An interview with Martyna and Katarzyna from O4 Coworking
The Coworking Now Conference just wrapped up its second edition in March in Gdansk. We were more than excited to support Coworking Now as one of the event’s sponsors and speakers.
The coworking scene in Poland is fresh and booming. We spoke to Martyna Czarnobaj and Katarzyna Bobińska — owners of O4 coworking and also the main organizers of the Coworking Now conference — about putting together major events and pushing/driving the Polish coworking scene.
Coworking Now just happened — how do you feel about the event? Tell us about your motivation to organize this conference?
We feel very satisfied, as we achieved our goals. Our first and core motivation was to share — knowledge, experience and the coworking spirit — with other coworking managers, but also with all potential partners and coworking newcomers. And this happened, without a doubt. We gave something — namely the opportunity to listen to great international speakers we knew from other conferences — and we also got something back, especially during unconference sessions.
Our second motivation was to promote the idea of coworking. This wouldn’t be possible without the event, which caught some media attention and allowed us to talk about the awesomeness of coworking in in many places and to many people.
Last but not least, our third motivation was the integration of the Polish coworking community. The final results will be seen with time, but the atmosphere was extremely positive and it was definitely the beginning of creating something of an assembly.
What were your highlights?
All the speakers gave great talks. One of the attendees even told us that he had never left a conference with so many notes! But if you’re asking about the “stars”, I want to mention Pauline Roussel with her nearly-300 coworking-space tour experience (great presentation!), Mike LaRosa (hands-on, inspiration bullet points ), Piotr Bucki (international communication expert talking about creating a good offer) and Claire Carpenter (her basics summary is always helpful).
What were the hot topics?
Business, money, sponsoring — those are big issues for Polish managers (maybe that’s the reason that Polish coworking spaces are generally more profitable than the global average , according to the report and survey carried out by O4).
Technology was the other hot topic — the Polish coworking scene is still very new and any kind of tech help is more than welcome.
Leading up to the conference, you started a national survey about coworking. What are the most impressive results?
There are many similarities with the global coworking movement: the same motivations to open coworking spaces, the same optimism, the same clients, the same challenges such as attracting new members.
But there are also differences: Polish coworking spaces are generally smaller than the global average. We are much more cautious than our European or Asian friends. 54 % of coworking spaces declare that they are profitable (compared with 40 % worldwide) and we have fewer women coworkers (30 %) than the global average for coworking spaces.
The biggest difference is the “coworkingness” . If you ask Polish coworking space members why they choose to work at coworking spaces, there are three main reasons: location, flexible rent and prestige. None of those factors are that important for, Berliner or French coworkers, for example — they’re more interested in the community, the atmosphere and the people.
How would you describe the status quo of the Polish coworking scene?
In our report we’ve grouped the Polish coworking spaces into 3 “personas”: devoted professional, distanced operator, and new enthusiast.
The first type is profitable, experienced and team-led, offers a lot of services and programs and is quite startup-oriented.
The second type is a distanced operator . They’re just there to provide a nicer office. It is small and typically located in smaller towns and follows a non-profit-non-loss model when it comes to managing people.
The last one is a simple beginner : they rent a space and are enthusiastic about the future , but the whole business is not yet profitable and is quite limited (not many services or projects).
This is a simplification, of course, but it gives an idea of the status quo.
What are coworking trends in Poland for the next months or next year?
Good question — I’m not really a trend-spotting person, but the one thing I’m certain about is that there will be more and more of us every year.
Do you already have plans to organize the conference again next year?
Of course ! The next conference will take place on April 4–5 2019, again in Gdansk at the O4 coworking. Save the date!
Both of you are coworking space owners. How would you describe your community and how did that inspire you to start the conference?
Our community is extremely diverse. And originally it was not very “coworking-enthusiastic”; we taught them every day why sharing, openness and networking are a positive thing. This was our main inspiration and the reason why we thought the conference was needed. Even our own members aren’t always very familiar with the scope of the coworking movement.
A warm thank you to Martyna and Katarzyna for answering these questions. We are looking forward to join Coworking Now again in 2019. Find out more about the conference here and be sure to attend it next year!
In the meanwhile — happy coworking!
Your Cobot team