Another Podcast is up! And this time we have Stephanie Brisson of TechSpace Berlin with us.
And we’ll be talking about how coworking accommodates and prepare for the spaces their client needs and their contingency plans for growth from startups and scaleup enterprises.
In this podcast, Stephanie also tells us about the in and outs of managing coworking and the community they build within these coworking spaces. And how building a community within these coworking spaces have worked out so far.
What does she think about that?
Stephanie says: “It’s a guess but at the same time it’s also something that we think will work and we tested, and I keep saying this over and over again you need to have an idea figure it out, know what you want. Do it, learn from it and then do it again.
Maybe in the same way because it was super successful or tweak it or kill it. If it doesn’t work. And I think because we’re surrounded by those scale-ups that are always iterating on their ideas and doing it every you know so often so quickly and we get inspired by that and use that same methodology.”
Stephanie on LinkedIn
Stephanie on Twitter
You can read along here with this transcript of the Podcast
STEPHANIE BRISSON – HOW COWORKING ANSWERS A NEED AND BUILDS A COMMUNITY WITHIN
MARCH 17, 2020
Zeljko Crnjakovic 0:03
Welcome to Coworking Values Podcast of the European coworking assembly. Each week we deep dive into one of the values of accessibility community openness, collaboration, and sustainability. This episode is brought to you by Cobot a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about cobalt is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out firstname.lastname@example.org and take your coworking management to the next level.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 0:48
Okay, hi everybody, and we’re again back with another episode of the podcast. My guest today is Stephanie Brisson, my rolling R is showing there from tech space, It’s in Germany, right?
Stephanie Brisson 1:00
Correct we are in Germany but also in the UK. So, we have spaces both in London and in Berlin.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 01:08
Oh, fantastic in tech space is doing something new tech space is doing something and focusing on something that you just explained to me yesterday, which are scale ups. and that’s why I wanted to talk to you of everything that coworking world means to you. So, what is tech space?
Stephanie Brisson 01:28
The tech space is a serviced office where we focus on scale up. Now, what are scale ups, these are tech companies that are growing. So, whether they’re at the early start of their journey, or already have 100 – 150 people; we don’t necessarily matter what really, we want to do is support them in their journey in the tech world. So, we started in London, we’re seeing the need that, you know, start-ups, they start and let’s say in a normal coworking space, and then they grow too big.
Stephanie Brisson 2:00
Where do they go? They don’t necessarily have the capacity or the willingness to rent out their own office with the 10-year lease, they still need the Coworking offering, hence, the Coworking for scale ups.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 02:11
So basically, but you meant, when did you recognize scale up? So, the start-up frenzy has been going on for 10 years now and a start-up to make things clear, because we had that conversation already, between entrepreneurs, start-ups and companies. A start-up is somebody who wants to scale exponentially or wants to grow exponentially in that sense. So, when did you recognize that start-ups need coworking spaces for scaling?
Stephanie Brisson 2:44
It came about from the founders that were experiencing that themselves or experienced it in the past. But it also goes about when you spend a certain amount of time in the tech world, you see, and you hear the struggle of those founding entrepreneurs that have now a team of 20
Stephanie Brisson 3:00
It doesn’t quite fit in the normal spaces, they have only 20 people, which is not enough to go out and rent hundreds of square meters and the normal real estate market. And they saw that, that discussion kept coming up. So, the founders decided, well, you know what, it’s not there. There’s a need, let’s fill it. And it wasn’t easy at the beginning. Because, you know, the usual way is you go big you find your own. Yeah. But naturally now, what we actually find is that the companies of scale ups or the bigger enterprise, they come to us even now first, because they don’t want to have the overhead of having an office even if they have the capacity. They don’t want to deal with that. They want to focus on what they do best, which is their business, whether it’s FinTech, biotech, like mobility, they don’t want to have the hassle of handling enough space on top of that, so they prefer to outsource that. Yes.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 4:00
And tech space started off as a scalar, moreover, servicing scale ups, it doesn’t start off as a coworking space and then grew into a business model for scale.
Stephanie Brisson 04:08
from the very beginning, we really wanted to go after that specific target.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 04:12
So how does that space accommodate a growing scale up? So, in the sense of, okay, I have a team of 20. And then I’m, you know, you have an office for me, and then I want to grow. So how do you do that by having spaces, which are very, like, you can rearrange them, you know, how are my needs grow? Or how do you calculate?
