tran and the Innovation Coworking book with engage with the regions and... 

  • Provide special offers and take regional spaces owners to the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Melbourne (25th August 2017).
  • Include regional space stories in the Innovation Coworking book - inclusion cut off date is 10th August 2017.
  • Support a number of events in the regions to generate PR and business opportunities.
  • Help produce a larger ‘hackathon’ event at your space and help secure government and corporate sponsorship based on the highly successful www.connecthack.com.au model.
  • Invite you regional space owners to global network of coworking leaders on ‘business development’ webinars.
  • Find and bring awesome speakers to regional coworking spaces.
  • Invite regional coworking space owners on to the exclusive https://im.coworking.fyi platform and have instant access to top coworking leaders around the country.

This is all in a effort to put digital innovation and regional coworking into the spotlight.

Getting found on Google by Taylor Tran

Below are 7 tips to help get your business found on Google

1. Optimise for mobile devices

Consumers are using mobile devices more than ever. Make sure your web content is 'mobile responsive'. This means that your website automatically adjusts to the mobile screen size. Is your website 'responsive'?

If your site is not 'responsive' visitors can't easily navigate and they will not return to your website. Google prefers websites that are user friendly.

2. Start a blog

Blog posts are opportunities for you to get your page shared across social media as well as appear more frequently in searches because of the different content that you post. 

As well as, exhibiting your brand personality, your posts adds value and creates a following.

3. Keyword research

You know what service or product you're selling, but do you know what your customers are searching when they find your business?

Researching what your target marketing are researching on the web gives you a greater insight into your customer needs and how to best meet them. 

By finding these keywords you will be able to include related keywords that consumers also search and incorporate them onto your website to eradicate the chance of missing potential customers. 

4. Socialise

Get social. Don't know how to use Facebook? There's a YouTube video for that. Don't want to use twitter because you can't keep to the character limit? There's a YouTube video for that also. You can learn best practices for free these days by searching on tutorial video on YouTube.

Sharing content and engaging via social media allows you to engage customers on their own term, as well as, creating another touch point. When your content is shared it becomes a 'social signal' to search engines which helps with SEO. 

5. Get media coverage

Develop relationships with local media bloggers by encouraging them to visit your business, try your products or services, or if you're sponsoring local events let them know with a simple email or telephone call. Positive coverage across media outlets improves your brand's reputation. 

6. Set up a Google My Business Page

This is a free tool for businesses to utilise to manage your online presence across Google and Maps. Information that you can verify can include trading hours, contact phone numbers, locations etc, as well as the products or services that you offer. 

7. Encourage and respond to reviews

Customer feedback is what drives change in most businesses, ensuring that you meet your customers' expectations encourages them to return to your business. 

Your engagement with user-reviews strengthens your visibility in local search results whether they be positive or negative, importantly, your response to them shows others that you genuinely care about your customers and will provide the service that they expect.