Bullet point lessons retrospectively after 5 years working on Coworking.Coffee. Because it could help you. Because we don’t want to make these mistakes again.
We got a lot of ideas, and we tried to implement them all. Instead of testing and see what was sticking, we just built and built. Because it was fun!
Advanced integration with Google Maps? Yes!
Private geolocation microservice? Yes again!
Slack bot, Telegram bot, Twitter bot? We did that too.
Multilingual support, perfect test cover with CI/CD, anti spam filters, reviews, booking system, newsletter, payment platform integrations, merch shop, shiny analytics dashboards…
The platform grew and grew and grew, following the mood of the time and it was great. We had an amazing time hacking all this.
On the long term, it came with a price to pay: the cost of maintenance.
Each new version of Ruby, Ruby On Rails, API version, or tool or service that we used, we had to review the integration, and it required more and more work. Changing the code, fixing the test cover or fixing the integration…
It became too much. We had to stop.
We never found any fair business model that would work worldwide. Here are a few ones that we tried:
The idea of a worldwide pass is really appealing but it was plain stupid 7 years ago. Prices in Asia were a lot cheaper than US or Europe, for example. Too many different services offered in too many different places. Then, platform leaking is a big issue. Once members try a coworking space in a given place, they don’t need Coworking.Coffee anymore.
Universal payment platform for coworking almost happened in the beginning. But payment processing solutions come with lots of regulation, taxes, and overall costs that can’t beat local payment solutions, or cash. We weren’t enough local or global to tackle this one.
Booking platforms? Well, did you hear about Covid-19? It could have work. Just bad timing to launch this when coworking spaces are all closing. (and that’s when we got tired too)
Deals and discount with kickback. It almost worked, but required too much work, to talk to too many people, in too many places. A good team could make it work.
We used so many business people brains to try to crack this. It did not happen.
Also, as we hate advertisement and never wanted to go there, we did make things complicated. Indeed.
The fact that there is no clear leader in the coworking space community at the time of writing, we can conclude that it was not an easy project from the start.
The Coworking “Market” has been evolving as we were riding the wave. From an almost underground and utopian concept of people with different backgrounds working together, sharing a space and ideas, coworking became a monster of desk renting competition.
Where some people saw an opportunity to make more money, we saw the end of a good thing.
When we discovered the coworking world in Tokyo, we were all in-between jobs, and it has been an amazing time to work with friends, meet new amazing people, discover new neighborhoods and learn a few things.
Then, embracing the digital nomad fashion, we went on an South East Asia for some time, meet more fancy people and we ended up in Lisbon, Portugal. It was on top of the tourist wave, and digital nomads were discovering this jewel in Europe.
As we settled in Lisbon, Portugal, we started to work local jobs, live the local life and we witnessed what the digital nomadism was bringing to the country: more gentrification, obnoxious successful people, house shortages, stupid repetitive questions on reddit.
It felt bad to be part of this.
Building an audience is fun, while it lasts. We met our first supporters through networking events, in Japan. We had an initial spike of interest from various communities. We also met people along the way, word of mouth. But our platform was not that good. Too niche maybe. It lacked the right community features probably.
We managed to get a decent following on Twitter, leveraging news about coworking, digital nomads and travel. But who on Twitter is even real? It did not translate in an increase of users or even traffic.
To get to the next stage, at the time, we should have spread our wings on social media. The problem is… We have never been fans of Facebook and Instagram. Quite the contrary.
Retrospectively, it really slowed down our development.
We opened a Facebook fan page, but it was really because we had to. We didn’t post regularly or even engaged with people.
Now that these platforms are out of fashion, all this seem irrelevant.
We spent hours talking about partnerships with so many people who were just interested in a back link, article, mention or even technical assistance with the promise of kickback, one day.
Time passes, people move on, people forget.
Partnerships should go into both directions from the start. We have the feeling that we gave a lot and rarely asked back. We probably should have.
You never know until it happens.
We should have known what we wanted from the beginning.
On this other end, talking with everybody allowed us to meet extraordinary people who pushed us and believed in us.
Balance is the key, we didn’t have it.
Thank you for reading this far.
Thank you all again for being there during this great adventure, and we hope to see you again, around, somewhere.