Aldea Cowork: A Flexible Office Success Story in Patagonia

Marc Navarro
Apr 8, 2021
Aldea Cowork: A Flexible Office Success Story in Patagonia

Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

Marcelo Moragas’ passion for his hometown, Osorno, located in Chilean Patagonia, is evident from the first time you talk to him. In fact, it is very likely that while talking about Aldea Cowork you will hear “Osorno” at least a dozen times.

Volcano Osorno, Chile

After hopping around in the tourism sector and working in the public sector, in 2014 Marcelo received an assignment from his family to tidy up a property they had been renting for 20 years. The space was far from what Marcelo would have wanted; many of the tenants had been subletting and the space was grimy and dilapidated. He decided to take the space back. But when he asked himself what he was going to do with it, he was reluctant to lease it back to a private individual; he did not want to be in the same situation again after a few years. Leasing it to a company was not an option since they did not have an elevator or parking, or other features that buildings from the 60’s didn’t have. And then coworking crossed his path.

He remembered that he had heard about the coworking movement in the United States and in the newspaper El Mercurio. Determined, he said to himself:

“I don't know anything about coworking, I'm going to get advice from someone who knows more than I do and that is from somewhere close to where I live.”

Fortunately, in 2012 Nube was founded in Valdivia (a little more than an hour north of Osorno). They signed a revenue share agreement and started working under the Nube brand from 2014 to 2017.

“The first Coworker we had was a foreign digital nomad and the first activity in May 2015 we did it hand in hand with Wayra.”

Shortly after that they applied to a Corfo (a Chilean government development organization) program that promoted the development of coworking spaces in the different regions of Chile “the public policy of Chile at that time [2015] established that coworking was a tool to democratize opportunities in the regions of Chile. The requirement was to have a space that was already working.... From there we executed a program co-financed with Corfo [the public entity assumed 70% of the program] that lasted three years and allowed us to develop the first core of Chile Cowork [the national coworking association of Chile].”

Aldea Cowork

In 2016 after a trip to New York, they rethought their agreement with Nube. “We started to know coworking and we started to look for our own path.” In January 2018 they changed their name to Aldea Cowork.

“I realized that the value of a cowork was the management of its community”

Since 2020 they have been carrying out the Hazlo en Osorno program, which aims to contribute directly to the growth and internationalization of startups in the southern zone of Chile together with Corfo, Austral Incuba, and Mentores de Impacto.

“We mix different elements such as coworking space, private offices, incubation, mentoring, soft landing [helping companies quickly get settled], acceleration... That is part of the Chilean model because as we are so few inhabitants and the economy is small, each actor has to address different lines of work.”
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Another project that Marcelo highlights is the construction of a “Work Café” for an aquaculture company in Puerto Montt. I asked Marcelo about the impact of the Work Café created by Santander Bank, which are quite common in Chile.

Aldea Cowork

“It has generated a country branding issue. Their innovation was born in Chile with a Spanish company and a national company. But although they have connected with the ecosystem in Santiago, they have not lowered their value proposition to other regions. According to what the branch executives themselves have told me, they are a bank branch and any activity with local actors must request permission from the Santiago headquarters. There is a lot of marketing and value for the bank’s client, but in terms of its real connection with local ecosystems outside Santiago it is zero. Santander lacks a real involvement with what is happening in the regional ecosystems.”

Another factor I would like to highlight is that, unlike in other countries, Marcelo has never thrown around accusations of unfair competition or similar criticisms. Why? We asked him about the user profile of these spaces: “someone looking for ‘free,’ someone looking for good coffee and likes to ‘vitrinear’ [to sit idly and watch the crowd].”

In other words, these cafés do not target the same type of customer as a private coworking space. If a private coworking space “suffers” from this competition, two things may be happening: their value proposition is not adequate or they doesn’t know how to communicate to their potential audience. What is clear is that if you give something (or it is perceived that you provide a service) at a cost while another company offers the exact same thing for free, you have a problem.

In Osorno they are in their fourth quarantine and Marcelo attributes it to the customs of southern Chile; people are not willing to follow the recommendations of “not getting together" which causes many “family clusters of contagion.” In this pandemic scenario, Marcelo tells us, the client profile has changed, but above all he highlights the need for people to look for even more flexibility. “Today a month for anyone who comes to ask is like a year before, because no one can project beyond a week. Today we are valuing leasing by weeks, hours or days.”

The question no one has asked Marcelo is: What are you doing in Osorno (Implying: Why haven't you gone to another more important market)? The answer is that Marcelo has a commitment to his city, to his region.

“I have a purpose to do things from here. New things, not the same old things.”

This is the spirit that has led Marcelo to succeed in maintaining his turnover in pandemic: services are 70% of today's billing whereas before it was around 30%.

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!

Marc Navarro

Coworking and organization consultant. Content Director of the CoworkingSpain Conference. Created the coworking with social return concept.