Welcome back to another episode of Coworking Values Podcast, and having back with us is Hector Kolonas, founder of Included.co, co-founder of Syncaroo and curator of “This Week In Coworking”
Hector will be sharing with us all about the “This Week In Coworking” that he curates and all about the things we might have been missing out in the coworking world.
Can you lay out the map behind the “This Week In Coworking” email newsletter?
The whole thing with “This Week in Coworking” was that there are so many, like really well-intentioned and passionate people running Coworking spaces.
And the problem is that we miss so much of the news because it’s so inundated with big name phones, mergers and acquisitions or funding rounds or whatever. But behind that there’s a whole flurry of celebrations and moments and videos and stories and conversations that are happening. And it just gets buried in the noise.
So about 20 This will be the 27th newsletter. I did skip a week during Christmas, so I started about 30 weeks ago. And I just put together a list every week of these are the things that I think you may have missed in Coworking and just started, I shared it initially as a Twitter thread.
I didn’t I didn’t feel it hit the right notes as a Twitter thread. So after a lot of humming and hawing, I said, Okay, let’s just build it as an email newsletter.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:21
So, we’re here in the Coworking Values Podcast studio. I’ve got coworking legend, Hector. So, Hector, these days, what are you known for, and what would you like to be known for?
So, these days I’m probably best known for running the Coworking Talks platform at included.co, and also for just building resources for the coworking industry, whether it’s for the operators or for the members. What I’d like to be known for is somebody that enables entrepreneurship in every corner of the world.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:56
You sound like Elon Musk or Adam Newman. I’ve just be reading that book, billion-dollar loser, which I actively avoided last year, but it kept on popping up in my audiobook stream, and I’m amazed at how many of our coworking friends are in there. So, did you enjoy that. I know I didn’t tell you we were going to talk about this.
It was a fascinating read into how the industry, works here in New York. I’m calling in from the East Coast right now. So, that was fascinating. It was fascinating to see, you know, how the vision was sold, who the people were behind the scenes. And it was just interesting to see all the names that we know and love throughout the coworking world mentioned alongside the story of pure craziness.
Bernie J Mitchel 1:48
I was listening to that. And I was walking around thinking to myself, I always knew it, I knew it, and when I heard they had a We Work reunion or We Work event in Tunbridge Wells, and I was just like, this is not right. But I was also kind of always worried about how much time people spent talking about We Work, and I saw in, I think it was in ‘This week in coworking’, which is a lovely segment I didn’t see coming. There was a video you had, and the guy said in Toronto for every We Work, there’s 250 independent coworking spaces or something like that?
It was great video. I love sharing the way people tell the story of coworking. But we have to remember that whether we love or hate We Work and it’s tactics and strategies and its leaders or whatever it is, they’re a small piece of a huge industry. There are almost 20,000 independent operators or independently run spaces. There are 600-700 We Work locations. Just on those numbers alone, it’s a tiny piece of a huge movement. So, I think we have to keep that in mind. Leverage the benefits and the attention it created for the industry, and for normalizing it with some corporates and some people who probably wouldn’t have thought that coworking works for them. All we’ve seen, I mean we saw it in London, we’ve seen it here where people stop there and move into something that feels more comfortable, feels better for their business culture, feels better for their bottom lines. So, I think at the end of day, the media gives We Work a lot of attention because of their PR machine. But mean it’s not totally to the detriment of all coworking spaces.
Bernie J Mitchel 4:03
I’m running through a lot of what you and I have been talking about. I can remember the day we met, Hector in Main Yard studios when you came in and said, I’m doing an Airbnb for coworking in 2012 or something like that. It’s like people who go to coffee shops, people go Starbucks, but it’s so much nicer to go to an independent coworking space. Here in London in Bishopsgate there’s a place called Taylor Street Brewesters. Now, a Black Sheet Coffee and a Starbucks opened right opposite in some kind of gangster move, and the Starbucks died because many of the times I walked past there, there was a queue in the rain outside the independent coffee shop and Starbucks was empty because people who went down that alleyway, went to look for real coffee.
