LABS is a new co-working company set up by Israeli businessman and owner of Camden Market, Teddy Sagi. It already has sites in Camden and Holborn and plans further openings in London, Tel Aviv and Bucharest. Business Info spoke to head of marketing Bianca Bass about changing work patterns and what co-working has to offer traditional businesses.
Business Info (BI): Why is Teddy Sagi investing in co-working spaces rather than a conventional commercial office block?
Bianca Bass (BB): Because co-working is the really exciting new way of working. There are big players in the sector, like WeWork for example, but if you look at the market share of the industry as a whole and compare it with how much it’s growing, it’s very early days – so there’s still a massive opportunity to make a mark in the industry and this movement. Secondly, Teddy’s identified a gap in the market for a co-working space that isn’t as informal as WeWork. Historically, co-working has offered a choice between informal spaces for freelancers and more creative types and very traditional Regus-type places. LABS is the middle ground, a really great balance between the two.
BI: Does the co-working model earn more?
BB: Yes it does, because a lot of the monetisation around co-working comes from additional services. Rather than just letting out a single floor to one company, you can monetise it through the technology you provide, through events, through café sales. It’s a much wider model.
BI: Does this make it an expensive choice for your tenants?
BB: No, it actually works out better for them. One of the interesting things we’re seeing, particularly in the wake of Brexit and some uncertainty around London, is that traditional tenants are coming across to this co-working model because it gives them flexibility. Rather than being tied in to a year-long contract, you have the option to go for a shorter term, say three months. This gives a business, particularly a growing business, the flexibility to expand or get smaller. It gives you more options than a traditional lease.
BI: Is co-working a long-term, growing trend or just a fad?
BB: It’s definitely a growth area. One of the exciting things we’re doing is making co-working more professional and more attractive to a wider audience. Traditionally, co-working has been hipster, young, entrepreneur, East London, Brooklyn. Now, we’re seeing lawyers, teachers, research arms of universities, lots of super-traditional professional businesses coming to places like LABS, because they like the space, but also because they like the cultural offering. When you come to co-working, you’re not just getting a space; you’re getting a whole cultural offering as well. We’re at the very beginning of the industry and I’m really intrigued to see how it pans out over the next five to ten years.
BI: Do you think it’s a generation thing? Is it mainly younger people who are interested in co-working?
BB: At LABS, the average person is probably in their 30s, so slightly older millennials. But I think over time we will see that shift. Millennials are looking for more purpose from their careers and more flexibility. The 9-5 model will be dead in 10 years and because of that I’d say yes, it probably is a generational thing. But we are also seeing older people who recognise that to attract talent they do need to offer flexibility. That’s what co-working allows.
BI: Is co-working good for all companies or just start ups?
BB: I think it’s good for all kinds of companies because people don’t want to work in a traditional office anymore. Companies as big as IBM and JP Morgan are moving sections of their teams to co-working spaces, particularly on a project basis. It’s psychologically proven that a change of environment is good for creativity. Co-working spaces are really good for that.
BI: What kind of technology do you utilise in your offices?
BB: We have the most secure Wi-Fi of any co-working space and we also have our app. Everything is done through the app. We’re trying to create this culture where you don’t need to go to the front desk or ask people how to do things; you can do the printing from the app; you can book a meeting room from the app; and we’re developing the ability to open doors through the app as well.
BI: Your website says LABS’ vision is to help businesses grow. How do you do this?
BB: We hold a lot of workshops here. We get advisors and coaches in and run business workshops that members can attend free of charge or for a very subsidised cost. We’ve done workshops on marketing and mindful sales – skills that everybody can benefit from. We listen to our members to see what skills deficits they have and work out how we can help them. If you go to a traditional office space, you’re never going to get somebody who actually cares about the growth not just of your company, but of your staff as well.
We have a dedicated community team that’s focused on getting to know our members and creating opportunities tailored to their specific goals. We help members skills swap; we help them make connections. The LABS app is very community-focused. You can scroll through it and see all members of the community and get in touch with people simply by pressing the ‘grab a coffee’ button. The app then sends a message saying ‘so and so would like to grab a coffee with you’. We really facilitate introductions so members can get to know other people in the same space.
BI: Why should someone choose a membership at LABS rather than use a coffee shop for free?
BB: More secure Wi-Fi; the ability to meet other people; the events offering; the cultural offering; and an environment that’s engineered for getting work done. A lot of coffee shops are really distracting. This place is all about making the most of your work, having a fantastic day, networking and taking your business and everything you do to the next level.