On November 13, 2017, GCUC (Global Coworking Unconference Conference) China was again held in Shanghai. It kicked off at the 800 SHOW complex in Jing’an District. The summit invited around 50 distinguished guests, active in the field of coworking spaces, real estate, funds, design and the sharing econonmy, including Liz Elam (Founder of GCUC & Link Coworking), Grant Horsfield (Founder and Chairman of naked Group), Carsten Foertsch (Founder of Deskmag), Carl Sullivan (Founder and Managing Director of Your Desk), Melissa Gregg (Principal Engineer and Research Director of Client Computing for Intel), Bob Zheng (Founder of People Squared (P2)), Mao Daqing (Founder of Urwork), and Zhang Siding (Co-founder of ofo). The event attracted almost one thousand participants in total.
Established in Austin USA in 2010, GCUC has become a global top-level industry summit, covering nearly twenty cities in seven countries and four continents. The event has been held more than twenty times. GCUC came to Asia for the first time in 2015, and then landed in China. The conference has been held annually in China since then. Duncan Logan (Founder of RocketSpace), Brad Krauskopf (Founder of Third Space), Jonathan O’byrne (Founder of Collective Work) and multiple other global leaders in the coworking space sector have since visited China to take part in the summit. In 2017, GCUC China was held for four consecutive days, covering activities including space tour, camp, the theme summit and interactive displays.
A multitude of different cultural backgrounds and levels of economic development in countries around the world have resulted in a diverse range of foundations for the development of coworking. The “2017 GCUC Coworking Industry Development Report,” jointly issued by authoritative industry publication Deskmag, the biggest integrated information provider for the real estate sector, CRIC CHINA, and China’s leading internet office service platform, Haozu, found that growth momentum in the global shared-office space sector remains strong. Expansion and attracting new members remain key trends of the industry. Growth seen in the quantity of space is slowing, though the overall growth rate remains higher than 20% annually. It is estimated that the number of coworking space members will exceed one million for the first time this year.
What are the key differences of coworking space found in China and those found in other countries? Carsten Foertsch, founder of Deskmag, said during the 2017 GCUC CHINA summit that coworking came relatively late to Asia, and mainly concentrated caters to small and medium-sized enterprises. The coworking space sectors in Europe and North America, on the other hand, were developed by freelancers.
Melissa Gregg, Principal Engineer and Research Director of Client Computing Group at Intel Cline Computing Group, highlight the strong government support for the sector as a vital difference between China and other countries. “Coworking in China is very popular and has a lot of ecosystems. I believe the most important point is that government strongly supports scientific innovation in China.”
Relevant data shows that a start-up company is established in China every seven minutes. With this wave of start-ups and innovation, the number of coworking spaces in the country has grown 46-fold from 50 spaces to a total of around 2300 in 2017. There are currently 4,298 registered coworking space companies operating nationwide. Traditional commercial real estate developers and hotel industry firms are also increasingly engaged in the coworking field. With the continuous entry of resource-rich commercial real estate enterprises, China’s coworking space firms are feeling a sharp increase in competitive pressure.
The rate of growth seen in the China’s start-up sector is much faster than that seen in many other countries including the US. In terms of investment, coworking space has now evolved into a version 3.0, a phase which integrates content, music, hotels as well as other services. The innovation and changes associated with this diverse business model holds great potential in China.
We can see this in multiple real-life examples. People Squared (P2), the earliest coworking brand in China, has accrued rich cooperative experience in different industries, including a diversified music space specially designed for musicians and through cooperation with Chinese music giant Taihe Music Group. The space integrates online social interaction, offline immersive music experiences and autonomous IP output. P2 has also developed a content space focused on content entrepreneurs with ideas and innovations, in collaboration with New Rank, China’s first content entrepreneurship service platform and also the country’s first intelligent coworking concept space, jointly developed with Alibaba.
2017 has also witnessed the coworking space sector take steps to integrate more closely through M&A, for instance, there has been strategic cooperation between People Squared (P2) and Workingdom, cooperation between Urwork and Fountown, a combination of WE + and Cowork, and Woo Space’s acquisition of FourWork, among others. The overall pace of the sector’s development is speeding up. While space developers all deeply understand the importance of the promotion of sharing quality in order to survive in the battle of brands, the aforesaid quality refers to content and community.
Duncan Logan, founder of RocketSpace, concluded that the secret of his company’s success is “to be hypercritical”, which is a key point. In 2011, he established RocketSpace, and set an objective from the very beginning to exclusively focus on scientific technology enterprises. In the initial stages, RocketSpace refused many enterprises that did not engage in the field of technology, including public relations companies, legal offices and head-hunters. Enterprises solely focusing on scientific technology cover a variety of areas including Big Data, social media, e-commerce and online gaming. However, there is a rule that scientific technology enterprises should be those that aim to change the world, and not be made up of start-up companies that only focus on lifestyle trends. It is also a way to build a community made up of people focused on engagement in a common industry.
Bob Zheng, founder of People Squared (P2), commented at 2017 GCUC CHINA that, many coworking developers can be described as creating a beautiful cup. No matter how beautiful your cup is, what users see most is the contents inside the cup when it is full. “Therefore, no matter what you do with the cup or what state the cup is in, in the end all that everyone mostly sees is what’s in the cup. However, our cups and containers are indeed essential components in our coworking field.”
It is not difficult to see that the thinking put in to the coworking sector in China has entered a deep stage. The development of coworking in China is very synchronous with the publicity of global coworking, and has even exceeded the global situation. For the global coworking industry, the development model seen in China can be used as a reference to a large extent.
Company Name: People Squared (P2)
Contact Person: Sharon Zhang