Like I used to enjoy working near bank station and Taylor Street Brewsters was like my go to early morning latte before I could even open my eyes and open the laptop.
Bernie J Mitchel 5:20
They are great. I think Blacksheep brought them out, but that was great coffee, and I would always walk to their coffee place rather than going to anywhere in the station. So, what I’ve tried doing here today is, there is this little thing we’re doing called This week in coworking, which, ladies and gentlemen, I think is the absolute fucking bollocks . This hit the frequency of my kind of coworking which might not be everyone’s kind of coworking, but the way it brings together so many little threads and scenes, and most importantly people every week. I’ve rearranged my schedule to be online in Clubhouse. The only time I ever show up to Clubhouse is for this weekend coworking circuit. Can you lay out the map, and then I can come back to fanboying a little bit more.
Firstly, I appreciate it and appreciate all the kinds words, man. The whole thing with this is that there are so many really well-intentioned and passionate people running coworking spaces. And the problem is that we miss so much of the news because it’s so inundated with big name phone mergers and acquisitions, or funding rounds, or whatever, but behind that there’s a whole flurry of celebrations, moments, videos, stories, and conversations that are happening. And it just gets buried in the noise. This will be the 27th newsletter. I did skip a week during Christmas, so, about 30 weeks ago, I just put together a list every week of the things that I think you may have missed in coworking. I shared it initially as a Twitter thread. I didn’t feel like it hit the right notes as a Twitter thread, so, after a lot of humming and humming, I said okay let’s just build it as an email newsletter. For six years running now.
Bernie J Mitchel 7:31
I’m so glad you’re sending email newsletters.
Yeah, I mean, for a very long time. I knew that emails weren’t something that lands on your desk anymore. They landed in your pocket and your phone in the middle of a conversation, in the middle of a conference, in the middle of a talk you’re giving. You can’t control when an email arrives in somebody’s inbox, so, that kind of always put me on the reserve. I don’t want to bother people, but by building ‘This weekend coworking.com’ sort of newsletter subscriber base. We started from zero, we had zero subscribers on the first day, and people who opted in knew that I was going to send them an email once a week with a bunch of links. Since we started sending them out in week 30 and 2020, we’ve had an over 60% average open rate. So, that kind of gave me more and more encouragement.
People have started giving feedback and the kinds of things they want to receive, the kinds of stories they want to hear about. And I’ve just loved sharing them out and giving people a snapshot of what happened each week in coworking. And then obviously a couple of weeks ago we decided to try out this Clubhouse thing and host a conversation on a Friday morning my time and Friday afternoon your time to just discuss the topics but also what they mean as general trends for our industry. And those have been really insightful conversations. We’ve had people from Aqua Hotel groups pop in. We’ve had folks from independent operators all the way around the world, as well as people who are just passionate or interested in coworking coming in and just hearing, asking questions and discussing the trends, whether it’s corporate coworking or childcare as a fundamental infrastructure piece, or just, celebrating that a coworking space had done 10 years of service for their local community.
Bernie J Mitchel 9:45
As we just said, there are so many little things happening that are really big deals. And what I find reassuring about going through the newsletter is how many independent people, people who haven’t got a whole PR agency working on their vision on board and aren’t paying for Google ads, because you know every time you type in coworking, particularly in London, the same four people come in and we’re doing things that show examples to other people. And what I love about the Clubhouse thing is that it’s like the corridor in-person coworking event that isn’t happening in the moment. And it’s not drenched in odd-looking sponsorship things or anything like that. And it’s great. Coming into that room for about half an hour every week, you get to catch up with a lot of people, to nudge things along like the Idea of Project, which is Ashley Proctor’s project about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility. It’s a good place to hear what people are doing. So, how do you feel about the clubhouse thing?