Stephanie Brisson 04:40
It’s a, it’s not an easy thing. To be totally honest. The space itself that people rent, they still rent an office with workstation. So, what we usually do is have a very thorough conversation with those people. If you tell me: Okay, you need an office for 20 people now, but how do you foresee yourself in six months are you going to be forty?
Stephanie Brisson 5:00
If so, you’re not renting 20 people office, you need something a bit bigger that you can grow into. If the people want to reorganize the furniture inside their office, they are free to do so. However, we prefer to then see within our portfolio if there’s another office, which is bigger that can accommodate them.
So, we have them move from one to the other. Now, how can we do that? As soon as we have an occupancy rate that is, you know, more than 50% it’s about doing what I call the switcheroo. So as soon as there’s one opportunity, let’s say there’s a 40 people office that frees up we asked the 30 people team, Hey, are you interested in that office? Yay, nay perfect. Then, if the 30 moves, the 20 people, hey, how about a 30 people office? Yay, Nay, and then we really accommodate the internal growth of our members before going out to market and naturally there’s always a turn right. So, it turned out pretty well. So far, I mean.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 6:00
Does it happen? So, I’m going to stop here? Does it happen periodically, or as the need arises because I’ve seen some spaces, specifically in Stockholm, for example, that do those switches on a very specific timeline. So, you can move in, I don’t know, January and June. And because moving in, you know, constantly will, you know, will disrupt everybody else.
Stephanie Brisson 06:32
We do not have specific dates; we actually do it as the opportunity appears. From a business point of view, it is also the best way to reduce void. If we can fill from internal demand. We don’t have to go out to market and wait for weeks, if not months. So as soon as there’s a possibility that opens up, we put it on their internal market in a way we ask our members, would you be interested in that? They say yes or no and then we move forward. It can also be adding offices, so that team that is growing.
Stephanie Brisson 7:00
So that team that is from 20 to 40 I might not have a 40 people office, but I might have a 20 and attend that’s coming online so they could at least add that one. alleviate a bit of the pain until the time comes that the 40 becomes available.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 07:15
Also, we also talked about this so each scale up renting, is renting a separate space right so they’re not like going into a coworking with other people in open space. They’re, you know, a team office. Some offices .
Stephanie Brisson 07:31
there’s three kinds of products we have; there’s the usual private office so one workstation and a bit of storage, there is the private office plus, which is the normal office plus meeting room and breakout because as the team grow, there’s that need of having meetings and always meeting out the game for them to burn so we included that in the product. And then there’s an enterprise and within an enterprise, it is an entire unit they have their kitchen their meeting room, their phone Booth their toilet, sometimes.
Stephanie Brisson 8:00
So, it really is their office that we manage, but it’s their own.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 8:06
And how do you do this by owning the entire building or renting the building or a section of the building where tax base is
Stephanie Brisson 08:35
it depends on the buildings. Some of them, we rent entirely some of them that we have only part of it. The building that we’re in right now in Berlin, for example, we open it in three phases. So, we took two units, then we bring it up to six, and then last month, the seventh unit opened so we can also grow within the buildings that we have. The next one coming online in Berlin, it’s a seven-story building that we’re taking over entirely. So, there’s not a specific recipe or a specific demand when it comes to the building. What we do require though, is a lot of square feet square meters, because to be able to accommodate hundreds of people, you need thousands of square meters. So, we do have requirements when it comes to the nucleus.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 9:00
So, what happens if you get a scale up that has its own furnishings,
Stephanie Brisson 09:07
there’s a discussion to be had. If they arrive while we’re still in construction, we can make a decision not to buy the furniture. Or, then it’s a storage fee to for us to put our furniture in storage for the duration of their contract. And most of the people will understand that because it is either for them to store their furniture at their own cost and their own struggle and headache. Or they pay a flat fee to us and we store ours. So, in either case, that some furniture would need to be store who pays it’s the time that requires it. Now the amount and how it is it’s easier for them to outsource it to us.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 09: 47
I really hope you have a big team because you know, you’re doing this by yourself just as a work. So how big is your team in tech space?
Stephanie Brisson 09:55
So, tech space as a whole is 40 people. So, we have the bulk of it in London. So, the main team is there.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 10:00
Also, when you are alone in Germany, I knew it. You know, that’s why you’re saying like,
Zeljko Crnjakovic 10:09
Oh, yeah, okay, seven storey building six people and then a couple of other units.
