The Story Behind the World’s Biggest Coworking Conference

The Global Coworking Unconference Conference landed in Asian territory for the first time.

Held December 4-5 in Shanghai, GCUC China became the world’s biggest coworking conference overnight.

“It’s kind of a funny story” –  Liz Elam, founder of GCUC and Link Coworking, told OT  on how GCUC China came to happen.


It all started during GCUC’s Australia edition, held in June of this year. Brad Krauskopf from HUB Australia and GCUC Australia suggested that Liz talk to Bob Zheng, from People Squaredabout doing GCUC China in 2016.

Liz didn’t think twice and immediately pitched the idea to Bob; China should have its own edition, and 2016 would be the year for it. He said he would think it over.  

Bob came back the next morning, he had consulted his team and he was in. Except, he had one catch. Turns out that 2016 wasn’t what Bob had in mind; aware of the rapid growth of coworking and the pull that it’s had in the region, he was set on having the conference happen this year. No excuses, no buts.

Now this, Liz did think twice.

Six months isn’t nearly enough time to plan a conference, especially considering she was based halfway across the world from where the conference would take place. But, Bob was adamant.

So it was that GCUC China was set to happen before the end of the year.

Liz had the role of providing the name, guidance, knowledge, and insight; while Bob and his team were in charge of organizing and putting the event together. Weekly calls between Liz and the team in Shanghai were set up and the project started to move forward.

Fast Forward to December

上海万科Unconference时间“I show up in Shanghai a week before the event. I walk into the venue the night before and there’s about 70 people setting up. I’ve never had 70 people set up an event. There were three giant, giant, LCD screens, a beautiful stage, a podium….it was like a dream.”

“Next day, about 600 people show up; making it the world’s biggest coworking conference up to this date.” People from Korea, Australia, the US, Singapore, and more were present.

“It was a very big, international gathering.”

The conference was a great success. The setup was amazing, but so were the speakers (full list of speakers here).

Why GCUC China is Important

The speed at which China can get spaces open is incredible and unstoppable. (Bob Zheng mentioned he is looking to open three more spaces before the end of the year and Work+ is also planning explosive growth.)

Velocity and excitement in terms of coworking in China is a clear indicator of what’s coming from China in the future. “It certainly helps that the Chinese government understands that they’re currently viewed as the low cost manufacturing country.  They want to learn from the western world and become a start up nation and coworking is essential in that plan.”

“Coworking in Asia, China specifically, is making coworking in the US look like it’s standing still.” says Ms. Elam

She explains coworking as a global wave that had been pulling back, gaining strength, and is about to start its full-on forward motion.

Coworking Facts Discussed

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace was the keynote speaker and he delivered a compelling talk.  

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Rocketspace is a unique accelerator in that they have had 50 unicorns come through their unique environment.  

Duncan Logan from Rocketspace during his presentation

Duncan Logan, from Rocketspace, during his presentation

No, we’re not talking about the mythical horse with rainbow mane and horn. It’s a start up that has generated sales in excess of 1 billion in 5 years or under.

Duncan shared some interesting facts and stats during his presentation. Here we have some of them:

40% of the Real Estate Industry will move towards the Serviced Office Industry in the  US.

He believes that Coworking is the largest business opportunity of our lifetime.

80% of business transactions in the industry are 500sq ft or under

Duncan also pointed out that the main issue affecting the Coworking Industry is that many operators are simply basing their model on lease arbitrage (WeWork’s business model that also leads to higher valuation).

The problem with lease arbitrage is that it works in a good economy but it’s too dangerous if no long-term deals and rates are established.

He closed by stating that the way to differentiate yourself is to focus on coworking’s most important resource: the people.



Photos compliments of GCUC


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