cobot news

the one tool you need to run your coworking space

www.cobot.me

cobot was created to free coworking space managers from mundane tasks, giving them the time to do what is important: attending to their coworkers.

Notifications App

We just added a new app to the list: Notifications

This app lets you choose from a number of events you want to be notified of by email. At the moment the only supported event is that a member makes a booking in the calendar, but we’ll add more over time. Please let us know what you need.

To add the app to your space go to Setup -> Apps, find the app and click the ‘Visit app’ button. This adds it under Setup -> Notifications.

Weekly Status email

Having information about your space growth helps you better planning your week. With so many things to do every day, it is hard to find time to take a look at your space’s analytics and stay on top of everything. For over four years, our mission has been to help you get rid of whatever is not directly your job. Help you automate processes in your coworking space so that you can use this time in other more important things - like building your community and improving your space.

Why force you to remember that you need to look at your Cobot analytics when we can use some technical magic and send you and your team a recap of the most important things to look at, straight to your inbox, at the beginning of every week?

Every Monday morning we will send you a weekly status summary about your coworking space. What will you find?

A) New Members

See how many new members are there in your space this week, together with their profile picture so that you remember to drop by and say hi if someone doesn’t ring the bell.

Not seeing a picture? Take the time to ask this person to complete their full Cobot profile. Having a picture is good specially if you plan to use the member’s app. Keep reading!

B) Members leaving

If anyone cancelled their Cobot membership during this week you have already received a notification in your inbox from when the cancellation happened, but this is a reminder. Give people a nice goodbye and let them know ways to keep supporting the community and be part of it.

C) Plan changes

This section shows you how people has changed plans in your space during this week and how it affects your revenue.

D) Billing

The weekly status update includes your billed and paid amount - and helps you keep an eye on outstanding payments.

These figures should give you an idea of how your space is doing and help you make plans for the week. If you want to know more details (i.e. which plans have been changed to which plans, or how much was a leaving member paying) you can always check the full analytics for your space in Cobot. We have a button for that!

The weekly status email also includes things like Cobot pro tips; little tricks that we have came across while using Cobot to manage our coworking space co.up or that other space managers have shared with us.

And because sometimes you may miss stuff from our blog (new features, management tips, notes on coworking conference or visits to coworking spaces…) we will include a post from our blog every week.

Last, but not least… you know we love talking with you and we have included a Cobot at the end of the Weekly Status email to remind you.

Just click it and tell us any questions or feedback you have around Cobot, ask us to be interviewed for our blog, write a guest post for us, or share a pro tip with us.

mailto:support@cobot.me

Improvements for included Time Passes

We recently improved the way we handle new members whose plan includes times passes.

On Cobot a plan can have a number of time passes included either per week or per month. For example a part time plan could include 12 days per month, or a ‘getting started’ plan could include 1 day pass per week.

The improvements we made affect new members: if someone signs up on a Wednesday for a plan with 5 days/week included she now only gets 3 days (Wednesday to Friday). If someone signs up for a plan with time passes included per month we give him the passes for the rest of the month. We even take prorated invoices into account: If I sign up on the 10th and my first billing cycle starts on the 20th I only get enough time passes for those 10 days. Then on the 20th, when my first billing cycle starts, I get new time passes for that.

In addition we have improved the way the system renews time passes, which should make it more reliable and solve any problems with missing time passes that some spaces have experienced in the past.

Coworking in India: An interview with Varun from 91Springboard

Coworking has no boundaries, and it’s everywhere. Some coworking spaces have opened in India over the last months. 4 spaces use Cobot in this Country (The Playce, Working Company, and the two locations of 91springboard). We asked Varun, from 91 springboard, to tell us a bit about their spaces, their plans and coworking in India. Sit back and enjoy!

How would you define coworking and why do you think the coworking movement​ ​started? How is coworking different in your country than in other places? How is it growing?

Coworking is a fun and collaborative environment where people from diverse backgrounds can work and interact.

India lacks good quality infrastructure and the process of setting up real estate leases, internet access, power backup, security etc are not trivial, consequently there is substantial value created by just providing a location which takes care of these hassles.

At 91springboard, we did not stop there and have layered on additional pieces such as events which enable networking and knowledge exchange between members and the outside community, and access to investors. We believe we now cater to the higher level needs of our members and maintain an edge over being just a “business center”. We will continue to listen to our members’ needs and evolve :)

We started 14 months ago in New Delhi and within 11 months had opened our second location in the neighboring city of Gurgaon.

We have close to 120 members (full time + part time) in our first location and are growing rapidly in our second location, 50+ members in just under 4 months. We believe there is a requirement for the product and service we offer and with the right partners we would like to create an India-wide or even global network to grow and proliferate this culture.

How did you start with the idea of opening a coworking space? Which challenges you had and how did you resolve them?

91springboard is founded by 3 partners, we were in high school together and have known each other for nearly 20 years. While this is our first professional activity together we have kept in touch over the years and arrived at this point.