I really like it. There are just a few things that are obviously still nagging me at the back of my mind, and those are my main gripes with Clubhouse as a platform, but especially for something like ‘This week in working’. The fact that it’s iOS only, that’s so exclusionary, and not something that I believe in. I don’t believe people should be excluded based on the device they choose to connect to the internet with. The second is the fact that, this is more of a bigger question, something I’ve been thinking about. And I know that the whole podcast thing is about being there and having the discussion, but there are a lot of people around the world who pay a huge premium for data on their phones. Giving them some way to relive that or get that conversation or listen to that conversation, something like a podcast helps people who can download it at home or at work and listen to it on their commute or listen to on their move makes it more accessible for people around the world. And those were the main things that upset me about Clubhouse. However, there are a lot of benefits in the fact of who can be pulled into a room. As I said, I’ve got no direct connection to the folks building Aguas Coworking Operations, but somehow in Clubhouse we were put together in the same room and we ended up chatting, so, the networking and discovery piece of it is fantastic. There are just a few pieces of it for me as someone who works across 63 countries for legal working spaces. That doesn’t sit perfectly with me and I hope that they’re going to address this with our latest funding round. But until the two are fixed, I can’t go full Clubhouse basically.
Bernie J Mitchel 12:15
It is not the only time it’s happened. There are other apps that have come along in the past decade, which are like Apple only. If you say it’s Apple only, it feels even more distinctly privileged than saying Android only, whereas if you said Microsoft only that would be odd. That does kill it a bit for me, that quails my enthusiasm, inviting people to Clubhouse. The other thing you said there, which I kind of hate, but is maybe the only word for it is, the networking. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not saying you need to get on Clubhouse to network with high-net-worth individuals, that’s not what I’m saying, but I’m amazed at how much connecting and chatting I’ve managed to get done there. It really hurts me to say this but do you think because it’s COVID and we can’t see each other and we are absolutely zonked from being on video screens, that having this app that is chatting and easy to move around and like there’s something about the set-up that works really well?
And I think there are a lot of great pieces. I think zoom fatigue has definitely played into people using it more. I think it’s just a remnant of an early social network. I’m not sure when, I think you joined Twitter a little bit earlier than I did. Back then you could tweet Elon Musk and you’d probably get a reply. You could tweet certain people who were leaders of industry or people you could reach, and because it was so young and new, people wanted to engage in it. So, you got to make those early connections. If you go down to Twitter or whatever now and try to connect with someone, there’s just so much noise and so much spam bots and all this other stuff that comes into a mature network. That hasn’t happened yet in Clubhouse and that is probably why it’s so powerful and so potent, and obviously there are structural rooms and the more people you follow, the more rooms you can get access to, the more you can pull people into rooms. That’s a new dynamic but it’s only a matter of time I think until it gets to the core critical mass, and I’m very interested to see how they’re going to challenge that when there’s so many rooms, and there’s so many spam topics or things like that. How are they going to curate that user experience, so it still creates this early adopter feeling but at scale? And I think that’s why they’ve raised so much money, it is to figure out how they’re going to do that.
Bernie J Mitchel 15:30
I could help them with that for that amount of money. I was reminiscing when you were talking about Twitter in the early days because I joined in August 2008. And I really had no idea what I was really getting into. And then for a few years, like in London, me and Julius from the Event Manager blog and another lady called Sue Butcher who works in architecture, and Paul Wilkinson from the Bar camp, which is where I learned about unconferences and all this type of stuff, we would be standing in like Tottenham Court Road and we’d say like tweet up in this pub and 20 people would show up. And you couldn’t do that now. And then when we went to conferences, it was all on Twitter. Most people in my life now and including coworking, I met as a result of Twitter and meet-up and just hashtag.
Right now, it’s borderline useless, right? It’s just a bunch of people sharing their links and I do the same because I don’t feel that I’m making the connections on Twitter that I was when I joined in 2009. I just don’t feel like I’m getting the reward or the networking for the amount of time I will be putting into it. So, hopefully Clubhouse manages to pull through and make sure that that scales on. I’m also curious to see how it’s going to play out when we return to normal conferencing, and in person events. Are we going to sort of see an adoption of this where there’s multiple hosts at the same location? And how are they going to adapt and implement all these subscriber fees, tipping and all this other stuff they’re working on. How is that going to change? I don’t want us to get to a point where I’m in the middle of my ‘This weekend coworking’ call and I’m like, hey, if you like what we’re doing, send me a $5 tip. I can see that coming to clubhouse.
