In a relatively short time span, Bond Collective (formerly known as Coworkrs), established a flourishing workspace business in New York City – the coworking capital of the world – and managed to secure a multi-million dollar investment to fuel nationwide expansion. The team at Bond Collective knows who they are, where they’re going, and has a clear vision of how to get there. We sat down with Tim Bailey, Director of Operations at Bond Collective, to learn more about their impressive journey and get a preview of what’s in store for their growing network of workspaces.
The Early Days of Bond Collective
Back in 2013, Shlomo Silber, CEO and Co-Founder of Bond Collective, and his business partner Elie Deitsch, CFO and Co-Founder, owned a construction company in NYC and worked together on a number of commercial and residential real estate projects. As their business grew, they identified the need for more sophisticated shared workspaces that were comfortable and designed well. When they settled on the idea of starting a business, they found office space in Flatiron and jumped on the opportunity to gain a footprint in one of the busiest corners in the city. When the doors to Bond Flatiron opened, Elie and Shlomo aspired to create an environment where they could run their own business alongside a network of friends and connections sharing the space.
When the Bond Collective team realized the potential at their fingertips, Shlomo and the team leased two more floors in their flagship location in Flatiron. The space totals 15,000 square feet and is now home to 250+ members. Growth came quickly as the shared workspace pioneers opened their second location in Gowanus just one year later.
Fast forward a few years, and 2017 was one of Bond Collective’s biggest years yet. They opened their fourth workspace in the Financial District, announced two new locations (Bushwick and Philadelphia), redefined their brand and target market, and secured $50 million in funding to fuel their expansion.
A Shared Workspace Vision Defined
As Bond Collective expanded, Shlomo began to morph the vision of the company. The focus was to offer members a feeling of “at home, at work” explains Tim Bailey. “A vital part of the plan was for our members to feel comfortable as if they were working from home.” In parallel, their fourth location, 60 Broad, was a new version of their product offering: larger offices for companies who required seats for 15+ people with dedicated space, in-office conference rooms and executive suites.
In 2013, “coworking was a specific market” says Bailey. An operator’s objective at the time was to put as many people into the smallest office footprint possible, then build communities of entrepreneurs working and collaborating under one space. The shared space industry has certainly come a long way from that early days with an emerging focus on providing beautiful, curated spaces featuring lots of windows, communal space and plush amenities. Bond Collective tries to differentiate itself by bringing professionalism and sophistication into their workspaces through design, hospitality and community.
Bond Collective offers a number of different memberships options including: coworking, private offices ranging 1-50+, dedicated desk, virtual office and a moonlighter membership. Surprisingly, coworking memberships only account for their smallest percentage of the total member base, trumped by far by license agreements for larger private offices.
As they grew, Bond Collective capitalized on increased competition and changing member demands in the office market. In early 2017, they rebranded from Coworkrs to Bond Collective and rebuilt their shared space concept around their members, featuring their brands and providing a sense of community. It was a simple decision according to Tim Bailey, “to be relevant in an overcrowded market you need to be responsive to the needs of your customers.”
Staffing with Intention
A central component during Bond Collective’s growth stage was learning from their early years of staffing adventures. As we’ve stressed in the past (link to internal article) the people working for your company are the vehicles of your brand and can set the tone for member experience. For Bond Collective, the hiring process is a group decision and of course, timing and circumstances are critical. As their business has grown, their hiring has become more strategic. The candidate that brings skills and talents that can take them beyond their current job description have a much better record of success. It’s all about optimizing what each individual brings to the table and realizing room to grow within their own trajectory.
Purposeful Services and Amenities
Bond Collective’s brand identity drives their day-to-day. A defined brand voice is necessary to distinguish who they are and what they’re doing differently in the market. Focus groups and quarterly town halls are organized at Bond Collective’s multiple locations – with the CEO present – where the community shares ideas and members are polled on the services and amenities they want to see.
By providing these channels of communication, members are advocates for their own workspaces, amenities and services. This is a perfect example that coworking is growing up and the preference for amenities has changed to create a more inclusive and secure environment. For example, the team at Bond Collective takes a measured approach to community activities. The member response to operator-led events is gauged to determine the quality and value of repeating them, even if it means stepping back from regularly scheduled but low-engagement events. Member-led events are common at Bond Collective, giving the community the ability to be leaders of their own gatherings and activities.
CRE Decisions: Opportunistic to Strategic
Riding on the wave of good timing and a growing market, the initial real estate decisions made at Bond Collective were more opportunistic. As they grow and prepare for national expansion, it is much more strategic. “We understand that our role in the market will never be that we are everywhere to all things and to all people. That’s not what our brand represents.” For Bond Collective, increasing their footprint is about focusing on how they can grow within their current scope, then put stakes in the ground in locations that make sense; specifically in terms of transportation, uniqueness, outdoor space, and surrounding community.
Determining a new location is all about data. Bond Collective’s CEO seeks to expand in markets that are up and coming and sometimes not right within a major city. In addition to basic market research, grounding a business and its brand within a new community is essential. From understanding the full scope of the market to choosing one building over another, Bond Collective is meticulous about selecting locations for upcoming sites.
Overcoming Market Challenges
Bond Collective recognizes changing workspace market dynamics. Their focus is to make sure they’re not putting all of their stock in one particular segment of the market, but providing options that include event space, short and long-term leasing, revolving contracts for startups and Fortune 500 companies.
Scaling Bond Collective’s workspace business relies largely on market knowledge and strategic CRE decisions based on data. Beating market challenges is easier with the right information and processes in place. Accessible demographic and membership information underpins their growing member base, allowing Bond Collective to leverage the information as they grow.
As for ongoing operations, Operate by essensys has been critical in Bond Collective’s day-to-day management, CRM and sales systems. Managing member accounts and agreements, easy conference room bookings, and the backend financial management functionality simplify the overall administration of their centers. Bond Collective’s members also benefit from the user-friendly member portal that influences greater engagement and the ability to manage their own work environment.
Bond Collective has grown to be a leading provider of shared office and coworking space in the New York Metro Area and beyond. Leveraging the $50 million in private funding, they plan to put 30 new locations on the map before 2020. Unique by design and a well-founded brand and vision, the future is bright for Bond Collective.