Having been entrepreneurial in our various avatars we had experienced certain shortcomings in the ecosystem and wanted to do our bit to contribute to the community. Access to good quality infrastructure and service providers, a platform to network and learn, and access to investors were the key areas we felt were missing in the startup ecosystem.

The setting up process was unique in that we had initially felt a space for 25 people in a 2000 sq ft space would be ideal, after much searching and realizing that either prices were too high or access to public transport was difficult we finally settled for an old warehouse in a “not-so-sexy” part of town!

After 3 months of design, construction, and interiors work we were ready to open our doors, the initial goings were slow but then things began to pick up as we received some publicity and our customers to share our activities by word of mouth. Our social media activities and events have helped a lot.

Our biggest challenge remains that India is still an emerging story and while there is a lot of demand, pricing continues to be a challenge. As a result, we had to be especially intelligent in ensuring we built at a low cost and kept our management team costs low.

What kind of people work with you? Do you have freelancers as well as companies?

Our member base is currently very diverse, ranging from social enterprises, not-for-profits, to VC/Angel invested startups and 1-person startups looking to create the next Google or Facebook!

We encourage freelancers to participate as we believe it creates a marketplace for their services vis-a-vis entrepreneurs and small businesses. We have a variety of entrepreneurs whose services range from hr, accounting, public relations, digital marketing, design, ui/ux, legal and technology support. 91springboard has also benefited from a few corporate clients taking interest, as an example a marketing team for a large payments processing company headquartered in a different city.

We offer four primary plans and some offshoots, the 4 main plans are Full-time, Part-time (12 working days in a month), Virtual Plan (limited conference room time, mailing address + virtual receptionist services), and Day Plan.

We have private offices in our second location, by accident rather than by design, we feel there is a lot of interest in these offices especially for larger groups, however with time they become accustomed and comfortable with open seating styles.

Another factor is that private offices are priced higher and freelancers/startups have budget/team size constraints.

Why did you initially look for an app to manage your coworking space? How did you find Cobot?

Having been involved with many businesses before, a structured and common approach to managing our spaces was paramount. After a lot of web searching we found cobot. Cobot came across as the most full featured product with a simple yet attractive design, and a quirky mascot :)

We primarily use it for booking of shared resources (conference rooms) and billing. We had experimented with it for attendance but ran into some issues with pfsense stability. We have minor feature requests from time to time and are super satisfied with the team’s responsiveness. We are growing and will have newer needs and will look to the Cobot team for continued support, an example will be some more tweaking to the prorated billing system.

Tell us a bit about your network and how you plan to expand it

We are actively looking to expand. We have grown to 2 spaces in a short 14 months and look to continue that trend. We are always looking for collaborators and partners to grow and welcome any inquiries as such.

On top of coworking, do you host any workshops or community events? Can you share some anecdotes or examples of things that worked well?​

We host 4-6 events per month/per campus now. These range from workshops, to panel discussion, to hackathons, to parties (free beer!). We have found that it creates a lively and engaged community that is aware of our activities and calls on us when they need a space to work or organize events.

We initially tried to charge for the space to host events, but realized that it didn’t work so well in that many organizers were unable to afford even the basic costs.

We then moved to a model where we would provide the space for free and attract sponsors, while this model has clearly attracted more events the sponsor piece is still a work in progress. We are thankful to have received support from Amazon Web Services and Sequoia, we are hoping others will step up and help us grow the community collaboratively.

Q: How do you see the future of coworking, both in the world and in your country?

Disruptive technologies are changing the way we do business, and large corporations are going to become leaner.

In such an environment its only a matter of time where more and more individuals are going to have to become value creators in either the services or manufacturing sector. To support such a transformation, spaces which integrate coworking, community and capital are going to be an important catalyst. More spaces with the ability to add more value to its members are a core need.

While not insulated from global trends, in India there is a lagging effect and a differentiated culture. India is a strongly entrepreneurial community and now that foreign investments have empowered us, a revolution of domestic creation and consumption is just around the corner. Coworking spaces and incubators are going to facilitate the growth of such entrepreneurs.

We hope you enjoyed the interview. If you make it until here, we have a surprise for you! Here’s how it feels to work at 91springboard:

Working @91springboard

Cobot goes to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and, though more famous for its canals, red light district, coffee shops and 17th Century Dutch painters, the city also has a growing community of social and creative entrepreneurs and a number of coworking spaces offering them a place to work, away from home.

Amsterdam is a small and cozy town. Everything is at an easy walking distance and there is a great cycling infrastructure with bicycle paths everywhere, bike racks in every street and even guarded bicycle garages. Around 50% of the city’s population consists of foreigners and each year over 3 million people visit the city - some for business, some for pleasure. The city surprised me with its artisanry (traditional shoemakers and tailors, handmade carpets and furniture, etc.) and its concentration of art galleries.

Though I couldn’t find any coworking space that is part of the Coworking Visa programme, I spent some time visiting other spaces around the city. There’s a variety of coworking spaces and coffee bars - the kind that actually serves coffee, which is an important distinction to make in this city! - where freelancers and entrepreneurs get together to work, away from the isolation of their home offices. When it comes to coworking in Amsterdam, there’s a fit for every style.

