Budapest Business Journal


Real Estate

May 29 - June 11, 2009


Free spirits seeking company
The worldwide coworking trend has finally reached Hungary, offering a solution to freelancers who don’t want to choose between independence and cooperation.
Andrea Fazekas

A few months ago, two young, independent Hungarian entrepreneurs exchanged friendly messages about the way they were working at the time. They realized that they were facing the same problems - they were working from home, and the lack of stimulus and the monotonous environment was hurting their efficiency. “Have you tried coffee shops?” one of them asked, and the other said yes, he found that scene fascinating sometimes, but the unreliable technical circumstances, not to speak of the smoke and the noise, were quite disturbing, and bills run up during a day’s work cannot be sustained on the long term either. “If you are interested, I read about a new alternative,” his partner responded, and already the next day he found himself yearning for “coworking.” The two people were Gábor Borbély and Bence Bognár, who, with a third partner Zsolt Bakó, found themselves ready to launch the first Hungarian community of the movement already wellknown around the world as coworking, which is the latest trend of independent, out-of-office working. Their Budapest-based project, CoLaBs (Community Laboratory Business) will be the first local example of those community workspaces that were born during the course of the movement, some of which are well-known, especially in the IT sector, but also among the biggest startups of Generation Y.

Freelancers are banding together in coworking offices such as Loffice

either. This may be temporary, or a long-term fact they will have to deal with, depending on the decision of its operators, Anna and Kata Klementz, the daughters of one of the co-owners of the altogether 1,200-square-meter building. The young entrepreneur sisters now manage the 300-squaremeter, spiffily designed coworking loft/office just for the basic principle of it, as profits are generated only by the continuous leasing of the upper floors, and not from the currently rather small number of Hungarian freelancers who already know and trust the coworking model. On industry forums and blogs run by the GOOdbyE inTERnET CAFéS young local startup community, most of the posts concern Loffice’s prices, which are of course The conversation between Borbély and Bog- rather expensive compared to an apartment that nár shows the development that freelancing has a small group could rent on a long-term basis. gone through during the past decade. At first, But the truth is that the target groups of the two people welcomed the opportunity provided by new start-ups are not the same. Loffice is similar the Internet of being able to work from their to an instant office in a kind of “garage” arrangecomfortable, familiar homes. A few years later, ment, making it ideal for genuine solo spirits, work-from-home professionals rejoiced over commuters, or those who need a workspace or the spread of Internet cafés, which allowed a conference room only for a few hours. That is them to leave the constraints of their homes. why CoLaBs is not a real competitor to Loffice, They were starving for social interaction and as the latter is not trying to challenge the status of external impulses, and began to seek the most instant and virtual offices such as Bázis Center, iproductive places to work. But after facing the Office or the multinational Regus Group, which problems of coffee-shopping, or even the more target mostly longer-term clients. If the coworkneo-nomadic, outdoor working style, their ing market gains traction, the two will compledemands started to become more complex. ment each other’s facilities. Coworking may be a solution for those independent workers who are unwilling to sacri- WRiTE iT On ThE WALL fice their free schedules and mobility for a fixed, but well-equipped workspace, because it merges CoLaBs, which is starting operations in the advantages of both of these options. In fact, the first week of June, is based strictly on the it offers a lot more. Because the collaborators in community model of the movement, with the such a workspace, who all work in different jobs three founders considering the Independents but have similar needs, want to share not just an Hall in San Francisco as their touchstone. office, but their ideas as well. They want to inter- IndyHall, as it is known, will be a guiding act, cooperate with and inspire each other. star for the young business owners in terms It has to be emphasized that this is the original of design too, as well as in working out the concept of coworking, namely the cooperative- product packages, they said. The latter will like, non-profit version, which focuses on com- be a big challenge initially, because an abunmunity rather than profits. “There are also various dance of personal demands have to be consuccessful business models working and doing sidered, since maintaining independence is well, but not in this country yet,” says Bakó. one of the core principles of coworking. The The flagship example of the for-profit model is CoLaBs project will try to create the best posthe London-based Le Bureau, where membership sible conditions for inspired working, whathas become a status symbol, a fact that shows in ever this might be for the specific individual. the facility’s design as well as its prices. “Oh my God, we’re opening in 24 hours!” This model’s first Hungarian representative is exclaims Bence Bognár, laughing, as the realLoffice, opened in January 2009 in Paulay Ede ization of the challenge they face dawns on utca, which of course is not yet a money-machine him. But he believes strongly that the biggest

value in this co-op version of the coworking model is brought to the table by the individuals themselves, and can flourish only in the most pleasant and productive environment. That special advantage of coworking is none other than that spark of creative synergy that ignites when talented people work side by side in the same space. As an example, at CoLaBs there will be a writing-wall that

the friends call “a wailing wall.” On this wall, anybody can write a problem that has been blocking one’s brain for a while. “I am sure that it will be solved within a few minutes by another co-worker simply walking by while having a cup of coffee,” Bognár said. This is the advantage of openness and collaboration, which leads to progress and great ideas. This is the power of coworking. n