Here we are with another podcast for you ladies and gentlemen! This time we have Misha Mijatov, founder of the first-ever coworking space in Serbia, the Smart Office.
Misha will be sharing all about how he started his coworking space in Serbia. We also are delving into the coworking and coliving community is growing and thriving in Serbia. He also shares about the coworking and coliving conference that they have over there and who it benefits it.
When and how did you start your Coworking space?
I started almost eight years ago. It was very strange and sudden, I wasn’t planning or expecting to do something like that. But in one moment, I decided not to work anymore in advertising and marketing agencies, and I decided to give it a break for a little while.
And for the next six months, I was doing freelancing. And in one moment, one of my friends, he’s from Poland; asked me, hello, do you have coworking in Serbia in Bergen?
And I really didn’t know what the meaning of that word was. I was like, okay, it’s something like your colleagues or I don’t know. But he said to me, you should take a look a bit further about this concept.
It’s huge here in Poland. We have so many coworking spaces growing now. I think that it’s something that will also come to Balkans. And then I decided to explore a little bit and I was travelling a lot at that period, for those six months and, I decided I want to do this.
And besides all the trends that are coming to Serbia, and Balkans, I thought that this is one of the good trends that will actually contribute to creative industries and that the whole country and all the freelance will benefit from it. And after six months, I started making the business case and everything, that’s how I decided to open it on the first of September in 2012. But a year earlier I was doing all the checking and researching about the coworking concept.
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Bernie J Mitchel 0:03
Welcome to coworking values the podcast of the European Coworking Assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of; accessibility, community, openness, collaboration, and sustainability.
Željko Crnjaković 0:14
Hi, everybody, and welcome to a very special episode of the Coworking Values Podcast. My name is Željko Crnjaković . I’m the host and the founder of one of the Coworking spaces in Serbia, and it’s my privilege to be your host for this podcast, a special edition. And this special edition, in a series of special editions, will be about the Coworking Co-living Conference which is being held in Serbia. The Belgrade and Mokrin are in October on the 9th to 11th of October. Now for this first episode, my guest is the founder of the very first coworking space in Serbia, SMART Office, and one of the organizing members of this conference. The mastermind behind it, which is Misha Mijatov. Misha, welcome to the podcast.
Misha Mijatov 1:08
Thank you very much. Thank you for your kind words. Hello, everybody. And it’s a pleasure to be here and to talk about the conference, and life and everything else.
Željko Crnjaković 1:19
Okay, let’s first off focus on Misha. Misha, you have been in Coworking for the past, correct me if I’m wrong, six years?
Misha Mijatov 1:29
It’s almost eight years now.
Željko Crnjaković 1:32
Eight years, eight years and coworking Serbia, the founder of the very first coworking space. Why did you get into coworking? How did you ever hear about coworking in Serbia? For everybody that is hearing this podcast, it’s in south eastern parts of Europe and it is still not a part of the European Union. So everything gets a little bit slower, you know, here as far as the trends and everything else, so, Misha, why coworking eight years ago?
Misha Mijatov 2:11
Yeah, well, for us, it’s easy. We know where Serbia is. Most of our colleagues from Western European countries and United States are mixing Serbia and Siberia. But yeah, it’s very hard to define where are we, where’s our point, because people are asking us; are you here in the European Union? Are you in Western Balkans?, and everything but yeah, here we are. And the thing about coworking in this region, not just Serbia. Let’s say it’s not a trendy thing, but we have a lot to offer in the creative industries in coworking and co-living. I started almost eight years ago. It was very strange and sudden, I wasn’t planning or expecting to do something like that. But in one moment, I decided not to work anymore in advertising and marketing agencies, and I decided to give it a break for a little while.
And for the next six months, I was doing freelancing. And in one moment, one of my friends, he’s from Poland; asked me, hello, do you have coworking in Serbia in Bergen? And I really didn’t know what the meaning of that word was. I was like, okay, it’s something like your colleagues or I don’t know. But he said to me, you should take a look a bit further about this concept. It’s huge here in Poland. We have so many coworking spaces growing now. I think that it’s something that will also come to Balkans. And then I decided to explore a little bit and I was traveling a lot at that period, for that six months and, I decided I want to do this. And besides all the trends that are coming to Serbia, and Balkans, I thought that this is one of the good trends that will actually contribute to creative industries and that the whole country and all the freelance will benefit from it. And after six months, I started making the business case and everything, that’s how I decided to open it on first of September in 2012. But a year earlier I was doing all the checking and researching about the coworking concept
Željko Crnjaković 4:54
I know from experience that from 2012 to 2019, coworking has evolved even in Serbia. So from one or two or three spaces that we had back in 2012 and 13, up to now, we grew to over 50 coworking spaces all across the country. So what do you think has changed in that period? So for the Coworking community?
