Living Change Paris: ESCP meets Liberté Living Lab
Liberté Living Lab opened in October 2016. It is a unique hybrid location in the heart of Paris that gathered big companies, start-ups and general public in 2000m2.
It was born from the vision of the two founders who wanted to create a special place to promote social innovation. They aim at showing that business and social are not opposed to each other, rather they are complementary. They have three activities : they provide a coworking space for start-ups, advise corporates on innovative transformation and they organize events/workshops.
All the projects that are selected have to have a societal dimension : social impact, potential for growth, fitting their culture.
There are about 17 full time start-ups occupying fixed office, but there are also a few nomad projects which don’t stay here full time.
Apart from the 2 founders, 12 employees and 2 interns are working at Liberté Living Lab.
This place is very unique and uncommon. It is different and innovative in different ways :
First, the location itself embodies the disruptive mindset of the company. Everything is set up to make people feel comfortable and « at-home » like. There is an open canteen on the ground floor, where everyone can enter and have a vegan/gluten-free/organic friendly meal, as well as a conference space where they host events. They also have a inhouse movie theater, a meditation room and a collaborative library composed of the 10 favourite books of each employee.
« Liberté » is actually a pretty accurate name for this place since freedom seems to be the rule : there are no fixed office, people can work from anywhere they want (home office is also allowed to a certain extent). There are also flexible working hours, because actually what matters is that the job is done, no matter how you chose to do it and organize yourself.
The hierarchy is very flat, the only roles that exist are interns, junior, senior and co-directors/founders. Transparency is the key : most of the rules are unwritten but implicitely agreed by everyone, and they rely on mutual trust wether it is for salaries or companies revenues.
Liberté Living Lab has three sources of revenue:
- Rent from the resident and nomad startups
- Advising services to corporates on innovation and transformation
- Events organization
Liberté Living Lab has less than one year of activity ; they are not profitable yet.
Once they become profitable, they plan on reinjecting the profits into the development of the company. No dividends shall be distributed to the founders. They are profit-seeking but they want to use the profit to have a better social impact.
One specific aspect is that they are not an incubator for start-ups, neither do they take equity into their activities. They don’t provide mentorship to startups but in addition to a co-working space, they provide a stimulating ecosystem and work environment.
Liberté Living Lab does not work as a traditional company ; there are no investors who have stake in the company. The way they initially funded themselves is quite uncommon ; they pre sold innovation related services to corporates in exchange for initial funding. Société Générale is their biggest partner, at the launch of the project they bought for €500K of future advising services. The company was also funded with personal funds from the founders, love money, state subsidies and credit.
Liberté Living Lab has a strong and consistent vision inherited from the two charismatic and inspiring founders, that they apply at every level. For selecting start-ups and projects for example, they have to fill different criteria : have a social impact, replicable model, but they also have to fit the mindset (feeling is very important to them). Actually, the model is different from other coworking spaces because most of the time it is Liberté Living Lab who identify and contact the start-ups or projects they want to collaborate with. This way they ensure that all the people have aligned incentives.
Following this vision, they do not fear competitors because they see them as an opportunity for society improvement rather than a personal threat.
Liberté Living Lab was born only some months ago. It is still hard to really project themselves on the long run, but when we asked them if they were planning to open other offices in France or abroad, they told us no, because the value of their business relies within its people rather than the location : « people change people ».
They aim at making events the major part of their revenues so that they can use it to decrease prices of the rent. If they manage to do this, they also consider implementing a « universal salary » for start-ups, that is to say paying an equal basic revenue to all the entrepreneurs working here.
Liberté Living Lab is the living proof that alternative models are possible and can have a positive social impact while making profit. One sure thing is that its employees strongly believe in it and seem to be the happiest.
There is hope that business and altruism can coexist.