Latest Coworking Industry Growth Statistics Comes out of Coworking Europe 2012

John Milhado - Coworking Conference Europe 2012
John Milhado - Coworking Conference Europe 2012

At the recent Coworking Europe Conference 2012 in Paris, the third annual event of its kind, ABCN’s John Milhado was in attendance to explore the latest coworking movements, share knowledge, and discover where the industry is heading next.

While the coworking sector might still be considered a fairly young industry, in today’s age of fast-moving business and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it technological advances, any industry that’s been around for more than a couple of years is going places. And coworking is no exception. Since DeskMag started observing the number of coworking spaces back in 2010, they counted 600 official spaces worldwide. Two years later, the figure stands at 2072 – a growth of 250% – which shows just how fast the sector is advancing.

The Coworking Europe Conference is progressing too. Now in its third year, last week’s three-day event was the biggest of its kind, attracting almost 300 delegates from more than 30 different countries – a sign of just how much attention the sector is generating.

According to ABCN‘s John Milhado, growth was one of the prevalent signs from the event. Creativity was another – as coworking spaces not only need a large dose of this to thrive, but it’s also in the way the space is designed to nurture the community and collaborative aspects of coworking. Indeed, the value of community and collaboration are the most important elements of coworking, and according to John, this is exactly what the conference reflected.

“There were many different types of coworking space and plenty of different coworking places in attendance, so everyone was learning from each other,” he said. “It was good to see the energy in the room and the strength of community feeling.” According to John, “quite a few business centre operators attended, and even some ABCN members from Australia, The Philippines, US and Belgium attended to see where this activity is going.”

John spent three days in the company of like-minded workspace experts and enthusiasts, listening to speakers, taking part in panels, soaking up brainstorming sessions and even finding time for visits to nearby ABCN member locations. During the conference, John was on a panel to discuss the differences between business centers and coworking centres. This is a key area for the business centre industry as for many, there is still a gulf between what they offer, and the type of community-led environment provided at successful independent coworking spaces.

For the business centre industry, tapping into the coworking movement is a key opportunity – and one that the sector needs to address. Some have got it, others haven’t, and some aren’t trying at all. According to John, despite the growth in coworking, the profits and future success of some coworking spaces remains “doubtful” – which is potentially preventing many business centres from actively pursuing the sector.

Furthermore, there is a difference between shared space and coworking – and it all comes down to the value of community. So vital is this core ingredient that DeskMag omits any workspaces from its count that do not meet the ‘community’ criteria. It claims that some business centres claim to have ‘coworking areas’ and use the term specifically to take advantage of a “trending topic” and to “capitalise on its national success”.

But ‘real’ coworking environments are not reserved for independent coworking spaces alone – as the list of attendees at the conference proves. There was a rise this year in representatives of the corporate sphere and industry stakeholders, such as Dutch hotel chain CitizenM. Other corporate forces included global telecoms giant Orange, which sponsored the event, and CBRE – whose  Joint Global Head of Workplace Strategy Group Ben Munn was among the speakers. Combine this with the news that Marriott Hotels recently started Workspring – a meeting space project designed specifically for small group collaboration – and it’s clear that the big players recognise the value of coworking and are keen to invest in its potential.

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So where is the industry heading next? The conference shows that for those business centres that get it right, and for coworking spaces that utilise collaboration and creativity to make both their community and profit margins successful, there is plenty of opportunity to thrive in the market. And in a sector that’s got corporate giants on its side and is doubling in growth year on year, right now it seems as though the only way for coworking is up. Not bad for a “young” industry.

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