First up on our Industry Game-Changer series is Liz Elam, founder of The Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) and founder of Link Coworking.
GCUC is the physical manifestation of what the coworking movement stands for: collaboration (at its finest).
We human beings crave social interaction; this is one of the reasons why coworking spaces continue to be popular even when working from home is an option. So, in order to practice what the industry preaches about the importance of interaction, collaboration, and sharing, Liz Elam decided to put into practice what coworking spaces are all about.
It all started back in 2011, when Elam attended the Coworking Unconference hosted by the now shuttered Loosecubes. .
“I attended the Coworking Unconference in 2011 and I didn’t even know what an ‘unconference’ was. I found it out it was day of crowd sourced content and it was AWESOME! It was here that I realized how important it was (and still is) to form meaningful relationships with other people within the industry.”
At the time, coworking was just beginning to make some loud noise, and Elam wanted coworking to have its own voice and name. “I wanted to proliferate what I experienced in Austin and share it around the world.”
This is how GCUC came to be the first global coworking conference.
In an industry where everything is fast evolving, Elam needed to implement a model that would be resilient enough to withstand the industry’s changes. She chose the unconference format.
“I loved the unconference format. It was a unique way to form an agenda and insured that the content was relevant.“ Since the first edition in 2012, GCUC has been at the front and center of the industry’s growth and evolution.
“I think GCUC is the place people go to learn and to share their experiences. It’s what makes coworking and GCUC so unique. It’s not just about what benefits myself and what makes me and my space more profitable, but about how we can all improve and learn from one another.”
“Our presenters and speakers really open up and share their knowledge. This is groundbreaking in today’s day and age.”
GCUC is the epitome of the new way of doing business. It’s all about collaboration. Elam is frequently stating that “we’re collaborators not competitors.”
It’s the place where meaningful partnerships are formed. People find jobs and business bloom. It’s the platform that allows everyone in the industry to get to know each other. It’s where people go to find out what the next big thing in coworking is and who we should keep an eye on.
GCUC: Shaping the Workspace Industry
GCUC wouldn’t be the success it is without the brain and spark of Elam. She is fun, dynamic, and hands-on; and this is reflected in all GCUC events.
“We change every year, depending on what’s happening and what attendees ask for. We’ve changed the nature of our coworking tours, we’ve created camp GCUC, then we made camp GCUC its own stand alone event. We’ve added tracks to GCUC.”
But most importantly, Elam says, “as the industry has grown older, our content has evolved. From how to start your coworking space, to how to fund your coworking space, how to address legal issues, how to form partnerships, how to make your coworking space successful and sustainable — GCUC is no longer just for the beginner, but it’s also for those who have been in the coworking business for years.”
GCUC is the place where Verizon and Staples first got involved with coworking. It’s also the place where various technology companies have been introduced with coworking. (Fun fact: GCUC was also the first coworking conference Adam Neumann from WeWork attended.)
This has led to significant partnerships between coworking and other industries, and also to tech companies finally creating products around coworking.
These, however aren’t the only instances of GCUC bringing people and companies together.
When talking about what’s next for coworking and the workspace industry, this is what Elam has to say:
“More specialization is coming in coworking and more niche spaces will be created. But, at the same time, you will see a blurring of lines between business centers, coworking, accelerators, and incubators. They will all come together and blend.”
“There’s also going to be more consolidation within the industry. You will see different operators coming together as more spaces are bought by larger brands. This is without a doubt going to happen because brands are looking to expand outside of their geography.”
We’ve already seen Regus do this with Spaces, but COCO has also done it recently by acquiring Enerspace in Chicago.
Coworking is global, and GCUC is bringing the global aspect together, by hosting GCUC editions across the world. GCUC has gotten ahead of the coworking boom in the USA, in China, in South America, and it’s set to do the same in Singapore.
Elam has a knack of identifying markets that are gaining momentum before people there even realize it, and next up on the juicy list is Singapore and Australia.
Elam has already predicted that more consolidation will take place within the industry. But she’s willing to put her money on this:
“I believe that in about five to seven years (maybe less) the word ‘office’ will be considered archaic and offices will be referred to as coworking.”
Will this prediction come to pass? Or is Elam getting ahead of herself? Find out for yourself at the next GCUC conference, where you’ll discover the next wave of coworking trends and meet the game-changers of tomorrow.