Rent, employees and other fixed expenses complicate the ballot to about a thousand shared work spaces that the Coworking Spain platform registers. The Global Coworkings Profitability Survey 2017 reflected that 60% of these surfaces were not profitable and almost two out of five closed during 2016, according to a Coworking Community report.
Rafa de Ramón (Madrid, 1976) invites you to look at the data calmly. "It is important to know where the spaces that are closed are, what size they have, what they are doing to obtain benefits …", he begins. The founder and CEO of Utopicus, the national company with more strength in the sector, recently acquired by the Colonial real estate, refuses to catalog its business as unprofitable, but also opposes the widespread idea that riding a coworking It is a way to get money without moving a finger. "You need dedicated staff, because you're going to give a service. It's not like renting an office: you have to be there every day, offer maintenance, community, generate content … It's a very intensive job. Either you have a certain volume or it's very difficult to get the numbers out. "
Aware of this reality, his company decided to organize training courses for people who wanted to open their own coworking space. During the year that they carried out this initiative, about a hundred people went through their program. More than half the idea of the head was removed. "People multiplied tables by price and did not attend to other variables," recalls Ramón. "They thought that putting a dozen jobs in the space of 200 m2 that did not give utility and giving a little publicity would have a prosperous business, but that never works."
The entrepreneur takes his time before speaking and, when he does, presents his ideas with the passion and clarity that only communion between experience and vocation offers. It's been ten years since he mounted his first coworking for entrepreneurs and freelances and today his company has six spaces in Madrid and four in Barcelona that total more than 150,000 m2.
Utopicus does not intend to expand outside of these two cities at the moment and its growth plans are focused on strengthening its current network, but do not consider that theirs is a business that can only work in the big cities. "This culture is present everywhere and there are more and more digital nomads. It is a natural way of living and when you travel you see it ", defends De Ramón. "A few years ago we could talk about trends, but now it's a reality. Nowadays, you can work from anywhere and all you need is your laptop. "
Precisely for this reason, a coworking It must offer something more than a desk on which to support the computer. The entrepreneur from Madrid values as essential that the space promotes values with which its users feel identified, a culture that is defined from the very conception of the premises. For this reason, they design each surface with a different architect. "Functionally, there is a similar structure in all of our spaces, but this way you avoid riding a chain in the style of Burger King," he says.
At the entrance to the Utopicus establishments there is always a bar and on the way to the bathroom or the cafeteria they open meeting spaces to encourage synergies among the professionals who work there. They also want to introduce the club concept, to which anyone who is interested in what they offer may belong – they soon plan to launch a collection of contemporary art – regardless of whether they need a space in which to work.
The problem of creating this sense of community in a coworking it arises when it is too big. De Ramón is a strong supporter of Dunbar's theory, according to which, When a group exceeds 150 members, they must have a very high incentive to stay together. "When we started to believe we realized that there was a point that our community did not increase, no more people came," he admits. "He was coincidentally around this figure."
His solution was to start designing spaces taking into account this limitation. To do this, they divided each coworking in departments or thematic neighborhoods. "There is a neighborhood of fintech, where professionals who work in this field come together, and their neighbors next door are those of blockchain", Indicates.
The sector now contemplates a trend that can be key in its growth: some multinationals are moving whole teams to work in these spaces. The entrepreneur is convinced that the reduction of infrastructure costs is not the only motivation of large companies: he thinks that they are mainly interested in the content they generate and the feeling of belonging to a community with shared values. "Our challenge in this regard is clear," he observes. "Their main concerns are security and privacy, physical and systems. That's where we have to focus. "