Justin Harley is the executive producer of the first ever GCUC (pronounced “juicy”) coworking conference in Europe. GCUC UK takes place in London in September.
What does “coworking” mean to you?
Coworking is disrupting the real estate industry by providing places to get work done. Coworking spaces offer flexibility, great value for money, a sense of belonging and community and, above all, a chance to meet and share. I love the fact that coworking businesses focus on the needs of a customer rather than the physical space. Whilst many spaces are beautifully designed and very cool, the real benefit is that, as a member, my business is supported and can grow with a coworking membership.
What does the British coworking scene look like? How is it different from other European markets?
It would be difficult to say how it’s different from European markets as I am not an expert, but coworking in the UK is red hot right now. The market is growing, investment capital is pouring in and coworking is now considered mainstream by most commercial real estate analysts and landlords.
With that, there is increased competition. One of the topics requested by coworking operators is, “Is the coworking bubble about to burst?” Operators need to work out how to coexist with landlords, such as British Land and the Crown Estate, who are dipping their toes into the market. Differentiation will be key.
The first GCUC UK is happening this September in London, which is a very large and mature coworking market. How have flexible workspaces changed the city so far?
Flexible workspaces have been around in the UK for over 30 years. There are a few that claim to be the first, but I won’t start that argument! In the last eight years or so, coworking has evolved in London. The main effect has been that spaces of 5000 square feet and smaller simply aren’t being let as traditional leases. Anyone wanting 5000 square feet and less will use shared space or coworking spaces. Shared space accounts for just over 4% of the London property market and the real estate agents think that will grow to over 20%. The effect on London is that small businesses enjoy flexibility and a great choice of spaces. There are so many brilliant places to work.
Do you think that local coworking communities are important? How can they help space owners to grow and improve their businesses?
The community is key to coworking spaces. I was at a small meetup recently and the difference between the culture of the real estate industry and coworking providers was very noticeable. The community focus is something coworking operators are passionate about. So long as their members benefit and thrive, the community will continue to evolve to support the needs of its members.
Please share some tips on how to start a coworking community in places where one doesn’t exist yet.
I am not a coworking operator, but I do work in a coworking space and am happy to share what works for me. What I enjoy about the community I belong to is I can choose to get involved whenever I like, but its not “in my face.” The space provider I use has made a real effort to make me feel welcome. They wanted to know about my business and my needs, and this was a human asking me not an online form! They then put me in touch with other members who could help and really made sure I understood all the tools that are available. Lastly, I love the fact that the operator has a printed magazine with really interesting content and there is always a broad range of events, both work-related and social.
And finally: Where can we find you (and your project) on social media?
The website is uk.gcuc.co and we are delighted to offer Cobot members and customers a 30% discount on tickets. Just use the code “cobotfriends” on the standard ticket to save money. You can also follow us on twitter @gcucgb where we have lots of great content.
5 questions with… is a series of short interviews with coworking experts and industry leaders from around the world who share their unique perspectives and experiences on coworking.
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