According to the Pop Up City we aren’t doing enough to cater for ‘digital nomads’ and ‘global citizens’ – that is, people who move around for work and set up office wherever they can find a space to plug in a laptop. Apparently these bright young sparks often feel alienated or lonely in their experiences and would like to feel more involved with others in similar situations. So, we were heartened this week to read about an excellent bit of restaurant space planning, in the form of ‘Spacious’ – a New York based company that is making maximum use of the available space in the city, by opening up restaurants – which are normally only open during the evening – and transforming them into temporary co-working spaces during the daytime.
The scheme charges a very modest $95 a month and provides a sophisticated app for the ‘cosmopolitan tribe’ to use to check in to any Spacious location. Along with a desk (or table) each location offers free Wi-Fi and unlimited coffee to all service users. In addition to providing these excellently priced co-working spaces, (I could spend $95 a month on coffee alone, never mind the desk and the Wi-Fi!) the company also helps the restaurants by paying them for the space used and effectively sharing their profits.
Talking to GDR, CEO and founder of Spacious, Preston Pesek describes their vision for the Spacious brand and what sets them apart from other co-working arrangements and traditional offices. For starters, it’s not just a case of ‘bums on seats’ – the participating restaurants are specially chosen for their design and location:
“We look for beautiful spaces that people would want to be a part of, so we spent a lot of time thinking about quality of design and ambience. The aim is to find inspired but productive space that’s not necessarily an office. We also considered location very carefully. Each restaurant needs to be located in a good neighbourhood that’s central and easy to get to. We’re opening our third location in July and we’ll continue to open about one space a month after that. We want each restaurant to benefit from the buzz around the opening, which is why we’re staggering them.”
He suggests that Spacious has the advantage over other existing co-working schemes such as WeWork ($450 a month) because they have a much more flexible arrangement with their vendors:
“The big advantage for us is that we haven’t had to enter into any long term fixed leases with landlords. By partnering with restaurants, we’re using space that is otherwise sitting empty, so we can do that at a much better price point.
“It’s also really advantageous for the restaurants – it’s a win, win, symbiotic relationship. Running a successful restaurant in a city like New York or London is no easy feat. We hope that partnering with Spacious will allow existing and future restaurant partners to focus on what they do best in the evenings, their food and hospitality, without having to worry so much about the rent. We hope to enable restaurants to take a few risks and experiment.
“Also, with Spacious members in the space all day, there’s a direct sales opportunity. Chefs are already working in the kitchen all day, and Spacious members provide an audience for them to test small plates and new ideas on those working in their space. Our members love this idea too, a little taste of the dinner menu while you’re working throughout the day.”
According to Pesek, Spacious are now seeking to expand to other cities in the US, such as San Francisco, which is a hub for co-working spaces, startups and young entrepreneurs – but if their workspaces are transient, surely their living spaces are too? How can this be addressed?
Spacious could do worse than to open a chain in Denmark – where one group have proven that co-living doesn’t have to be a depressing side-effect of the housing crash! In Copenhagen young entrepreneurs and digital nomads are also developing flexible co-living spaces in order to accommodate their needs. Nest is one such project – a 21 room apartment complex which is home to some of the city’s most promising entrepreneurs. The project has been running for around three years. The environment is community-oriented and requires residents to participate in regular traditions and events, such as weekly dinners.
Resident chairman Analise Winther explains why this is so important for their community:
“If you don’t add value, you don’t receive value…when you have smart people living together: good things happen!”
Residents are required to be highly skilled and interested in developing a startup. While residents do not have to have necessarily started their own business, all need to be quite high-level in terms of their experience, and must be working within the startup industry – and living together helps to fan the flames of creativity. Over 56% of people living at Nest have ended up working together on startup projects.
Winther asserts that: “There’s no way you can leave Nest without having something good happen to you!”