By Cecilia Amador
The flexible workspace industry is booming with activity. Real estate and property firms are embracing flexible workspace, investors are continuously showing interest by providing funds to operators, and large companies now make up a significant percentage of flexible workspace users.
However, this also means that there is increased competition which has led to operators seeking new ways to differentiate their offering.
In highly popular markets like Manhattan — where flexible workspace is the fastest growing industry in the city — staying ahead of the competition is a tough challenge. Allwork.Space spoke with Shlomo Silber, co-founder and CEO of Bond Collective, to learn how last year’s rebrand from Coworkrs to Bond Collective helped them pivot and stand out in a crowded flexible workspace market.
Allwork.Space: Last year you rebranded from Coworkrs to Bond Collective. How has the rebrand helped your company grow?
Shlomo Silber: Yes, January 2017 was a huge moment in time for us when we rebranded from Coworkrs to Bond Collective. After a few years being Coworkrs, we felt the name limited the company’s growth potential to strictly coworking. We chose Bond Collective to better represent a lifestyle brand that creates a hospitality-driven environment for anyone that steps into our locations across the country.
Since the rebrand, Bond Collective has opened up an event venue in the Financial District location in Manhattan, and we have plans to add another venue in Bushwick as well. Not only that, but we also have plans in Nashville to add additional amenities to our shared workspace which includes a food hall and speakeasy – all in one building. We are hopeful that these new offerings will also add to the surrounding local community in addition to providing our members with more in-house amenities.
I think our name change has definitely helped the company grow over the past year and a half. For example, I think it makes us look more attractive to potential employees if our service offering as a company are unlimited – rather than strictly coworking at Coworkrs. Another example is the look of the brand itself. The Coworkrs letters had no theme or meaning behind it, but now we’ve created specific colors for each location and entirely new branding that’s reflected on every marketing material we create. Overall, I’m so happy we completed the rebrand and I think it has, and will continue to, help our company grow even more.
Has your membership demographic changed much because of the rebrand? If so, how?
Yes and no. Yes in that we broadened our horizons to new audiences to offer more – such as full-service event venues. This has allowed us to introduce our end-to-end hospitality experience to so many more people from all different industries.
Then, I say no because every single one of our current members (at the time) stayed with us through the rebranding transition. Our team made it clear from the beginning that nothing would be changing from an offerings perspective within our spaces. Instead, all of our services would be elevated to another level. We were and still are so appreciative of everyone sticking with us and understanding why we decided to make the change. We are evolving alongside a lot of the startups within our space and I think our members truly understood where we were coming from when we rebranded.
In November last year Bond Collective raised US$50 million. How have you used that funding so far?
Thus far, we’ve strictly used the capital to secure and fund new locations across the US – such as East Nashville and Washington DC, which we just announced within the last month or so. We currently have plans to build 30 new sites within the next three years, so the capital will fund construction and all costs associated with building new spaces. In addition, the capital will be used to grow the size of our team to support that growth.
Our funding is definitely an ode to the industry as a whole. A ton of other shared workspaces are also raising money alongside of us – which shows the need for this type of service among all industries. The demand for shared workspaces is growing and we are so excited to be along for the ride and to witness the future of work.
We are also considering going beyond shared workspaces and event venues and looking at getting involved in the hotel and co-living industry by creating a sort of campus. What we have in mind is that we could create one or two floors of shared workspace, then partner with a hotel developer and retail shops to create said “campus”.
I understand that one of your value propositions is that you design each location to “reflect the personality of each community and their environment”. Could you explain what this means and how Bond Collective works to achieve this?
Definitely! What we mean by that is that we take the design and vibe from the surrounding local community and try to bring that to the interior of our spaces. That could mean anything from brick walls to graffiti, to a building’s architecture. If you walk into our space in Gowanus, Brooklyn and then to 60 Broad Street in the Financial District, you’ll know exactly where you are in New York by the interiors of the space.
Our Design Team is the brains behind the initiative. Myself and our Director of Design, Elide Grabowski, tour each area where we have plans to open a space and take in every part of the neighborhood. We look for details and hues in the area to add to our spaces that embody the greater community and industries in the area.
A perfect example of this is our Gowanus location in Brooklyn. The building is an old tile factory that we repurposed to naturally compliment the neighborhood. Gowanus is an enclave with creative and media professionals, and knowing that, we built photography, podcast and music studios in the building for our members and community. We also left a lot of the original ceiling beams and flooring throughout the building to keep the look and feel authentic.
How has this uniqueness factor helped the brand grow?
The uniqueness and the design of our spaces is one of the first things people realize when they walk into Bond Collective locations. It’s also one of the top reason members decide to sign a lease with us. We create environments and layouts that are comfortable and inclusive across all locations. That could mean we create nooks to conduct focused work or a plush meeting booth that’s private enough for a brainstorm session.
Another unique offering we have is our staff. I might be biased, but we have some of the most endearing and hospitable staff in the industry. I know our Community Managers and Community Developers care deeply about our members and will do anything in their power to create the best workday possible for them.
I think both of these things have helped our brand grow because it’s things guests, members and potential members actually notice. When you walk into our spaces, the first thing you see is the design and aesthetic of the common areas, kitchens and conference rooms. As for our staff, we always have Community Managers at the front desk that are ready to help anyone that walks in the door.
Let’s talk about the future. What does it look like for Bond Collective and for the industry in general?
Bond Collective’s future is very bright – I think we’ve got a great product offering and the need for it across the country is definitely there. As I mentioned before, we are in the midst of a national expansion to bring Bond Collective locations to first and secondary markets in the immediate future. I want to continue to build spaces that our members are proud of; we will continue to carefully design each space, our staff will continue to help propel members’ businesses towards success, and we will provide a workplace where everyone is comfortable.
The industry in general is booming, which is also a great thing for us. I love seeing the successes of other spaces – from raising capital to new partnerships to opening spaces. It proves that coworking is not just a trend and that it’s here to stay. Advances in technology, increase in remote workers and freelancers, and the reduced cost of launching a businesses has helped the coworking industry shift from a niche market to the mainstream. I’ve read reports that say there will be over 5.1 million people working from shared workspaces by 2020 and I completely agree that’s obtainable.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One thing I’d like to hammer home is that with all of our new locations, our hope is that we are adding something great to already existing communities. We hope that the workspaces, restaurants and other destinations that are created aid to the growth of the areas we build in.