Berlin coworking, through Martha’s NYC-er eyes

I spent July 2013 in Berlin, checking out the city and wondering what it’d be like to live there full time.  So, in addition to checking out the line policies at Berghain (they seem totally random), I also checked out some coworking spaces.  Like NYC, Berlin has a very clear coworking culture and it’s certainly a bit different.  In some ways, more civilized than the workaholic mindset that so many New Yorkers have.

Here’s a list of Berlin features:

Hours are more sane.  The work-life balance in Berlin is quite even, especially in summer when the sun is only down for 4-5 hours a night. It’s more common for people to role between 9-10am and to really stop working for the day between 5 and 6.  Some people leave then, and others stay and get a beer from the cafe.  This is of course a bit different for those in private offices for startups.  But from what I could tell, everyone was following German laws around how many hours could be worked a week (in an office at least, but again this is a casual observation so who knows?)

Cafes are common.  All of the coworking spaces I saw had cafes for buying coffee, Club Mate (the standard coffee alternative that is oddly addicting), lunch options (typically just one or two a day, changing each day), and beer for after hours.  Some spaces like Betahaus and St. Oberholtz have cafe only spaces that you can go to instead of paying a day rate in the main space.

Service is German.  Which means that there are specific processes to follow and that you’ve got to be a bit more patient with whoever is providing said service.  People may speak with you a bit more direct than they would in the States.  And they’ve be VERY thorough about it. But this is true of well, anything in Germany.

Eye for detail.  Every space I went to was very well designed.  But why wouldn’t it be?  Everything else in Berlin has a clear design sense as well.  This is different than some of the US spaces, which are more varied when it comes to design.

Community is important.  Some spaces even encourage members to join a weekly group dinner to meet other members.

Spaces have a variety of workspaces available.  Some may just have different types of seating areas if you’re just eating, having a meeting, or need silence.  Others have a wide variety of conference spaces, conversation spaces or workshops with 3D printing or woodworking materials.

Spaces are all over.  In NYC, the better coworking tends to be in Manhattan or one of the Brooklyn neighborhoods with more offices (not that there aren’t some really cute and nice neighboorhood coworking spaces, but they’re not really focused on bringing in the dough).  That’s not the case in Berlin.  There are major coworking spaces in all of the big neighborhoods, and each one reflects the neighborhood that they are in (edgier in the East, more traditional in the West, posher in more expensive neighborhoods, edgiest in the edgiest neighborhoods).  So, if there’s a specific industry you want to work with or neighborhood you want to spend all your time in, your coworking space can really help support those goals.

In conclusion, I found the coworking culture in Berlin vibrant yet homey.  And I really really wise I could bring their cafes back to NYC.  Adding a layer of food culture would really make our spaces homier.

marthadenton Posted by marthadenton

Loosecubes, Friday, February 3, 2012

This is our first company office with co-working spots, versus a pure co-working space.  Quite a different dynamic.  The co-workers are put in an area to the side, while the company works in the main space.  3 out of the 5 co-working desks are used all of te time, so there’s really only 2 guest spots.  On Feb 3, we were the guests.

Pros:

  • Monitors available at the co-working spots
  • Nicer chairs (though not enough. one of us almost had to work on a stool
  • There’s a tent for a conference room!
  • Bright space
  • Bike parking
  • Fast internet (Download 41.91, upload 54.25 pr speakeasy.net, what!)
  • Nice views, we’re on a high floor so you can see over the buildings
  • Not as close to the bridge (a huge concern in DUMBO because the subway is loud)
  • It’s only $5 a day.  Dude!
  • Decent bars nearby

Minuses

  • Because it’s a company, they aren’t as welcoming and inclusive in the co-working experience.  They set us up pleasantly enough, but it’s not the same energy of “omg, yes, be part of our community please!”  like other places. It’s also not the point to the space either.  Although, since they’re focused on co-working for their business, we were surprised at the insularity.
  • Sitting with a company can be loud.  They have a lot of meetings.
  • Not terribly quiet, any confidential conversations can be heard by everyone
  • Not too many cheap lunch options

Highlights:

  • The tent.  It’s cool.
  • Having a documentary film maker come in and ask us if we wanted to talk about butts.  yes, like the one you are sitting on.  Apparently they’re doing some documentary about anal sex or something.  We all had a good laugh about that.  Definitely office wide bonding moment.

This is a great space to try for a day but not necessarily to settle into for good.  There are 3 folks who work here on an on-going basis, but they pretty much keep to themselves.  The split between office and co-workers is clear.

It is however a great space to overhear others talking about the concept of co-working.  Very cool on that!  We had hoped for more of that though.  They really sounded like any other tech startup talking about resumes and wireframes.

marthadenton Posted by marthadenton

Plans for 2012

There are still co-working spaces popping up all of the time in NYC and we still plan to review all of those fabulous places.  However, we plan to expand our blog this year to get into talking about co-working on a higher level.  We’ve already laid out some awesome questions and features that we want to cover.  But hey, why not ask you what you want to know?

Please reply with questions you care about and we’ll try and address them.

marthadenton Posted by marthadenton

Laurea with no one

We Create NYC Sept 23, Martha’s take

So, we went up in an old school elevator with an elevator operator.  We were greeted by some dude on the phone, who stayed on the phone most of the morning (he’s apparently the founder). There were some folks in a conference room with the door closed the entire time we were there.  And no one else.  We’re told other people work here.  It was apparently an off day.  We did however find 7 dead plants, no paper towels in the bathroom, poorly painted, desks, cheap chairs, fast internet, and 2 windows overlooking a bunch of apartments.  The windows were huge, though and there are some lovely skylights above.

We were shown free water and the internet password.  No other free beverages available.  Apparently there is free business coaching.  

They also have a venue in London, that apparently has 250 members.  They’re looking to expand into Detroit and Hong Kong as well.  The plan is for some art links between the various cities.

The whole concept is apparently based on some cognitive research and brain wave theory.  All color selections and layouts had that in mind.  Everyone has to face each other because they want the members to have conversations.  There are plans around having workshops around the concept of freelancing and something else around engineering and cognitive, brain something or other.  Talk of showcasing new art on a regular basis, ideally from new artists.

BTW, they’re sad about the plants being dead, too.  

The people who work here include a social media app tech start up, someone who freelances with Unicef and has an interest in game mechanics, a lawyer, an accountant, and someone related to Herman Miller some how.  So it’s more varied than some of the other spaces.

The pros:

  • No wait for the bathroom
  • No problem finding a place to sit 
  • All the dead plants made us giggle.  Maybe it’s a Friday thing
  • The location is great, being near Union Square is great
  • There’s a conference room, if you can book it
  • I got inspired to contribute to Laurea and her husband’s Fastest Possible blog, drawing a deadish plant
  • The founder is willing to chat about his theory at length.  Good guy to chat with about neuroscience and cognitive space design
  • There will be art featuring new artists
  • There are plans for creatively structured workshops

The cons:

  • The desks are big but not super high quality
  • The chairs aren’t high quality
  • No paper towels in the bathroom
  • 7 dead plants, weird that they didn’t throw them out

If you need a place on the cheap, check it out.  Fees here:  http://www.wecreatenyc.com/services/workspace-membership/

marthadenton Posted by marthadenton