Pauline Roussel is the Co-founder of Coworkies, a platform to connect professionals in coworking spaces around the world. At the Coworking Spain Conference 2019 in Alicante, Spain, she sat down for an interview with Sam Bender, Communications Specialist at Cobot, the leading management software for flexible workspaces, and talked to him about the beginning of Coworkies, Latin American coworking scene and her favorite spaces around the globe. Enjoy!
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! My first question: Can you tell us a bit about what you do and Coworkies’ mission?
My name is Pauline Roussel, I’m the co-founder of Coworkies, the first global platform for jobs in coworking spaces.
It all started in 2015, in Berlin, Germany. I was the general manager of a coworking space (which still exists today). While I was managing that space I met my co-founder, who was both a member of that space and also working for a startup accelerator there. Working from this coworking space we realized that because we were startup focused, the community didn’t have direct access to freelancers or services providers they could work with when needed. We understood how time consuming it was for them to constantly look for other people to work with, without even knowing that they’d find the right person in the timeline they had.
We took a map and started to pin point coworking spaces around us that had many professionals that could benefit our community and realise there were zero bridges built between all of us. We wondered if there was a way for us to build those bridges and extend these communities to build a coworking network.
We did a lot of research, starting by interviewing coworking operators in Berlin. Then, we did a global survey to understand how coworkers used coworking spaces and if networking was important — it turns out that it is extremely important. To understand the market from a wider perspective, we decided that it would be interesting to see how coworking is done in other cities, not just Berlin. At first we thought “let’s go to two or three cities”. Our first stops were Milan, Barcelona, and London, at that point the idea was just to understand how coworking is done all over Europe.
As it turns out, we just never stopped traveling while building the platform, as of today we’ve been to 395 coworking spaces in 49 cities around the world. We’ve gathered a community of 650+ coworking spaces from very different walks of life and very different backgrounds. Our primary mission today is to help people find and offer jobs in coworking spaces so that they can pay their desks; and for coworking spaces to promote themselves, get promotion, and understand how their members are hiring and support them in the hiring process.
How did you originally get involved in coworking?
I never really planned to go into coworking, to be honest. I didn’t even know what coworking was in 2014. My background is in communications and marketing, I lived in Paris for more than six years; and as much as I loved Paris — I still love it — life there was pretty hard. I decided I would do something new so I moved to Berlin. I still worked at a communications agency there, but it was for the European Commission, which was not my thing; too slow, too big. I decided I wanted to cut off from communications agencies because I wanted to try something new, and go a different way, even if I didn’t know exactly what that would be.
I found a job offer for a role called Chief Happiness Officer. I was drawn in by the title and I saw it was in a coworking space, something I had never heard of before. When I visited the space I was like: “Oh my god this is such a cool office: I want this job!” So I did everything I could and I got it; which is how I ended up in coworking. It’s also very much linked to our mission today to help coworkers find the job that will make them happy, to work in better places, which to me coworking spaces definitely are.
You’ve traveled the world going to unique coworking spaces, what do you think sets Latin American coworking apart from the rest of the world?
Unfortunately we haven’t had the chance to travel to Latin America yet, but it’s definitely on the map. That being said, we do have coworking spaces fro Latin America on the platform and I love to see how diverse they are. Whether they are located in the heart of buzzing cities like Bogota or in very remote locations like on the beach of Costa Rica, it’s really inspiring to see that there are spaces opening up everywhere and not just in big cities. I get the sense that community is such a key component of the entire way they’re doing coworking.
What do you think coworking spaces in LATAM can learn from spaces around the world?
I will tackle your question from a broader perspective. After traveling to North America, Europe, and then Asia, I see that there is a lot that each and every city, country or continent can learn from each others.
I always like to give the example of Europe vs Asia. Here in Europe, coworking started more than a decade ago. whereas in Asia, it started and blossomed more recently. Spaces that open now have the chance to look at established spaces anywhere in the world and learn from them. They use those learnings that have been around for ages to create super professional concepts from the beginning. I think any space in Latin America that is interested in understanding how they can go forward should see what some international spaces have done successfully. On that topic, we are writing a book about our travels and that’s the mission of the book: to inspire spaces from around the world to learn from each other and connect with each other — so that can also be a good resource for them to learn from.
Could you tell us a little bit about your favorite space in Berlin, Paris, or somewhere else that is special to you in the world? What do they do that makes them unique?
The question of favorites is funny, because everybody always asks us what our favorite space is and it’s tough for me to say. I believe coworking is a bit like hotels. I might choose a hotel that I like but the reasons I like it might be the reasons you don’t like it. That said, while I don’t want to make generalizations I do like spaces that consider experience in the workplace. If I come in I want to feel like there’s something happening right from the moment I enter the space; things like being greeted by someone and not looking for the community manager who’s running the space.
In Berlin there are so many coworking spaces and they’re all so different — it’s a tricky question. I like Jugglehub, which is a coworking space for parents. I find the concept extremely innovative. I love the team who is running the space and I love the vibe inside the space, I don’t have kids but the family friendly vibe helps to bring people together. I also like St. Oberholz because I think the team is extremely professional in the way they do things. They’ve put together amazing spaces, the new one they’re opening looks really beautiful. I also like The Factory, even though they don’t call themselves a coworking space. I think what’s good with them is that they have a really big community that you can tap into when you need it which is not the case at other Berlin coworking spaces. The Factory has something like 3,000 members and as I was a part of the community I found it extremely useful to be able to connect easily with people.
In Paris — it’s a tough question because Paris also has so many — one space I really like is Deskopolitan. I think what I like about them is that they are super innovative. In their coworking space, for instance, they have a bar, they have a shop where they sell their own branded products, they have a beauty salon, and now they’re opening a second space where they have a kita [preschool] with coliving inside; I really like that they are very forward thinking. And what I love about Paris of all the cities we’ve visited is that it has the most offices, meaning coworking and cafes, and this is really really cool to experience.
Thanks for sitting down to talk with us for COLATAM! Any last words of advice for anyone getting started running a space?
If you are reading this interview and considering opening a space I would advise you to think about why you want to open a space. Work on your uniqueness and your differentiation. I’ve seen many people who unfortunately didn’t succeed because they thought doing coworking or opening a coworking space was easy: it’s really not; and also thought that coworking will bring you a lot of income, truth is: it won’t. At least if you just do coworking. So really work on your uniqueness and differentiation and understand the true reason why you want to do this, that’s what’s going to make you stand out from other coworking spaces around you.
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