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Christoph Fahle
May 16, 2013

Deskmag

This time we talked to our member Deskmag - the biggest coworking magazine in da world, so check out what Carsten says about the history, present & future of coworking!

Who are you?!

We are an online magazine that covers all topics related to coworking. We conduct our own surveys, which help people to understand this specific workstyle and also to build their own coworking spaces. In our last survey, more than 2,000 people participated from spaces all over the world. We cover stories for members of coworking spaces, which are comprised mainly of freelancers, small companies and start-ups who work in the creative industry. We also make comparisons between the different types of workspaces of these people.

Why do you think coworking is worth writing about?

Coworking is changing the way we work. In essence, it is a self-directed way of working together. You can choose your colleagues without the drama sometimes found in traditional or small shared-offices. For people who worked mainly from home before, it’s the end of unproductive isolation and messy workspaces.

In 2006, a year after the first official “coworking space” opened, there were less than 30 worldwide. Today, we count more than 2,500 of them, serving more than 110,000 members, and that number is still doubling each year. By the end of 2013, we expect to have more than 200,000 people in coworking spaces. This industry is booming, and it is because these spaces are absolutely needed. It also has an impact on the design of other workspaces, such as traditional offices, or incubators.

However, many people still haven’t heard of coworking, or the term is just used as trendy label. That is why it is important to write about the movement.

Who is a part of your team?

Deskmag has a core team of three people hailing from Germany, France and the US. We also work with freelance writers from all over the world, which brings a wide variety of perspectives to our publication.

What difficulties have you overcome to get to where you are now?

Deskmag started out of an interest and became a much bigger project than expected. But in our first team, we tried out several ideas. We also started Deskwanted, an online platform for coworking spaces, and organized the Social Media Week Berlin, which is Germany’s biggest free web conference. All three projects became successful until a certain point. As we got funding for Deskwanted! we mostly focused on Deskwanted.

In that time, Deskmag remained a successful side-project, but the difficulty was found in its status. On the one hand, it brought valuable traffic to our funded company and on the other hand, Deskmag is only of value when it is an independent magazine. The funding shouldn’t affect the editorial part. For this reason, the magazine was not part of the funding, however, the core team was. The editorial difficulty was solved after one year, when a new team was set-up, which could work independently, while the non-editorial part of Deskmag (the advertisements) could continue to promote Deskwanted. Ultimately it was a win-win for both sites and their readers. However, against any economical logic, the investor then tried to damage this concept by presenting some irresponsible demands. Yet there was also another difficulty we faced. I was still responsible for Deskwanted, while the investor often created financial problems for Deskwanted causing deficits by not paying the agreed budget on time. This behavior made the option to leave the company during this time unrealistic, and the investor tried many times to get rid of me, even by taking unethical action and other stories that would remind you of soap operas. However justified, in the end, the investor cancelled the contract with Deskwanted. We will soon publish the details of what happened, since it is of public interest for many people who want to know more about how this part of the start-up scene works in Berlin. But for now, this story has been said enough.

The experiment of working with a bigger company obviously failed, at least with this one. And, of course, it also can affect the work for Deskmag, because it is very time-consuming to clean up the mess that the investor created. However, we are optimistic about the future. And we also gained more experience when comparing workspaces, still having coworking spaces ranked #1.

What are Deskmag's future plans?

We often publish stats on coworking, so we are also often asked for more insights. Thus, we plan on creating a Coworking Library, where people can upload and download scientific work done in this field, which would otherwise only gather dust in libraries or institutes, especially master theses. Surprisingly, even in 2013, we find that only a few of these published works are available online. We want to make them accessible for everyone who is interested in this subject.

Another plan is to update our non-English content more frequently than in the past. We are looking for people who would be interested in managing the Spanish and German versions of Deskmag. In addition, we will introduce more categories that will include more interviews and more features. Focusing only on coworking sounds like it could be restrictive, but there are so many stories out there that are waiting to be covered.

Recently we partnered with betahaus to host the “Coworking Casino”, which will take place this Thursday at the betahaus |café. Participants can win products and services that are developed specifically in coworking spaces. We want to show the people from outside and inside, what coworkers and coworking spaces create in an entertaining way. The casino works on win-win base. For people who buy a Bingo sheet, there’s also free beer and pizza included.

What made you choose betahaus as the hq?

We’ve chosen betahaus because we have never worked at such a big coworking space for longer. It’s interesting to see how it has development over the past four years. We’ve visited betahaus several times since it opened in 2009, and they have become more comfortable, more professional and more diverse in reflecting the different needs of their members, without losing the beta atmosphere. And it’s great here, nice people, plus a good working environment.

What do you think are the best features of the coworking movement?

It is simply a nice way of working together independently - out of a classic hierarchy. It’s a good opportunity to increase a social and business network for freelancers, small companies and start-ups. These people need to care for everything on their own: clients, updated knowledge, and so on. But when you work independently, you don’t need to be alone. In coworking spaces people can improve your productivity, creativity, knowledge and you can also have a more relaxed life after work. It might be not the workspace for everyone. For example, some people don’t like the noise, which is major sign of interaction. However, most of people who work at coworking spaces are able to focus more on their work.

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