Connected Solutions

2019 GWA Conference Recap Part 2


After Day 1 of the 2019 GWA Conference, the event continued with conversations surrounding technology, commercial real estate, evolution in workspace design and franchising. Additional conference highlights included:

Design evolution

This session explored how coworking spaces pair the design of their spaces with marketing and branding for success.

Bond Collective strives to create sophisticated, chic spaces with an exclusive club-like atmosphere. No two locations are alike, each geared toward the specific neighborhood they are based in. The spaces are intentionally branded minimally, and designed as symbols of an upscale modern lifestyle. Typically, the spaces feature separate phone and meeting booths for privacy and multiple seating options, such as bars, couches and traditional worktables.

Canada’s IQ Office Suites has established unique design differentiators. Following an initial 4,000sf project in Toronto, they have expanded to five locations, soon to be nine, in major Canadian cities.

IQ Office Suites’  decisions on where to establish new spaces are based on the surrounding retail, dining and entertainment options on the same street. Window offices are a huge draw, as well as kitchen space, meeting areas, and work/play areas with a bar and event space. Private offices are also important.

IQ’s crown jewel is a Toronto space with 18-foot ceilings and a 5,000sf terrace. This location features meeting rooms, team suites, and other group centric areas. The design has moved away from dedicated desks, something many coworking spaces still consider crucial.

Winning the corporate occupier

One of the final sessions of GWA featured Dale Hersowitz, vice president of coworking for Yardi, as part of a panel discussing how to attract enterprise occupiers. Panelist Jacob Bates, CEO of CommonGrounds, described how technology has essentially made software into a service industry, and this is vital for corporate clients.

Hersowitz explained that providing internet and phone service was considered good enough for early coworking operators. Today, operators are more invested and knowledgeable. They can’t reinvest and redo infrastructure continuously, so technology must adapt at the enterprise level to meet their needs.

Vik Aggerwal, global head of enterprise for Knotel, noted that historically, flexible workspace was a no brainer for a quick commercial real estate solution. With corporate coworking on the rise, demands and expectations have changed. Users are looking for high-quality spaces and best in class technology. Hersowitz explained that just as furniture, meeting spaces, walls and desks are adjustable and upgradable, it is the job of software providers to create a highly customizable product as well.

Cater to corporate members. This may require minimum signage, larger meeting spaces, better lighting, or improved technology, but the right amenities for a large audience will ultimately improve the bottom line.

Get smart about security

In the world we live in today, it’s imperative that shared workspace members feel comfortable with the physical and technological security features offered.

Security as a service continues to grow because it is too complex for operators and staff to handle themselves. Building IT teams and security knowledge doesn’t have to be at the forefront of an operator’s goals. Ensure that hardware/software providers, as well as landlords, are adequately securing the shared space for both members and staff.

Franchising considerations

Jason Anderson, founder of Venture X, led this discussion on the pros and cons of franchising a coworking business. Regus, the largest coworking brand in the world by locations, is a franchise model. For this reason alone, franchising is an option in the industry. Pros and cons of franchising are listed in the image below.

Consideration of franchising, according to Anderson, can be based on one question. Would you rather have an owner run a space? Or an employee? The ideal solution is someone with a vested interest in the business.

On the flip side, the FTC oversees franchising at the national level, and each state has individual laws, some of which are very complex. Quality control measures can be a challenge with each franchisee being unique. Building community, a huge component to the success of a coworking space, is also challenging with a franchise model. Each location will hire individual staff, tweak the look and feel of the interior and cater to different markets.

Amazon HQ2 in Virginia

This panel included some individuals that helped bring Amazon’s HQ2 to Alexandria, Va., just minutes from the GWA venue. You may be asking: why is this important to the flexible workspace industry?

Amazon’s HQ2 is expected to bring 100,000 new jobs to the DC metro area. This will have a major impact on existing coworking and shared spaces in the region, and the influx of new residents that could be looking for additional flexible working and meeting space.

The DC metro area is also investing in public transit and housing, and universities like Virginia Tech are committed to expanding their R&D departments and investing in a tech talent pipeline. All of this will prompt a rapid expansion of coworking.

That’s a wrap for GWA 2019! Check out part 1 of our GWA Conference Recap. To find out how Yardi Kube positions your workspace for success, please click the link below.