SPACES

Spaces is a network of work spaces with offices, open areas and meeting rooms. They have three locations in Amsterdam, one in The Hague, and plans to expand to other European capitals. My Spaces of choice was their Herengracht location. I had written them in advance and upon my arrival Stephanie, one of the space managers, was kind enough to give me access to the Internet and let me work there for a few hours, enjoying the natural light and relaxing atmosphere.

Highlights

Spaces Herengracht has a restaurant/café and I love its concept, not only due to the fact that I always need something fast and healthy to eat on my busy days, but also due to the space it offers for meeting customers outside a meeting room and in a more relaxed atmosphere. Oh, and they also take care of your laundry if you want!

IMPACT HUB

Impact HUB requires no introduction. This international network of work spaces has locations in most big cities around the world where things happen, and Amsterdam could obviously not be missing from this list. This space recently moved from the city centre to a location a bit further away, close to the beautiful Westerpark. The space is still under construction (they were getting some phone booths done when I was there), but since its relocation it has filled up with busy bees again.

Highlights

The Amsterdam Impact HUB has differentiated areas based on noise levels - just like we do at co.up. I find it great to either be able to work in library-like silence or be as loud as I want in a room full of people networking and exchanging ideas. Another thing I loved at Impact HUB were their convertible whiteboards, which can be aligned to divide spaces or flipped over to be used as standing desks that can be written on.

KNOWMADS GREENHOUSE

Knowmads Greenhouse is a coworking space in the suburbs. It’s by far the most alternative of the spaces I visited in Amsterdam. Knowmads Greenhouse is located in a large, semi-industrial building and the character of the community can be seen everywhere: artwork and posters hanging on the wall, signs on the fridges, you name it… In addition to coworking, Knowmads Greenhouse also offers a programme for students who want to learn about entrepreneurship the hard way.

Highlights

Three words: Swings, Fitballs, and… ClubMate!

Which city shall we visit next?

Custom fields in CSV

We just enhanced our members CSV export. From now on when you have added any custom fields to your members these will be included in the export.

To add custom fields to your space go to Setup -> Custom Fields. After you have added at least one field there you can access and fill them in on each member’s page via the Custom Fields button.

To export your members as CSV click this little button at the top of the members list:

Partial invoice payments and more

We just added partial payments to invoices: whereas before an invoice could only be paid or not, now you can record multiple payments per invoice.

Say you have a member who regularly pays you by bank transfer. They upgrade their plan but forget to amend the transfer amount. Now you can record the amount you have been paid and Cobot keeps track of how much they still owe you.

Of course we track each payment made (or removed) giving you a nice audit trail of what happened with each invoice.

In addition we added a button ‘write off invoice’. Should a member not pay you you can now close an invoice instead of having it lurking around under open invoices forever.

Post mortem of yesterday’s outage

Yesterday the Cobot website was down for a bit over one hour. Downtimes are very rare at Cobot, so this was very annoying for you our customers, but also for us who strive for 100% uptime as much as possible.

As we tweeted yesterday…

… the hard drive our main database runs on ran out of space. Contrary to the tweet we did monitor that hard drive’s capacity, but unfortunately in a wrong way.

We use scout to monitor our servers and applications. This includes CPU load, hard disk capacity, memory usage, response times etc. For every hard drive we had set an alarm to email us should the drive become more than 80% full. At least we thought we had. By accident we had set the alarm to 80GB - which on a 20GB drive would never have fired. This is why the full hard disk was undetected until our database started throwing errors - which was around yesterday evening.

After wasting some time trying to free up space by compacting data we eventually added a new drive (actually a virtual EBS volume), shut down the site …

… and copied over the data. After that we spun up our database and the site was back up.

Conclusion

As usual it was human error. Had we thoroughly checked our alarm settings we would have been notified of the disk problems and could have solved them without any downtime. We have of course corrected the settings now so this should not happen again. We are sincerely sorry for what happened and have learned out part. Off to the next months with 100% uptime - like it should be.

Pfsense 2.1.0 ready

A few days ago we released a new patch that allows you to use Pfsense version 2.1.0 together with the Cobot wifi integration.

Our wifi integration allows you to force members to log in before they get access to the internet. This way you have control over who has access and how often and you can track attendance and usage of your space.

Prorated invoicing

Our new prorating feature allows you to invoice all your members on the same day of the month. In addition it creates an invoice for a new member for the time they started until their first “normal” invoice.

This is how it works: We just added a checkbox to the member confirmation dialog called “send prorated invoice”.

Suppose today is Nov. 6th and a new member signed up.

You want to charge your members on the first day of the month, so you select the first invoice to be sent on Dec 1st and check the checkbox.

The member is confirmed as normal. In addition they receive an invoice for their membership fees from today until Nov. 30.

To make this even easier you can set the default invoice day under Setup -> Invoice Settings. This way Dec 1st would have been filled out already as the first invoice date.

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