Introducing GCUC Places: A Q&A With GCUC Founder, Liz Elam

‘GCUC Places’ is a network that enables workspaces to compete with larger brands while also giving members the ability to travel between spaces seamlessly.
  • ‘GCUC Places’, launching in January 2021, is a network dedicated to small and medium sized coworking spaces.
  • It enables spaces to compete with larger brands while also giving members the ability to travel between spaces seamlessly.
  • Allwork.Space spoke with Liz Elam to find out more about GCUC Places and how it works.

The pandemic triggered a step change in the way we view and use the workplace. Eager to escape the solitude of the home office yet wary of returning to city offices, many workers are now turning to regional and suburban workspaces to get their social fix.

Suggested Reading: 6 Ways the Pandemic is Changing Flexible Workspace

This is great news for workspaces in regional areas, but it raises a new challenge: how can regional spaces position themselves to catch this influx of demand? How can independent spaces compete with larger brands to get noticed, without spending much-needed cash reserves on marketing?

The answer, according to GCUC’s Liz Elam, is to make use of networks that do the legwork for you. That’s why GCUC is launching its own aggregator on January 11th, called ‘GCUC Places’, to enable smaller spaces to compete with other brands while also giving workers the chance to find and travel between spaces seamlessly.

Allwork.Space spoke with Elam to find out more about GCUC Places, how it all started, and what’s in store for the global coworking community in 2021.

Allwork.Space: Tell us a little about GCUC Places and how it all started.

Liz Elam: I’m really excited about it! GCUC Places is something we have always wanted to do but we didn’t really have a good way to do it. It wasn’t until we started seeing all the aggregators launch white label sites for corporations, then we thought, hey, can we get a white label? We talked to a lot of the top aggregators and we ended up going with LiquidSpace. So GCUC Places is a white label of LiquidSpace, and what I really like about it is that it’s super easy to use and set up.

GCUC Places launches in January 2021.

Allwork.Space: Why now? Was it triggered by the pandemic?

No, we’ve wanted to do it for a really long time. We just didn’t want to build the infrastructure. Although I do have a tech background — I worked at Dell for almost 14 years — I didn’t want to build the technology and I didn’t want to maintain it. I wanted somebody else to do that part. So I’ve actually been thinking about doing it since I formed GCUC, back in 2011.

Allwork.Space: What do you want to achieve with GCUC Places?

What we want to do is lift up all the small and medium sized operators and put them in their own network. That way when someone comes to them and says, ‘Regus or WeWork gives us an international network of spaces’ they can say, ‘Yeah we have one too!’

We’re focusing on smaller operators and giving them an additional amenity and benefit to sell their coworking space and differentiate themselves in the market. So we’re not going to offer massive operators the opportunity to join as our focus is lifting up small to medium businesses. Maybe in the future we will have a tiered approach, but for now it’s all about small and medium sized operators.

Allwork.Space: So if a larger operator comes to you and wants to join, you would turn them away?

Yes. At this time, our limit is probably going to be a maximum of 50 locations. It sounds counter-intuitive, but the majority of coworking owners are small to medium sized businesses. I have talked to two very large fortune 500 corporations about it, and they love the idea of supporting small and medium sized businesses over large corporations.

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Allwork.Space: How does it work — do operators first need to be part of the GCUC Membership?

Yes. You have to be a small operator in GCUC Membership, which is not expensive, and then you just opt-in to GCUC Places. If you’re already setup on LiquidSpace it’s seamless; some operators will need to get setup on LiquidSpace first to get into the network, which is super easy. From there, you’re agreeing to offer a 20% discount to any member in the network. So for example, if you’re a member of Office Space in Town in London, and you go to Dallas Texas, you can book into Common Desk at a 20% discount.

Allwork.Space: How is the network building out so far?

We already have over 100 locations at launch. They are primarily in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. We are allowing one-off locations outside of those areas but LiquidSpace is strong in all of those territories, so that’s our focus initially.

Allwork.Space: Having started the New Year with GCUC Places, what else is on GCUC’s agenda in 2021?

We are focusing our events around a quarterly theme. We recently took back operations for GCUC Canada and GCUC UK, which are now being operated from GCUC Global, so we needed to streamline things so that we could handle the whole world.

In the first quarter we’re focusing on designing for member re-entry. We’ll be looking at acquisition campaigns, re-engaging former leads, attracting the work-from-home or work-from-anywhere crowd, positioning your space as a contender for corporate clients, all those things. We’ll run these around the world on the same topic but each one will have a regional focus. At the end of the quarter we’ll have a global panel with one person from each region, and we’ll have a next level discussion.

We’ve been focusing closely on our community through GCUC Membership. That’s where we have an insane library of resources, a Slack channel that’s very active, and we’re really making membership the place where the coworking community can come and meet anytime they want. So instead of waiting for the next GCUC, you can engage with the community today, or any day you want to.

Allwork.Space: How do you think the next 6-12 months will pan out for coworking? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Absolutely! 100%. All the buzz about hub and spoke and ecosystems and the hybrid workplace equals growth for coworking and flexible spaces. Now workers can choose where they want to work and in my opinion, once they experience coworking, they will choose to keep working in these spaces. Because the one thing that people are really missing is community, the human factor; a space where they can be around other people. We weren’t meant to be solitary creatures, we were meant to be communal — and the pandemic has really hurt our need for community.

Some people are worried about growth. But I keep saying, the only growth you should be worried about is what’s going to happen when your space is full and you have a wait list.

Allwork.Space: Until that point, what are the fundamental things that coworking operators should be doing to see out these next few months?

Cash is king! Focus on your cash reserves and cut everything you possibly can. This is the time to go seriously lean. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve got to make it the rest of the way.

Make really smart decisions, have really good negotiations, do nothing frivolous. Ask yourself, how are you going to handle that growth? What are the things you could be doing now?

And if you think virtual communities don’t work, I’m here to say — yes it does! I recently read about an operator who grew her online community during the pandemic from 400 members to 1500, and at the same time, she raised $1 million. So get ready. Take this opportunity to get very strategic about what you are going to do when it all comes back.
Find out more about GCUC Places at GCUC Community.

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