Bernie J Mitchel 17:45
I think if you’ve been paying attention to how people do things on YouTube, the evolution of podcasting and stuff like that, I’ve been podcasting for like nearly a decade now, and the never-ending question bloggers ask me is how I make money blogging. Most of the time, you either have to do amazingly high-quality work that people just feel guilty reading it and want to send you money, or you have to do it as part of something else. Apart from a direct sponsorship, I’ve never managed to make money from podcasting. Everyone’s like, I want to hear about Joe Rogan or something like that nowadays, or the 2012 version, I think, oh, if we do that it can make money, even my son’s trying to get his YouTube channel going and can’t understand why people won’t give him money. But it does feel odd, and there’s always a group of people that just don’t get it. They asked for stuff at a really odd time because they’ve read in some text type blog, saying that’s what they should do, and they misplace it. But it does remind me of when we first started going to Coworking Europe in like 2014 and 2015.
We would get back to the copass camp and sit around the table. Everyone would be there. So, it’s kind of like a summer camp for people that are at the coworking conference, and people would get back, and we’d all sit around in the bar or around the tables and chat, and we just put the microphone for the podcast in the middle, and say, we hear this and then talk about the day. That’s the feeling I get with ‘This week in coworking’ because now it’s going into this rhythm of, we do our week and we come back, and I feel with people who I talk to outside of that room that we’re looking for. What can we talk about at ‘This week in coworking’? And hopefully it will start to unearth even more unique stories which I think is always the great mission for people like us to have.
Definitely. I mean, the big mission of ‘This week in coworking’ is making sure that we surface the celebrations, the stories, and the trends from all around the world not just what’s happening in London, not just what’s happening in Manhattan. But what’s happening in different places in the world. And by including these additional resources, additional storytellers, and additional community leaders. It brings them into the conversation, and it brings their insights and their feedback on the global trends and that is what I’m loving the most about our Friday calls. It started as me just reading through, discussing, and asking for topics. But now it’s gotten to a point where we kind of discuss each of the main things and we look at the bigger trends. And it’s very unpretentious which is what I like the most about it. I mean that’s coming from me. I try my best to be humble about hosting it, but I love the fact that everyone is just there. And if you want to contribute you can raise your hand and jump into the conversation. For those folks who just come every week and they listen in and then they will send me a direct message or send me an email and say, I love this topic, but I was feeding the kids or walking the dog or whatever it was, I couldn’t really participate but this is what I think, and here are some things that are happening in my neighbourhood. And it’s just fantastic to be part of that community and this is kind of why I go into coworking, is to support these people, support these communities and, obviously, in the end, support the local businesses that they enable.
Bernie J Mitchel 21:50
Good man. I think it’s real time coworking forum, it’s the sort of thing I wish I’d invented. I was going to get upset about it but I’m going to let you have the sector. I’ve got a suggestion for a link. Coming up on the 15th of April, If you could slide in our coworking symposium that’s happening online, but in Prague. My mate, Marco who you might know is going to get lots of people to talk about coworking, so, could you see if you can get that in? And to people listening, if they could sign up for ‘This week in coworking’, then that’s actually more fun than going to the link that is coworkingsymposium.com to find out about the event. Is that how I do it?
Perfect. I’ve added that already to our event reminders. If you’re interested in all the other events that are happening in different regions, but also in a global level, definitely sign up for the newsletter, it is free. If you don’t like the links that I send, feel free to unsubscribe at any point. You’ll only get one email a week unless I screw up something, to which I’ll send you another one explaining how I screwed up. But that’s only happened once in 30 something weeks, so, you’ll get one email a week.
Bernie J Mitchel 23:12
And folks if you want to hear about the power of newsletters go back a few episodes and listen to John Williams. I’m going to say this for you, Hector because I know you’re shy. So, if you go to sinkeroo.com, which is one of Hector’s other side projects, and also included.co.io.