Misha Mijatov 5:20
Well, everything has changed, especially in 2012. No one knew about coworking and it was hard to explain to people what is coworking, and then to invite them to visit your coworking space and at the end to charge them to be in your space. So all the people were pioneers in Coworking in Serbia. We had that mission to explain to people what this really is, and it was hard because many people from work, coming in, they didn’t have a picture of what coworking is. So, we spent a lot of time explaining to people and now we are the stage like you said, in Serbia, we have almost 50 coworking spaces and coworking concept as it is from 2012 till now has changed a little bit. Now, in 2012, I was explained to people about coworking like it can be a physical space, it can be a concert, it can be a community, but now everything is mixed and the corporations are entering this council and now there are a lot of companies who are actually promoting coworking but they’re not doing or working. They are just giving shared offices, which is totally okay, but that essence of coworking and that is networking and community was a bit different then and different now. Now it’s all about square meters. How many square meters do you have? No one’s talking about what’s actually happening in coworking spaces. And that’s all about people, all about individuals. And it’s all about networking.
Željko Crnjaković 7:19
That’s certainly true. So basically, as this podcast is also called Coworking Values, I’ve always said from 2013, that coworking is something that you can’t translate. It’s not just shared office is not just renting out space for people to work in. It’s a concept. It’s a way of life, so to speak, in the sense of you need to have a specific mindset when you get into coworking; to be open to connections, and for sharing knowledge and sharing your connections and ultimately achieving new business in that way. As far as everything in Europe has evolved, but there are still those values that we are, or some of us are trying to keep alive in our coworking spaces and share. So I know that one of the reasons, and in your many travels, the reason for basically organizing a conference such as the Coworking Co-living Conference, the first ever Coworking Co-living Conference in Serbia is all about something about preserving those values. Is that so?
Misha Mijatov 8:38
You’re absolutely right. It’s all about that. I’s preserving the values of coworking and all the independent coworking operators which don’t have so many square meters, it can be space of 100 square meters. My first coworking space was 90 square meters and it had 13 tables. So it’s really about what’s actually happening and why the coworking concept started developing from 2005. Like, it’s an official year when it started, even though I thought it would be a game earlier. But people are forgetting. It’s about the mindset. It’s about a mindset of entrepreneur, and freelancer, and what was the thing that most of us were doing before coworking? We were working in some agencies; we were working in cooperation. And it wasn’t our cup of tea, and we decided that we want something different. And in one moment, we thought that it’s going to be a dream to work for ourselves, but in one moment, it’s a nightmare. Also, when you’re working 24/7, you don’t have time for yourself. You don’t have time for your family, but we love it.
Yeah, it’s some something like an addiction and we are hooked on that. And it’s a virus and yeah, it’s it like that you cannot explain that to everyone. But the biggest benefit that I had from coworking is meet people. And that’s why the idea of this conference is together all those amazing people their energies to combine in one in one place. So everybody can share. The very through stuff that I heard on conference is the biggest problem of sharing economies is that they are not sharing. In coworking, it’s different.
People are there at one physical place, and they start talking they start talking about their products. Then they start talking about their private lives and everything. And it’s a bond. And for example, Apple from 2012, from the very first place that I had all the people that were coming there at that moment, they are my friends now. Because we see we connected somehow and it was their bond. We were all helping each other. In our projects in our companies, small companies, most of those companies grew. Now they have 20 5100 employees, but it’s a process and, and like I said, the biggest benefit is networking, and meeting new people and it always gives you an opportunity to be a part of someone else’s project in any way like a consultant like they will ask you for your opinion in then if you are a good designer or developer, then they can ask you to work for them. So it’s about connections and it’s about networking.
Željko Crnjaković 12:04
Cool. Misha, let’s talk about the Coworking Co-living Conference which is waiting for us in October. So what makes the Coworking Co-living Conference in Europe special from any other conference, why would people come here?