Stephanie Brisson 10:15
There you go. I couldn’t do it by myself. I need a community team, I need salespeople and we have also expansion team, because we’re always looking to grow ourselves. The core team in London of course has the executives and marketing, so central function, finance team as well is based in London, and of course, duplicates of community sales and so on.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 10:36
And so, getting back to the spirit of Coworking because this is a coworking values podcast. So tech space by itself is not a coworking space you don’t offer to your members scallops in the sense all of the usual coworking perks or events or values in that sense, but you do grow the community or you do take care of the community. How do you do that?
Stephanie Brisson 11:00
I mean, the most important distinction is that most of the people in the space did not decide to be there. It is their boss, the CEO that decided to take the entire company there,
Zeljko Crnjakovic 11:15
I thought you were talking about your team.
Stephanie Brisson 11:17
My team hopefully decided to be there and stay there.
Stephanie Brisson 11:19
When it comes to the member that changes the dynamic, right? Not only are they big companies and self-sustainable within their own circle, but you need to find the right hooks to bring them together. And what we’ve done is instead of because we have more people to bigger events to go the other way around. So, specialize in finding the interesting thing for subgroups. We have fitness classes, for example, which will appeal to both the C suite as well as the interns.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 11:48
For example, when you say fitness classes, I heard you say that in the panel. So, do you mean that you plan a fitness class on site? Do you have amenities within the buildings, or do you Have a fit pass somewhere in the city?
Stephanie Brisson. 12:03
So, we’ve been very lucky within the building, there is a gym, and we’ve done a partnership with them
Zeljko Crnjakovic 12:10
So that’s a building coworking space in that building.
Stephanie Brisson 14:14
So, and at lunchtime the deal that we have with the gym is that it is rented out for the members for our community. There is a trainer that will come and do kind of a boot camp on Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays we pass along that information to our members. Everyone that once is willing to it can come.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 12:33
You have to miss lunch to go training. Yeah. Oh
Stephanie Brisson 12:38
but then you get to see other people and connect with them swap with each other. It’s amazing.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 12:14
I can eat with other people.
Stephanie Brisson 12:41
You get to eat after that with them. But we had a great turnout. 20-30 people from every company that we have in the space. We try to do the same thing with after work beer and that kind of stuff. And you don’t get the same turnout, or you always get the same people. You can also cut through the clutter by half.
Stephanie Brisson 13:00
For example, movie night on a certain topic that will interest a certain subgroup. So, it’s really about relying on your community team who know the people in the space, finding the interesting bits and pieces, putting an event together putting something together where people can have fun and connect.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 13:20
And how do you also mention specific events? So, for CEOs for community managers for marketing teams, how do you gauge which teams are you know, inclined for that? Or do you have like, what works? Let’s try this? more like that.
Stephanie Brisson 13:39
more like that.
Stephanie Brisson 13:44
I mean, it’s a guess, but at the same time, it’s also
Stephanie Brisson 13:50
something that we think will work and we test it. And I keep saying this over and over again, you need to have an idea. Figure it out. Know what you want.
Stephanie Brisson 14:00
Do it, learn from it and then do it again, maybe in the same way because it was super successful, or tweak it or kill it if it doesn’t work. And I think because we’re surrounded with those scale ups that are always iterating on their ideas and doing it every, you know, so often so quickly, we get inspired by that and use that same methodology. And it works great, and we’ve had events in the past that we decided to kill because it’s not worth it. And we’ve had events which we were like, well, it really works.
Stephanie Brisson 14:30
And it turns out to be a blast. One of them being game night, for example,
Zeljko Crnjakovic 14:35
game night works I know that for a fact
Stephanie Brisson 14:40
And I thought, okay, it’s going to appeal to a certain kind of people turns out it is the most attended event that we have within the space because people don’t connect over drinks, they connect over an activity and that is for us the key not just you know, be there for the sake of it but do something together.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 14:48
Yeah. So, because this coworking podcast is listened to mostly by coworking operators and not your clients. So, you can tell me that the answer to the next question. So, what is the motive behind the events? So, tech space as itself, so from what everything I gauged, you already have them within
Zeljko Crnjakovic 15:14
they are companies themselves, there is no open space coworking stuff like that. So, what is the added value? Is it something that you want to gain, like from learning from those events?
