Large B2B corporations like Microsoft and IBM are realizing the benefits of putting their employees in coworking spaces. Why? How? It’s all covered here.
What would be the absolute LAST type of company you would expect to see in a coworking place?
We’re guessing you said something like, “Well, I couldn’t see massive companies using coworking spaces too often”. After all, coworking is hip! It’s young! It’s for startups!
Not so fast. While most coworkers are probably freelancers, entrepreneurs, or employees at small startups, that trend is changing. And it’s in large part to the thriving community these coworkers have created.
In this post, we’re going to go over the 2 main reasons mega corporations are entering the coworking world, using Microsoft, IBM, KPMG, and Braintree as examples.
What’s The Motive?
There are two main reasons large corporations are placing some of their employees in coworking locations:
- To get more B2B sales with entrepreneurs and startups
- To give their employees access to fresh new ideas
Reason #1: Coworking Spaces Help With B2B Sales
KPMG and Braintree offer B2B products and services. Some of them are targeted at startups. And as any good salesperson knows, one of the best ways to get clients is to have in-person conversations with potential leads.
And as many a famous musician will tell you, people show a lot more loyalty shown to friends and fans that were there before they “made it big”. The same goes for startups – everybody wants to be your buddy when you’re the next Uber and you’re growing at a rapid clip. But when you’re first starting out, many large corporations may shun your business, effectively saying, “Come back to us when you have a little more revenue.”
The corporations who do the opposite – by reaching out when the startups are still small – possess a distinct advantage.
KPMG Wants To Connect With Startups
For example, professional services company KPMG is starting to have some of it’s New York and London employees go to coworking spaces instead of the office. As Patrick Imbach, head of KPMG Tech Growth explains in an article titled “Big Business Wants To Cowork Too”:
- “Being on the ground everyday allows us to get a better understanding of how entrepreneurs work, get a feeling for what their issues are, and become part of their community. You can’t do that from corporate headquarters.
- Startups can scale very quickly these days and there’s no point in putting your hands up three years down the line and declaring, ‘You’re big enough now for us to want to work with you’ — you need to be there from the beginning.”
Braintree Is Tired of The White Walls
Tyson Hackwood, an employee of Braintree, was in charge of finding suitable working spaces for the Asia Pacific branch of the company.
After examining a lot of office options, Hackwood felt discouraged:
“A sea of white-walled corporate offices just felt so disconnected from what our brand was about and the world our audience comes from. We wanted to find a space that was more connected to the community and would help us build our network.”
The end result? Braintree Asia Pacific now has three offices in coworking spaces:
- Tank Stream Labs in Sydney
- Blix in Melbourne
- The Hub Singapore
Reason #2: Coworking Spaces Offer Fresh Ideas
Let’s be honest – white walls, fluorescent lights, and cubicles are some of the least inspiring and motivating environments to work in. Their blandness doesn’t do a good job of promoting fresh, new ideas.
Additionally, when you only interact with your co-workers from 9-5, you can easily get into “groupthink”, where a group of people believe a story about reality because they keep repeating it to each other. For example, groupthink was probably why Microsoft thought the Zune was a good idea in the first place.
However, when you interact with people who aren’t in your little tribe, you see other perspectives and ways of thinking that can make your own ideas much more powerful, or give new ideas altogether.
That’s why Microsoft has seen the error of its ways and is sending sales, finance, and marketing personnel (including 70% of their New York sales and marketing team) to WeWork coworking spaces in New York, Atlanta, Portland, and Philadelphia.
Explaining the move, Matt Donovan, general manager of Microsoft Office marketing, said,
“Keeping our teams fresh and connected where great ideas happen in the marketplace can only make them better.”
IBM Loves Innovation
IBM beat Microsoft to the punch, as they’ve been using coworking spaces in San Francisco and 7 other locations since 2014. For example, they’ve leased a space in San Francisco from a co-working company called Galvanize, where IBM’s business clients can meet with IBM employees to discuss things like building apps.
Angel Diaz, IBM’s vice president of cloud and open tech, raved about these coworking spaces, saying, “The kind of innovation that occurs there is very unique…It allows you to expand your mind. You can really innovate much more if you have the ability to bounce ideas.”
Is Coworking Becoming Corporate?
By all accounts, big corporations are getting more and more invested in the coworking community. Dave Fano, chief of product at WeWork coworking, has stated that hundreds of large corporations are using WeWorks, including GE, Spotify, Airbnb, and Salesforce.
We can’t predict the future, but one thing seems certain: the coworking movement is only just getting started. Its spirit of innovation, cross-seeding of ideas, and community involvement is so infectious that everybody wants a taste.