Misha Mijatov 12:22
It’s so special because of the people who will be there. I’ve been attending so many conferences in the last 8-9 years and most of them are okay and people gather and they show you the presentations which are most show and tell. They’re showing you the numbers and how they grew up and everything. But the content of the conferences is, is not that good because people who are actual real people who are working in those coworking spaces are not much involved in those conferences. So for me, the idea is to invite all the people that I met through these years, and for them to tell their personal stories. And when I say personal stories, it’s for us for us. intrapreneurs it’s very hard to divide personal life and business life. For me, it’s the same and everything in this area of mass production and people are talking about the less important stuff.
We need people to talk about their stories, what were their problems during their processes? To talk about what they went through? And how did they became what they are at the moment. I think that is very important because we are now living in a world where everything is online. And for every logistic and technical problem, we are looking for online solutions, which is totally fine. But there is a lack of that personal human touch, we need to find a human solution for everything. And then the whole idea that all the people that I met; they think that they’re really nice. And they should meet at one place at the conference and to talk about their stories about their digital storytelling.
Željko Crnjaković 14:46
So, let’s make something clear for the audience. So who is the conference for? Is it for the coworking operators or is it for entrepreneurs? Is it for freelancers? Who will get the most benefit? Because, as I hear, so we will be gathering our coworking operators, not just from the Balkans, not just from Serbia, so but from Europe and even some from even wider so some from the US and talk about not only coworking but how we developed coworking and what we wrote, and what obstacles that we get. So it’s about entrepreneurship also. So who are you targeting as far as the audience? Whoever is listening, maybe he’s considering coming. So is it just for the Coworking operators, or for a much wider audience?
Misha Mijatov 15:42
Yeah. Thank you for that question. I get that a lot. And I think it’s really important to define that. The main target group for the conference, our coworking, opera, coworking and hub operators. In order for their spaces to grow, they need to know and to be aware of the problems which we are all facing at one moment. And so they can help their co-workers in their spaces only if they hear different opinions different and situations where what they’ve been through. So the meantime, I google coworking operators and help operators, then we are programming this conference for example for first day to be about personal development through coworking.
The second day is about shaping communities through coworking and the third day is going to be about co-living and we will have that great excursion where we will have five bustles and everybody will go to that amazing place of marketing house. My opinion is that everything that happens in Vulcan regarding coworking is a bit different than investing in European countries or United States and Canada or whatever. So, we need templates, different vehicles. We are different, that’s first ,and we are all about emotions, we are all about that different energy. We are giving our all part in everything but we do which cost us a lot in the previous period. But the idea that we show people from outcome from Southeast Europe to know how coworking works in our region.
We are inviting all our friends and colleagues from rescue in European countries to share their knowledge and that would be ideal combination, our experience and with their experience so we can combine I think that our energy and our spirit our Balkan mentality should shoot and have to learn a lot from wrestling up or Kansas and so if they want to understand us better, they should come in to see what how we operate how things really work in Vulcan because really, I think that Vulcan is a hub for creative industries. And we have so many companies in the whole former Yugoslavia which are growing and which are worldwide famous. So I really think that we have something to show to people, except food and drinks and everything, but even that so that’s a very important part of that.
Željko Crnjaković 19:07
I’m just checking. I need to know that, you know, people will be taken care of.
Misha Mijatov 19:13
Yeah, definitely they will. They don’t have to worry about that IKEA. It’s all covered.
Željko Crnjaković 19:20
So education, community, food drink, everything’s there. So who’s coming? Can you share some names so far?
Misha Mijatov 19:29
So far we have registered, almost 170 people are ready for the conference. There are a lot of the friends who are of course, the whole Serbian community will be there. We invited our friends from Bosnia, from Croatia, from Slovenia, from Macedonia from everywhere that we have our friends. They confirmed their presence at the conference and also from the Europe. We will have experts in their area. Carsten from desktop, he will be there and he will do the presentation about what are the trends at that moment in October. He’s doing all kinds of researches. So, it will be very interesting for us to know what are the trends and how everything is developing. Then we have Tobias Krakow he is from a sample butthole from Berlin, I think it was the first coworking space in the world. it was not in the United States like Legend Ross. And he’s doing a lot of for coworking community all around the world by sharing his experience and he’s really amazing.
Then Betsy Obama from United States she will be there because she besides having a coworking space, she’s from early 90s in the marketing and advertising business and she will tell her experience about how she combined those two and however, how is that complimentary. Then, we have some professors from some universities. So far we have like eight TEDx speakers who will be there. So all in all a very intensive program. Yeah, a very intensive program. And with that program, we try to cover all the topics and all that actually going on in Coworking spaces with their community, communities and individuals. We are covering inclusivity. We are covering start-ups. We are covering personal development co-living and coworking Of course. So all the things which are the basic or creative industries and not just for Creative Industries, but also for individual sole entrepreneurs who are developing their business in the way they know. So, the idea was to gather all the small communities at one place, and I think so far it’s going well.