Stephanie Brisson 15:31
So, it can come from different ways
Zeljko Crnjakovic 15:35
you charge them, you know, so
Stephanie Brisson 15:36
no, we don’t charge them for the internal events. What, actually, when we started, especially in Berlin, we did not have the capacity to hold that many events? And the team was just too small for that we were focusing on other things, and then people kept asking for that. And not just the decision makers, people from every level of the organization are like, you know what, it’d be nice to get together. So, we started slowly organizing them.
Stephanie Brisson 16:00
Because the community the people in the space asked and then as we started doing this, it’s like oh, we get to know them Oh, they’re actually telling us how to better improve the business and then of course, that’s where the return on investment quotation mark comes back because if you take the feedback from the member implement it in your space and in your business, then you know it pays off. So yes, it is to create the community but it’s in response to a need that they have their people will always be people we want to hang out to some extent with you know, other people. And then for us, I think it is very nice thing to have within a space because otherwise it’s just space.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 16:42
Yeah. You mentioned you hosted also beer nights and for those people who don’t have an enterprise suite, so which don’t have a separate kitchen, so there is a common kitchen suddenly, so does tech space own for example or a range within the between the units or restaurant a coffee shop or a kitchen?
Zeljko Crnjakovic 17:03
is the kitchen manned by the users themselves or is there a common coffee shop within your offer?
Stephanie Brisson 17:12
So, we have what we call more tea points. So, it’s not a fully furnished kitchen where people can for example prep meal and so on It is tea, coffee, sugar, fridges, of course dishwasher and so on. So, it’s not, we don’t have a need for baristas. We don’t have a need for chef and that kind of stuff. We provide the amenities and people make the best out of it.
Stephanie Brisson 17:32
Interestingly, what we’ve noticed is that in enterprise units, the barebone kitchen that we provide in common areas is taking in so many different directions. Some people will only have a coffee machine and people will take it that’s it and some of them fully equipped it with cooking plates with pots and pans with you know, it’s a full pantry on the wall. And that’s what we’re here for us to facilitate what they want to do, whether it is to have you know, team lunch,
Stephanie Brisson 18:00
Homemade team lunch or office made
Stephanie Brisson 18:06
every day or so or if they just want to grab something from a restaurant in the neighbourhood come back to eat it.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 18:15
So, okay, so a personal question. How did Stephanie Brisson end up in tech space?
Stephanie Brisson 18:21
I ended up in tech space
Zeljko Crnjakovic 18:26
now if you tell me but I’m the founder I’m going to be really stupid
Stephanie Brisson 18:26
No, I am not.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 18:30
Stephanie Brisson 18:32
It would have been very awkward. Yeah, I know. I ended up in tech space because, so I’ve been in Coworking world way before actually. Moving to Berlin I had my own space in Montreal. Then when I moved to Berlin, I wanted to still stay in that industry. So, I’ve worked the tech business before and then the expansion manager of tech space recruited me and my mission, which is why I…
Stephanie Brisson 19:00
… you’re going to be responsible for opening the locations in Berlin and make it work. And that was my job description, make it work, design the building. And for me that was super exciting to go on that journey of creating something from scratch, because the buildings in London were already running, but really get to go on an entrepreneurial journey in some sort to create something and really build it. And now we’re adding buildings within Berlin, we got funding, you know, now it’s becoming a big thing. And for me, that is what made me join, but also what keeps me with tech space and
Zeljko Crnjakovic 19:35
your previous experience in Coworking, how does that help you?
Stephanie Brisson 19:39
Interestingly enough, there was nothing like what I had in tech space, in the sense that before I was in Hawaii, and that was my first experience in Berlin. It was mainly private offices or freelancers before that, and when I was in Montreal, it was entirely open desk with mainly freelancers. So, I’ve kind of evolved within my career
Zeljko Crnjakovic 20:00
From freelancer to a small company to an entrepreneur.
Stephanie Brisson 20:08
So I kind of went through all of that, and learned as well from the different sizes, and I’ve been parachuted in the big world that I am now, I probably would not have, you know, seeing the importance for events or for these one on one conversations and building the relationship as much as what I have now.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 20:29
Next time on digital nomads, like you know, down the scale, full circle. Yeah. So, with this tech space where you see the future so everybody says the start-up bubble is going to burst at one point so and scale ups may not become scale ups. So how will you prepare for that? Or how do you see the market so far?
