Our friends at GWA once again partnered with NAIOP this year to deliver another successful conference. Branded now as FlexOffice, the event was a 3 day run through all the pressing topics in Coworking and shared space. Here is our recap of all the information, laughs, and networking that took place in Austin last week.
The conference started with a tour of several spaces in the Austin area, which is becoming a major Coworking hub. We saw beautiful locations of Industrious, TechSpace, WeWork, and Fareground. Comparing the similarities and differences among those is always eye opening. There are many different paths to success, as evidenced by those highly regarded brands in our industry.
Then we stopped by a brand new event added to the conference schedule this year, a workshop titled ‘Secrets to Successful Coworking Partnerships’. Not only did the event sell out, but the crowd was extremely interactive and gave tremendous feedback. Casey Godwin, who we featured on our recent ebook, was the leader of the workshop, giving his expert insight and opinions on Coworking partnership.
Later that afternoon, the exhibitor area opened up, and all attendees were welcomed into a networking/social event. We officially unveiled the new Yardi Kube platform here, to excellent reviews. Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to see familiar faces, we also noticed many new operators in the industry. This is especially rewarding for the FlexOffice conference, as one of the signs of a successful event is expanding every year.
Thursday began with a powerful keynote address, given by Antony Slumbers, Founder of Estates Today Ltd. Some of the highlights of his presentation:
Antony spoke in detail about the impact technology is having not only on the world of Coworking today, but beyond.
Beyond perception and communication, artificial intelligence has 3 main capabilities:
- Knowledge about the world
- Reasoning: Deductive, Inductive, and Abductive
- Planning: setting goals and achieving them
One statement that particularly stood out was how Slumbers described old work vs new work.
Old Work, he said is structured, repeatable, predictable, which is fine and its led to automation. Creation however, is missing. New Work is design, imagination, inspiration, empathy, intuition, and many other innate human creative elements. Collaboration brings out the best in these traits, and Coworking thrives on the premise of collaboration.
His vision for the future included of course AI and technology fundamentally changing demand. ‘Flexible’, he said, would be the word of the future of workspaces. And our industry is becoming (or become) a mix of real estate, data, technology, hospitality, and workspace.
Roundtable Discussion: Reality and ROI of Flexible Workspace
This next breakout session was a lively discussion featuring a mix of panelists from the CRE and Coworking worlds. One of the main highlights of this talk was the pros and cons overview of owning your own space.
Pros: Control, higher return, more exit options, relationships
Cons: Capital intensive, higher risk, learning curve, time intensive
The panel went into heavy numbers detail on the true ROI of Coworking, specifically mentioning the location of the property, the initial investment into the space, the soft costs, and comparison between a location in Houston vs Denver as an example of how these numbers vary.
Daniel Levison, COO of SharedSpace Atlanta, mentioned the value of putting his company’s name/logo on the exterior of their building, as they face a massive highway in Atlanta. An estimated 350,000 cars see his sign daily. He also mentioned focusing on secondary or third tier cities. His next location is going to open in Augusta, GA, a town seeing a boom due to cybersecurity. His second Atlanta location was actually in a suburb, a quarter mile from the Atlanta Braves new baseball stadium. This area is now booming thanks to the developments surrounding the park, and he was in before the craze.
Josh Fine, EVP of Focus Property Group, gave his example of how even though there’s been rapid growth in the Coworking market, in Denver it still only accounts for 5-10% of office space. If you enter markets such as Greenville, Huntsville, Chatanooga, or Augusta, like Levison mentioned, you can’t own massive square footage immediately, it would overwhelm a market that isn’t yet a big player.
Fine also explained the breakdown of financing a space between a CRE investor and a Coworking operator. In a 75,000 sqft building in suburban Denver, 1/3 was vacant. It was a chance to purchase that space, and even though the investor didn’t care about Coworking in general, he was intelligent enough to see the profitability he could make off that empty space.
There was plenty more to recap from Thursday afternoon and Friday morning! For the rest of Day 2 and Day 3 recap, please click here!