If you haven’t yet heard of GCUC, it’s the Global Coworking Unconference Conference – a conference series that’s discussing the world of coworking, and it’s finding its way to all corners of the world. This September it’s taking London by storm in the debut GCUC UK. We sat down with Executive Producer, Liz Elam, to get all the juicy details about the event, the market, and the recently announced global partnership with essensys. Here’s what she had to say.
When did you realize GCUC had to come to the UK?
I frequently attended other industry events in Europe and was often asked why GCUC wasn’t in the UK. There were a lot of requests for us to come to London. Plus, we had a lot of market vendors and individuals from the UK approach us asking for GCUC to come to the UK.
What will GCUC add to the existing coworking conferences in Europe?
One of the things about GCUC was that I had sat in enough conferences in corporate America that I knew I wanted it to be fun, engaging, and I wanted people want to be there. I wanted people to see their friends, become invigorated and fall in love with the industry. That’s the difference with GCUC and there’s a spirit and an energy that can’t be bought. It’s a unique offering in the world.
The thing is, if you’re operating or thinking of opening a coworking space and you’re not tapping into the network of owners, operators, game changers and innovators in your community, you’re missing out. That’s the secret sauce of GCUC. If you come with an open heart and open mind, you’ll make friends you have for life.
What was the biggest challenge in breaking into the UK?
I was very worried about how longtime conference organizers in the region would take it. I have a lot of respect for everyone who’s championing for our industry and didn’t want to encroach on their territory without their blessing. My theory, however, is that there’s enough market-share for everyone. Our content at GCUC is radically different than other conferences – and we’re coming into the UK market with the greatest respect. For us it’s about making the uniqueness of GCUC shine – it’s a radically different conference. If GCUC isn’t fun, we’ve failed.
They say the UK market is the most advanced workspace market…what do you have to say about it?
I believe it’s due to longevity and maturity of the market in the UK. But it’d be a disservice to not look at Asia. What’s happening in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, for example, is incredibly progressive – the acceleration of growth is so much faster that it’s mind-blowing. It makes us look like we’re standing still.
For Asia, its partly due to the sheer volume of people. Homes are small, so people need a place to work. In China, the government’s realized that the whole world saw them as the low-class manufacturer and they want to change that. They’re shifting their stance, supporting startups and businesses, and putting a lot of money into coworking at a rapid pace. I would submit that coworking Is helping push the entire world towards the fourth industrial revolution.
What are you super excited about for GCUC UK?
I’m really looking forward to the coworking tours. I’m looking forward to seeing The Office Group, Second Home, Third Door and of course, Ministry of Sound. I’m a design nerd – I can’t wait to see the interiors of all of the spaces. I love hanging out in London. It has a bustling yet serene energy, unlike New York, which is more frenetic.
We’ve heard you mention health and wellness a lot around this year’s GCUC agendas, why is it such a focus?
A recent report by The World Economic Forum reported that depression is costing corporations globally the most money. You can’t send everyone to work from home, alone, and not see a giant increase in depression. Smart devices have turned us into a lonely society. Face to face, human connection is needed by all human beings. Coworking is more than a community manager and a beautiful space, it’s helping solve a real crisis in our culture. Going to your workspace solves the loneliness problem, and makes you healthier, happier and more productive. It’s a game changer for the human race.
Where do you see the future of GCUC UK?
We fully expect to run GCUC UK every year. It has potential to be one of our biggest conferences in the world.
As someone who gets to see coworking from different market perspectives throughout the world thanks to GCUC, tell us how the market is really changing.
It’s not that so much has changed in the market, but the speed to market for new tendencies and ideas has dramatically decreased. For example, the chatter we heard back at GCUC USA in April is happening now, confirming everything we’ve been talking about. The latest we’ve seen are acquisitions, roll ups, and new partnerships that are helping to define the market.
What can you tell us about market opportunities for existing operators?
Based on the many interesting inquiries into GCUC recently, it’s evident that opportunities are boundless. Money has really freed up and you can see it in the market. If you have the guts to put together a proposal and your numbers are good – you’ll probably get funding. If you want to get acquired, raise your hand! People are looking at coworking operators. There are new opportunities for partnerships because a lot of industries are looking to coworking thanks to increased awareness and mainstream attention it’s gotten.
The partnerships we’ve seen spring up over the past few months are proof that the market is still evolving. We’ve seen partnerships with large corporations, such as Industrious and L.L. BEAN’s outdoor coworking concept, Neuehouse and Lifetime Gym, and the GCUC’s first global partnership with essensys.
We’re really excited about the essensys-GCUC global partnership. What made GCUC look to essensys?
We’ve been looking for a GCUC global partner for years. It’s really telling that our first one is essensys. From the second essensys found the coworking industry, you got it. It’s a high-give to the market, to GCUC and to essensys. Partnerships like this will allow GCUC to take things to the next level like we’ve never been able to do before. Our partnership is a great indicator of where coworking is going and where GCUC is going.
The great thing about essensys is that you guys been around in the market long enough and you’ve earned the reputation as a trusted, reliable and proven technology partner. Essensys has the market share to demonstrate that when you’re buying essensys, you know it’s going to work.