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Can Big Money and Coworking Co-Exist?


In a recent article for Shareable, Cat Johnson (@CatJohnson) discusses the rise in coworking, a movement which is quickly becoming a global phenomenon. This alternative form of working lets people escape the isolation of home if they are freelancers. It is surpassing many people’s expectations in terms of scale and investor interest, so the Global Coworking Unconference Conference is dedicated to preserving its core values.

Johnson predicts that this already hot industry will continue to rise within the next 5 to 7 years. Steve King, partner at emergent research describes how you can’t build these spaces fast enough. China is certainly on top of this game, making other countries look like they are falling behind.

At last year’s conference, Tony Bacigalupo asked “Who thinks coworking means dividing up office space to sell at a profit?” Not one hand was raised. This year a different response as many real estate investors and developers were in the audience. Recently, WeWork authorized the sale of $780 million of new stock on the path to a 16 billion dollar valuation. Johnson writes,

“What is new was that GCUC, which has been an essential way for coworking space operators and enthusiasts to connect, share and strategize, felt like it had been hijacked.” Elam is an advocate for coworking and has helped GCUC expand. In her introductory speech, it feels as if she was trying to hold on to the community aspect of coworking amidst all the corporate hooplah. Here are the highlights of her talk:

  • Discussion over alternative coworking models including co-ops, best practices, community building and more.
  • Personal story by Ashley Proctor, executive director of GCUC Canada, who overcame huge challenges to build a community-driven co-working space
  • Bacigalupo’s talk on surviving the wave of consumer coworking. His punk rock style and human touch was refreshing.
  • Camp GCUC, an all day conference held the day before with presentations by coworking pioneers.

It’s difficult for leaders in the coworking movement to see corporations label their industry as a way to sell cubicles. Coworking is changing so it will take more effort to find businesses with the original core values: flexibility, community, family and connections. Like any emerging industry, big money will enter the picture and try to alter the model to suit its agenda. In this day and age, freelancers are looking for shared work spaces to feel happy and less lonely. If investors keep that in mind, maybe big business and community can co-exist after all.

Topics: Marketplace


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