Carsten Foertsch founder of Deskmag presenting the findings of Global Coworking Survey 2016
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CUAsia-February 2017-Chiang Mai, Thailand-Carsten Foertsch: Global Coworking Survey 2016

Carsten Foertsch, the founder of Deskmag, presented the findings of Global Coworking Survey 2016 at the Unconference in CUAsia 2017. Deskmag is the biggest and oldest online media platform about coworking. In almost every article and news piece on coworking you see, Global Coworking Survey is cited, it is the most comprehensive source of data on coworking industry on Earth.

He presented the Asian and Global results of the 2016 Global Coworking Survey, which have been reported by the employees, co-founders, and owners of coworking spaces. The last couple of months have been busy for most people working for coworking spaces because the number of members has doubled from 70 to 160. This figure also reflects an increase in the differences among coworking spaces; when you cut the highest 5% or the lowest 5%, usually in an even development the number is supposed to stay the same, but half of the members disappear, so we have 70. When you want to reduce the number from a very diverse development, it is more realistic if you trim this way. Then you will also be able to be more attentive towards your members. The share of coworking spaces which was more than 150 members or more has increased by 6%, which points to 17%, so half of the coworking spaces still holds less than 15 members. When you compare it with the global results, you see the Asian results is more similar to the worldwide development. There are few differences, in Asia, you usually have fewer women over from coworking spaces, whereas in globally it is 40%.

The mean number of desks has increased to 60% more desks in Asia, that is 100 workstations per coworking space. 30% of coworking spaces provide more than a 100 desks which is much more than the global average. The size of the coworking spaces regarding square meters has increased by a third,  although global standard for other coworking spaces is usually smaller. It points to the fact that there is less square meter per desk globally compared to Asia.

A third of the coworking spaces in Asia is a year old, which is still impressive. Currently, coworking spaces on average are a little bit older than two years becoming similar to the global average. More than half of the members have joined the coworking spaces in the past 12 months. The number of coworking spaces per location is more than 20 coworking spaces in locations and cities with more than a million inhabitants. Carsten can only show the average number of locations which were reported by the coworking spaces. On the global average, it is a little bit more than 30 coworking spaces in cities more than a million inhabitants.

Next, Carsten mentioned the top five problems of coworking spaces, the primary activity of coworking spaces worldwide followed by administrative task and the general workload is not entirely different in Asia compared to the global figures.  Attracting members is still a primary problem for coworking spaces in Asia as well worldwide. Most of the coworking space in Asia put their efforts in community building, followed by events for potential members, social and media activities are widespread in comparison to the global results. There is another difference between free trials, or free coworking spaces are less popular in Asia. Instead, they offer discounts for partners or specific groups such as students. In the case of social media activities, websites, SEO, the figures are relatively same in Asia and globally.

When referring to ‘self-description’, so many coworking spaces says that they are more than a coworking space. In Asia, 86% of the coworking space owners have said they are more than just a coworking space. 45% said they are mainly a coworking space, 19% referred to themselves as a community space, and the remaining 10% called themselves a mixed space. There were some who defined themselves as a shared office, business centers or incubator accelerator. “I was a little bit surprised by the fact that the option of a business center element in a coworking space is less important in Asia, but I think it is because they have a different definition for what a business center is,” said Carsten.

According to Carsten, the top additional elements of coworking spaces are event space, community space, shared space, incubators/accelerators, artist space and business center. Out of the 45% in Asia and the 58% in Global,  the top additional element of coworking spaces is in the event spaces and it more important here in Asia. Community space, shared office, and accelerators seem to have high importance for coworking spaces, doesn’t matter where they are located.

Regarding how coworking spaces are structured, open spaces remains the essential part of a coworking space, because this is where most of the communication takes place. Still, a higher share of private offices has become more popular because it is a good income stream. The share of meeting spaces has decreased a little. In Asia, fewer desks are offered whereas in Europe you have more fixed desks. The one reason is that when you have digital nomads they don’t work at a dedicated desk for a couple of weeks, it depends on the duration of the project they are working on at that time.

When comparing the profitability of coworking spaces in Asia, to those worldwide, coworking spaces seems to be more profitable in Asia. The figure is 14% more than last year showing 60% profitable, although there are still coworking spaces that are less profitable.  There is a big difference between the global average, but Carsten attributed this to the lack of openness of the coworking operators regarding their profitability. There is a massive gap of more than 20% point between what an owner of a coworking space thinks about their space and what others think. The deviation is mostly caused by the fact that there is a lot of many big and also small coworking spaces in Asia.

Carsten usually closes his presentation with the anticipation for the next year, so he chose to do exactly that in CUAsia 2017. On the global average as well as average in Asia is 90% of coworking space expect more members, almost 80% more events, 90% more sense of community and 80% more income. He stated, “This has an impact on the expansion plan, 3 in 4 coworking spaces can see at least one expansion this year, it’s a little bit less than last year but still impressive as it close to the global average.”

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