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TechView: Mindspace Q&A

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Seattle, Mindspace, WeWork, coworking, startups, community, Microsoft, Expedia, Spotify, Samsung, Barclays Bank, AI, shared economy
Image courtesy of Mindspace

By Jack Stubbs

In the current real estate market, co-working and the utilization of shared office spaces has become an increasingly prominent trend, and companies across the globe are continually looking to stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly-evolving industry.

Mindspace, a company founded in 2014 by Dan Zakai and Yotam Alroy, is a global provider and designer of coworking spaces that operates in 25 locations worldwide. We recently spoke with co-founder and CEO Zakai about the company and the services it provides, how it looks to make an impact in an evolving marketplace and broader trends in the world of coworking.

Seattle, Mindspace, WeWork, coworking, startups, community, Microsoft, Expedia, Spotify, Samsung, Barclays Bank, AI, shared economy
Dan Zakai

What can you tell me about Mindspace (where and when the company was founded, current objectives of the company, etc.)? What are some of the day-to-day services that the company provides?

Mindspace is a global provider of coworking space for teams of all sizes. We are moving fast, with a growing family of locations in major world cities including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Munich, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt and Warsaw, among others. The Mindspace global community consists of over 12,000 members from startups, investment firms, and innovation teams from leading enterprises (such as Samsung, Barclays Bank,  Microsoft, Yahoo!, Expedia, Spotify). Mindspace goes far beyond your everyday coworking space and has set new standards. [The company] provides private office spaces both big and small, along with open workspaces for teams of all sizes, from startups, enterprises, and VC’s, through to entrepreneurs and creative independents.

Where does the company operate geographically and how does Mindspace ensure that its strategies translate successfully across different international contexts?

Following our success in Israel and Europe, we’ve been working on our U.S. expansion for the last several months. There are several factors that determine where we expand, including macro-economic trends that determine whether the need for coworking is on the rise and at what pace. Most U.S. cities score high on that index.

A combination of a great city, together with a unique opportunity for a fantastic location, determines our expansion order. San Francisco’s high-tech scene and economy are booming and we’re excited about our Market Center Building location on the border of [the South of Market neighborhood]. Washington D.C. also sees its startup ecosystem developing rapidly, and our offices at One Franklin Square at The Washington Post building have a stunning view of the Capital. We also recently acquired a partner stake in Europe-based KleinKantoor, taking the Mindspace brand to six locations in the Netherlands.

Who are some of MindSpace’s primary users, and how does the company ensure that its business model scales and translates effectively for different groups and organizations?

We’ve been seeing big trends toward enterprises, with many large companies approaching us for innovation centers, HQ as a service, and space to house teams or entire departments. Some notable [examples] include SAP, Booking.com, Microsoft, Expedia, Yahoo!, Spotify, Samsung.

As a coworking space, it is extremely important that we nurture a diverse community as we grow. Mindspace gleams with professional talent—VCs, angel investors, graphic and fashion designers, architects, programmers, real estate agents, lawyers, financiers, artists, media agencies, NGOs, incubators and accelerators. You name it. All professions are represented and welcomed at Mindspace.

What are some of the thought processes that go into determining which physical work spaces and meeting rooms to provide clients with? To what degree are these considerations client- and company-specific?

Our interior design team is extremely gifted and creative. They derive their inspiration for design from the streets, markets, bars and any place that’s not a workplace –anything that catches their eyes can be interpreted into interior design. In addition, they spend a lot of time researching the local market, the building, local trends and local artists before starting to design a place.

The design team [also] chooses young artists, with interesting portfolios that fit the overall look and feel of Mindspace. They do not look solely for known, well-established artists, but for those at the start of their career with an authentic tie to the city. While trying to create a distinction between each location—based on the local vibe, taste and culture—our team faces a constant challenge of securing the unique Mindspace vibe so that no matter which location our members visit, they will feel at home.

The various internal features and services that Mindspace provides are similar to those that other shared office spaces provide—how does Mindspace ensure that it is offering something different to its competitors? What are some of the challenges involved when it comes to staying ahead of the coworking curve?

We offer several elements that are unique to us, and provide a more premium, boutique style experience. First, we offer an outstanding work environment with exceptional attention to detail and artistic design. There is a ‘wow’ effect that you can immediately feel in our spaces. We also offer generously sized offices compared to many of our competitors.

It also comes down to the people; we have more on-site staff [relative] to community members than many of our competitors, so the responsiveness to needs and queries is much faster. We have everything from IT, operations, finance, event planning, and community managers directly on site, listening to and meeting the needs of our members.

In the short- and long-term, how will Mindspace look to bring something new to the table in such an active and saturated coworking marketplace?

In terms of looking ahead, we will continue to use technology to better serve our communities. We launched a Mindspace member app recently, that now has over 80 percent global adoption, and [our members] seamlessly use it to connect to a fast growing number of Mindspacers from all walks of life. They can also perform tasks, like booking meeting and conference rooms, swiftly and efficiently. We are also launching a broker referral platform in a couple of weeks that let’s our valued broker partners seamlessly refer, track and be rewarded for their client leads.

In an era where emphasizing collaboration and inter-company engagement is paramount, do you think the nature of work and productivity is changing? Why or why not, and what are some of the factors that account for this shift?

Companies work in a creative and productive atmosphere with other companies from whom they can benefit and with whom they can even build partnerships. We have conducted detailed studies in Germany, London and soon Poland, about the impact, design and layout of office on collaboration and productivity, and there is clearly a strong correlation.
Especially over the last couple of years, the use of coworking and shared office spaces, rather than the traditional office environment, has become an increasingly prevalent trend. What do you think accounts for this broader shift, and what do you foresee for the industry over the next couple of years?

A few factors have contributed to this. Certainly, one is rising rent rates in sought-after central locations. This makes it easier for startups/SMBs to choose coworking as a less risky, more flexible month-to-month option. Of course, the rise of the freelance/shared economy has also contributed, but we are seeing very strong growth in the enterprise sector as corporates are capitalizing on some of the clear benefits such as lower overhead costs. They are seeking inspiring locations to drive innovation, reaping the benefits of being able to offer employees a great experience, which helps them to attract and retain top talent. We expect this trend to continue.

Are there certain industries or companies in particular that you think will come to the forefront in the months and years ahead when it comes to transforming shared office spaces?

The rise of artificial intelligence within the tech ecosystem is set to reinvent the way we work, and it is fitting to see so many companies placing their development centers within the progressive walls of Mindspace.

For big businesses, moving their AI department into coworking can allow them to innovate just as fast as startups, help stimulate ideas and think more creatively than in an HQ or traditional environment. It can also give big businesses their ‘cool’ factor, helping to attract highly-skilled Millennials to join them. Concurrently, startups are inspired to work with greater speed, thrill and creativity. They can also leverage enterprises as a go-to market channel to validate their solutions and test it at large scale.

In the longer term, do you think coworking spaces and shared offices are here to stay?

What started a few decades ago as a solution for freelancers and young startups has now become a global phenomenon. Currently, more than one million people worldwide work in coworking spaces, and the number continues to grow. There is always a risk in a competitive market that some providers might not survive or struggle to keep up. But coworking has become a movement, in almost every city there is a market for it, and is here to stay Therefore, it is really exciting to see how this industry is developing.