Željko Crnjaković 22:34
I’m going to share a secret with our audience. I know that you’re not doing this to get rich, as anything in coworking. So rarely, who is in coworking is doing something to get rich. I mean, apart from corporate coworking in real estate, and stuff like that. Can you tell me why? What is your goal with this conference? What is your goal? So being the first pioneer in Serbia with coworking, and I know that your doctor prescribed you on stepping down. All the entrepreneurship shitting that’s going on, so basically why this conference? What is the goal? Is this going to be a yearly event? Is this a one off event? What are you trying to achieve?
Misha Mijatov 23:26
Well, for me, personally, the things that inspire me the most and motivate me are new projects and coworking. When I entered the Coworking, I was pure honest with it, and I went with a full heart. So this is not a project where I will get rich. Definitely everybody who organizes those kinds of events for 200/300 people knows if they don’t have huge supporters, they won’t get rich. And if someone from coworking world says there is money in coworking, he lies. I confirm it that, like you said, only in corporate coworking models there is money, but it’s a different concept. And I fully appreciate, and I’m not saying all the bad things about corporate and shared offices and everything because they are also our partners, and we all have to work together, but the whole idea of this conference is just to gather all nice people at one place and give them an opportunity to talk about their projects. And especially on the second day, it would be something like every venue where the conference will be held, you will see people in small groups in small packs talking about marketing coworking spaces, about their problems, and how they are solving. So it’s really a project of mine even though if maybe sounds rigid like a project but it’s generally something that I wanted to do for a long time. And this idea came let’s say almost three and a half years ago when I was in Ghana with my friend Luca from Polygon. And, from our dear friend who is not among us anymore, it’s Motya. And we said, okay, we should do this. We should show the world how everything works in bulk and how we do coworking.
We sat there and we were talking about it then somehow we said, okay, it’s going to be Belgrade. The first stop and then hopefully on the next year we’ll have that in Croatia, Montenegro or Bosnia or whatever. We just want to show to the people that here in our region, there are so many amazing people, and what all of us are doing for these creative industries, it’s a great benefit. And people are telling me, people who know me, said, okay, you just want to make a party. And I said, Yes, that’s one thing, because that’s how I can get there. All my friends at one place. But yeah, it’s going to be a great party, great game, entering with so many amazing people. And my goal is that every participant, I mean participant, it doesn’t matter if it’s just an attendee or guest or a speaker or a professor from the back of the, I just want them to be inspired. Because the topics that we are going to talk about are something that can open our mind a little bit. And through practices and through all the experiences that people who will be there have already. So if, just one person says, Okay, I’m motivated; with just one lecture, with just one keynote, I think our work is done. Because I mentioned before, we are living in an online world, and I think once in a while, we should gather and talk like, real persons in person.
Željko Crnjaković 27:57
So very cool. Very cool. I like what I’m hearing . We will be there. I would like to thank our audience for listening. Thank Misha for being a great guest. Everybody, you can visit our website cccsee.com. So, Coworking Co-living Conference, South Eastern Europe. So that’s the abbreviation cccsee.com. You can even get the tickets already on sale. And, Misha, do you have anything to add for the audience? A call to action?
Misha Mijatov 28:36
Yeah. If they address to us and they say they heard about this podcast. They can write to us and we can give them additional discount for the tickets. But like I said, we have almost 170 people, and there are more people that also announced their presence there. So hurry up, we are limited to 300 persons for the whole event. And you will have a great time in Belgrade, you will have a great time in Mokrin. And I really, really, truly believe, and we are working on that, that you will feel an amazing vibe of Balkan and Serbia in those three days.
Željko Crnjaković 29:24
And I would like to add to everybody listening. So even if you’re not coming, any share of this information is welcome. So, just share this episode of the podcast with anybody that you think is going to be interested. And I promise we do have a plan to bring you another or more special episode interviewing other guests and speakers at the conference. So until next time. Misha, thank you very much. This will be it for this episode and talk to you next time. This podcast is brought to you by social, please stop wasting time on social media and get back to building your business. To take your free 14-day test drive with no card required; head to coalescent network.com/socialbe. Check the link in the show notes