Stephanie Brisson 20: 56
I mean, when it comes to scale ups, they’re more established, than start ups. So, they’re a bit more robust to begin with. When it comes to tax base planning and expansion when we acquire buildings or when we’re looking to acquire a building, we model that remodel the rough times, in the sense of, you know, we’re at 100% occupancy for two years, and then it drops to 50%. Can we still survive as a business, so we’ve modelled that before putting them to paper, so that helps us a lot.
Stephanie Brisson 21:26
Now, the spaces that we have can also be remodelled. So right now, we have huge clients, 100 people, 150 but we also have 20-30 people office and the big units, the big enterprise can be cut off. Yeah. And accommodate smaller teams. You know,
Zeljko Crnjakovic 21:46
I wanted to go back to we didn’t talk about this and when we talk about scale up so consider what scale ups are so how fast does a company need to grow for it?
Zeljko Crnjakovic 22:00
Come interesting to tech space or vice versa, in that sense, and when it stops, at which level, you know, do you stop? Or do you become less interesting?
Zeljko Crnjakovic 22:14
I mean, when it comes to scale up, the way we carry into community is not Oh, you need to grow by x percentage, every six months.
Stephanie Brisson 22:26
That is the inverter’s job, you
Stephanie Brisson 22:28
know, we really go after tech businesses. Now.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 22:34
Tech business has failed.
Stephanie Brisson 22:35
So, exactly. But because we don’t have such smaller office. The small teams that are starting are not sure of their future, they can come to us because they will have to be locked in a 15 people office to begin with when there’s five people so for them, we’re not attractive. So, we really nailed the market fit in that regard. Now, how do we manage our growth and when is it too much for us? It depends really
Stephanie Brisson 23:00
On the space at that exact point in time, right now in Berlin, we have 100% occupancy. If someone wants to grow, I cannot accommodate them. So, they will leave, I’m not going to kick them out, I would love to keep those members, however, I am not in a position to accommodate them. That’s why we keep opening buildings.
Stephanie Brisson 23:20
We are in that sense of scale up. We have five buildings; we are planning to open five more in the next 18 to 24 months. So, we are growing ourselves to be able to accommodate the members and the demand.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 23:36
Well, I see, I hear what you’re saying. And it seems like basically, you fit right in the middle need, like, you know, anybody from 15 to 100
Zeljko Crnjakovic 23:44
100 people, and then one after 150. Then it outgrows you in that sense, but you didn’t answer. So, in that time. How do you know somebody can remain at 15 for two years, and?
Stephanie Brisson 24:00
they can stay with us for two years at that.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 24:07
So basically, you can immediately target somebody at 150. Yeah, if they want to remain at 150.
Stephanie Brisson 24:14
I mean, if anything is 150, it can be the magic number for them to stay or move out. But they can decide to split the team as well. And then they would say, because there would be two teams of, I don’t know, 90 people, for example. So, it’s not about the number of people. It’s really about how that growth is occurring. We had, for example, a team of 80 within an enterprise that has now grown to 140.
Stephanie Brisson 24:40
Theoretically, we should not have been able to accommodate them. However, they were willing to split the team in smaller offices to accommodate their growth until something bigger came online.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 24:51
I basically imagined that that is a good thing. Because I know a lot of big, I know small teams that can’t stand being in the same office. So, I can’t Imagine 140 or 50 or 100 people, you know, wanting to be in the same office and still be productive. So open spaces, you know, and under discussion.
Stephanie Brisson 25:12
Exactly. And that’s why within the enterprise unit, it’s not 100% open space, there are private offices within that unit. If the member wants to close it off, be my guest. Yeah, we can build those walls. We offer that flexibility to businesses as well. And there will be demands as well for people coming to us saying I have 30 people, but I need 3 -10 people office, I have sales guys that are way too loud. I have developers that need quiet and I have the HR who cannot sit in the same office as everyone else. So sometimes the business structure or the industry demands something, which is not a one big office. Yeah.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 25: 51
Well, I think that there is room in the, you know, coworking world for each specific niche and the tech space.
Zeljko Crnjakovic 26:00
Fills a very specific niche in that sense and it was a pleasure talking to you on this podcast
Stephanie Brisson 26:01
pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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