Jean-Yves Huwart’s eclecticism has lead him to be a leader for the european coworking movement. Journalist, author, entrepreneur, is organizer of the 5th Coworking Europe Conference in Milano, from 11th to 13th of November 2015.
How and why did you decide to start with the Coworking Europe and the Coworking Africa conferences?
We started the Coworking Europe Conference in 2010. At the time I was then coworking at The Hub Brussels. We were at the very beginning of the movement, but we felt that coworking could become a major trend in our society. We also felt that coworking would positively impact our modern digital economies. Five years later, the assumptions are confirmed, and coworking spaces can be found throughout the world. Around this time we thought it was the right time to bring the message elsewhere.
After an accidental conversation on Twitter, we got in touch with Lizelle who is the founder of Cape Town Office, a coworking peer in South Africa. They suggested that we organize a similar conference catered to the African continent. For us, the proposition was exciting. So we launched the Coworking Africa conference Project in 2015.
So far, the African continent is still a small player when compared with Europe or North America. However, the booming tech scene is now creating ideal conditions for coworking to rapidly expand in Africa. The number of collaborative working hubs in Africa is growing at a steady pace, which reminds us of the situation in Europe and the US about six years ago. Hopefully, the African coworking community will have the opportunity to grow over the next five years, allowing them to meet and share just as we do now in Europe.
Could you inform us about the most important news, regarding coworking in Europe and Spain that will be announced in the next conference?
Out of the many hot topics being discussed at the moment and we would like to note the rise of the “on demand economy”. How can coworking spaces become complementary hubs of these online platforms, similar to Uber, which are now surfacing all over the world connecting freelance workers with contractors within a project based framework.
We will also discuss the topic of how coworking and vacation is growing, creating a number of summer and winter workspaces, due to the increasing number of digital nomads. In addition to these topics, we will bring coworking Africa pioneers on the stage, thanks to the first Coworking Africa conference we organized last July in Cape Town.
We will also present the latest social workplace trends. These trends will look at how offices and other facilities such as hotels or shopping centers are transforming into function social workplaces.
After 6 years organizing this conference, probably you are clearer than others about the evolution of the coworking movement.
Coworking is a very young industry, which is growing exponentially. More and more spaces are becoming more professional. In some contexts, coworking is also like a tool. For example, startup incubators put coworking spaces in place in order to host and support their teams.
One thing for sure is that the successful spaces are those that understand how to generate value for their community. Coworking is firstly about human beings interacting with one another for whatever reason. It’s about hospitality, empathy, community management, content, intention, sometimes collaboration, etc. Walls, wifi, chairs and tables are just available anywhere outside. So, you need to bring and create something else to convince members to commute and engage within your space.
Checking your LinkedIn profile, and reading about your professional experience through the years, it is obvious that you have been interested and have been working on different activities (journalism, management, business strategy, innovation, and so on). Do you think this multidisciplinary has been a breaking point for you, as this could have helped you to commit yourself with such an open movement as the coworking is?
Yes, I think so. Like most people, I made a lot of iterations. I’m happy with all that I did in the past. This sequence, though, is by far the most exciting!
On Day 1 of the Coworking Europe in Milano, will be a 30 minutes conference titled: “Coworking and Vacation is becoming a trend topic in a growing number of summer and winter spots. In BCNewt, as a coworking space in Barcelona, we are just wondering which is the current status of this trend.
Figures regarding nomadic workers are increasing every day in Europe and the United States, and they really only need internet access to be able to work from everywhere. This flexibility joins 2 concepts, work and holidays, that have traditionally been separated. This movement combines work and fun, and coworking tends to host people that normally love their work and look for places to be inspired.
The last activity in the program is about sponsoring a coworking space. Is this a new trend? Could you mention a success European case?
Till the beginning, Coworking Spaces tried to get sponsors, as food, beer coffee are the most usual you can find in all spaces. However coworking spaces usually find it very difficult to get sponsors aboard. Big brands not always see the ROI for them sponsoring a cowering space. Although some exceptions do exist.
The Startup Europe Coworking Assembly is a great project. As the coordinator of the Assembly, how can coworking help to improve Europe’s economy and society?
Ramon Suarez is now in charge. I suggest getting in touch with him to ask him.
Spain is still struggling against the financial crisis consequences, but it has a huge density of coworking spaces. It is related? Do you consider there is another reason to have so many coworking spaces here?
Spain seems to be the country with the highest number of coworking spaces per citizen worldwide. The financial crisis increased the number of freelancers and entrepreneurs, while the real estate boom increased the number of empty spaces and offices. Another reason could be that the term ‘coworking’ has been trendy over last years, and a lot of people have opened coworking spaces thinking that they would be easy to manage and make profitable without planning a business strategy.
It’s also important to note that the majority of spaces are located in Barcelona and Madrid. The first is one of Europe’s hottest startup hubs.