We spoke with Pauline Roussel, Co-founder of Coworkies, about their upcoming book release and what she learned from visiting over 250 coworking spaces around the world.
Hi there Pauline, thanks for chatting with us in anticipation of your upcoming book release: Around the World in 250 Coworking Spaces. Can you tell us about the concept and what inspired it?
Hi and thanks for having me!
Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces is very much linked to what we’ve been doing over the last 4 years: traveling the world of coworking and flexible spaces to understand the impact such work environments have on people and cities globally.
Now, I can imagine your readers might wonder why we got interested in the impact of coworking and flexible workspaces in the first place. Back in 2015, I was actually the General Manager of a Berlin coworking space myself. The space I was running was targeted at early stage startup founders and was initiated by business angels from the city. We also add an accelerator in-house, called Startupbootcamp, where 10 selected startups were given the tools and resources to accelerate their businesses in just 3 months.
Working from that space everyday, and together with Dimitar, who was Entrepreneur in Residence for that accelerator at the time, we started to notice how much content and opportunities were created in the space every single day. From a 10 minutes pitch leading to a $1 million investment (that’s a true story) to companies merging for the better or friendships starting, we were constantly hearing members say “if I was not part of that community, this would probably have taken ages to happen, or it would maybe even not ever have happened.”
Hence, we got really curious to understand what was happening in other coworking spaces across the city, that were not just about startups. To figure it out, and as Berlin was quite a nice playground for that at the time, we started to travel around the city to meet coworking founders, discover their spaces and hear their stories. The diversity and breadth of experiences contained in coworking spaces blew our minds. From coworking spaces for parents called JuggleHUB to coworking spaces for musicians, there were so many different communities who were thriving in those environments and functioning like small sustainable ecosystems.
After Berlin, we wondered what was coworking like in other countries. Luckily for us at the time, we got invited to Milan, to visit a coworking space that had a school in-house, teaching digital jobs to its students. Seeing that, coworking mixed with education was truly impressive. While in Milan, we continued our tour and visited more interesting spaces, all with very unique stories.
From then on, we never stopped traveling. Today, we visited 420 coworking spaces across 47 cities, from Tokyo all the way to New York.
While we didn’t start traveling with the intention to write a book about what we saw, the idea actually came while traveling from the spaces themselves. I believe the first time we heard it was in a coworking space called Based In in New York. Its founder, Tomas, told us during our meeting “you guys have seen so many spaces already, you should write a book.” As it was the first time we heard it, we didn’t go back home to start writing but somehow, I believe a seed was planted. And from then on, we started to hear it more and more. The people we were meeting were projecting themselves in our travels and saying “I would love to read a book of coworking stories, to see what coworking looks like in other regions of the world and take the time to discover new interiors, concepts and communities.”
Just like that, the concept of Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces was born.
The book is a collection of unique stories, bringing the reader on a travel journey around the world of coworking. We’ve invited 250 founders and managers to share their stories, bringing different perspectives to coworking in its essence, its business model, its daily management and its interior.
Readers will be able to travel to the remote mountains of Japan to discover a coworking space where remote workers are thriving… in the middle of nature. They will also discover incredible coworking stories, like the one of Sankt Oberholz, one of Berlin’s first coworking spaces.
Did that concept change once you started connecting with spaces and collecting material?
The essence of the book has always remained the same. Through it, we like to say that we want to inspire the curious, giving knowledge to the seekers and encourage the indecisive about coworking, coliving and flexible workspaces.
That being said, the concept evolved with time, more in its structure, like: should we have chapters? If so, what kind of chapters? City chapters or maybe type of spaces chapters? But thinking about it, we felt that by doing so, readers would have less freedom to create their own journey with the book. Hence, we created a new kind of reading experience, where the reader is the one deciding where they want to go and/or what kind of spaces they want to discover. To make that happen we developed tags at the beginning of the book that will guide the reader wherever they are interested in going.
We’ve also varied the type of stories to give a new kind of reading rhythm to the overall book, ensuring that in 3 minutes time or 3 hours, anyone can get plenty of inspiration.
How did the pandemic change your research methods and content?
Before the pandemic hit, we had already collected and worked on quite some content. When we started receiving emails from spaces featured in the book that they were either shifting their concept or closing their spaces, we understood that we had to pause the project to see how everyone would adapt. During the first lockdown, we stopped writing and started to rethink the stories we had written already.
We thought that releasing a book post COVID-19, without talking about COVID-19 would not be as impactful as what we wanted, hence we reworked our interview questions and almost restarted the entire process, to ensure that the stories we collected were as accurate as possible when the book would come out, without being just all about COVID-19.
Who do you hope you will reach with the book and what do you hope others can learn from these stories?
That’s a very interesting question!
We believe Around The World in 250 Coworking Spaces is for everyone. Whether you already know a lot, just a little or nothing about coworking, there will be something for you to learn and get inspired from. For anyone gravitating around the coworking, coliving and flexible workspaces industry, the book is full of amazing stories worth discovering and getting inspired from. For designers, architects and interior designers, the book is also a great resource for discovering new work environments, how they come to life and how they have the capacity to transform an urban landscape into something completely different.
The book itself, as a product, is also beautifully and carefully designed. It’s an experience in itself, right from its cover that will surely surprise you. We’ve conceived it as a beautiful object, one that would beautify any shelves. We pictured it in coworking spaces and thought it should stick out, hence its vibrant color.
Anything else you’d like to share about the launch? How can interested readers order a copy?
Yes! We actually decided to launch the book in 2 phases:
- A pre-launch which is now happening on Kickstarter where we offer our extended community the possibility to get the book at a discounted price while also helping us initiate the printing process so that by mid to end of March, we can all have the book in our hands and start sharing our favorite stories.
- Then, in March, when the book comes out, we will attach it to many online happenings to continue the conversation and even deepen it on certain topics.
Great times are coming for the coworking and coliving (because yes, we also do feature coliving spaces) spaces through the book! Anyone interested in knowing more or even getting a copy, make your way on our Kickstarter and/or on our website if you are interested in getting more copies than what we provide on Kickstarter.