A good place to work is essential for freelancers, remote workers and digital nomads. Coworking provides a nearly perfect solution which explains its rapid growth, but what happens when you’re on the road? How do you find a space and get the best deal? Several projects enable coworking space members to visit other spaces when they’re on the road. One of the standouts is Copass.
Based in France, Copass is a platform that connects coworkers to hundreds of coworking spaces, including 30 in Paris alone. Copass recently switched from a pay-as-you-go system, to three memberships options that give instant access to any coworking space in the network.
As Copass co-founder Eric van den Broek says, “It’s like being a member of 500-plus coworking spaces on the planet at once.”
The three membership tiers include an unlimited membership; a part-time plan which includes 10 days per month; and a light plan, which includes three days per month. The pay as you go system also still functions, and members can purchase extras, such as meeting room time, through their Copass account. Copass is also working with companies to enable team members to work in any space in the network
Shareable connected with van den Broek to find out who Copass is designed for, how the European coworking is different from the US coworking, and what the future of work will look like.
Shareable: Copass is described as a global coworking membership, giving people access to 500 coworking spaces around the world. Does having a Copass membership replace having a coworking space membership? Or is it an additional membership?
Eric van den Broek: It's really up to the members. Obviously, Copassers on unlimited or part-time plans use Copass as their unique membership. Members on light plans or on pay as you go plans sometimes have a membership in one of the spaces and use Copass when moving around. This is often the case for people that really need to have a fixed desk, which we don't really offer through Copass.
With Copass, coworkers can choose their location based on needs or desires.
Who is Copass for? Who will get the most benefit out of a membership? Digital nomads? European workers who travel a lot?
Anybody who is interested in being flexible and mobile. Most of our usage actually happens locally. A typical Copasser on a plan will spend 70% of his time in his favorite space, 20% of the time in other spaces of his city, and the remaining 10% in other cities or countries. So, as you can see, it's not solely made for digital nomads, even if they clearly represent a certain category of users. Employees from companies that are very mobile use it as well. Most of our user base is in Europe, as this is where we started and where we really have an impressive density of spaces.
Our vision for the future of work is not to replace the old office with a cooler office with a community, even if it's already a big improvement. We think the future of work is going to be made of lots of different workspaces that you can use based on what you need and want. You might want to go on holidays with your kids for two weeks in the Canary Islands while being able to keep on working productively; you maybe need an inspiring space after meeting with a partner or client in some city; you might want to connect to developers and switch to a tech oriented space. When the office is not a constraint anymore, it becomes a tool that you use to improve your work and your life.
Which countries have the most Copass locations? Where would you like to see more Copass locations?
The main countries are France, with more than 100 locations, Spain, with more than 50, and the US, [which has] around 45. For us, the US is the country where we would need more spaces to really have a nice density.
The network really developed organically as we have a special relationship with many of the spaces we've got onboard. We had less connections in the USA, hence the difference. We'll really make more moves in the US in 2016, as it's clearly a very important community to have onboard.
The spaces join Copass organically. The only times we actually contact spaces is when a member wants to go somewhere where we have no spaces yet. So if people are interested in Copass but have no spaces where they live or want to go, simply contact us. We'll find spaces for you.
Team Copass, in their instantly-recognizable jumpsuits.
If I'm already a member of a coworking space, do I simply use Copass when I'm traveling? Is there a membership I can purchase for a limited time, say a month or two?
Memberships have no commitment. You pay on a monthly basis and can cancel anytime. So there is absolutely no problem to switch for a few months and go back to your space. For coworking space members, it's really up to them. Those who feel the need for more flexibility, who want to connect to different communities, who are mobile, could switch to a Copass plan. Those who are feeling great with their space membership, and never need to check out other spaces, keep their memberships.
For us, what is important is the fact that we do bring a bigger audience to the spaces by addressing new needs and offering more value to coworkers. That's really what matters to us: offering more value to members. More flexibility, more connections anywhere they are, more spaces, more diversity. It's a way to build bridges between local communities. Copassers connect different coworking communities together which is great.
I understand that there are already 10,000 Copass members. Who are the majority of these people?
Most of them are freelancers today, although we also have remote workers and digital nomads. Remote working in Europe is a bit less advanced than in the US and companies often take a little bit more time to offer coworking spaces to their teams. We have small to medium sized companies using Copass to grant access to coworking spaces.
Remote working is incredible—we're 100% remote at Copass, too—but one of the challenges is social isolation for employees. Providing them with good working conditions, vibrant communities and inspiring workspaces is key to keeping them productive and engaged.
Copass offers three membership options, as well as pay as you go extras such as meeting space.
I'm wondering if Copass is geared primarily for Europe, as people regularly travel between cities for work. Is this the case?
I would agree that, in it's heart, Copass is a pretty European project. Even from a more philosophical point of view: independent spaces with their own culture coming together, as opposed to one actor raising tons of money to take over the market.
It's also true that Europeans are used to travelling to different cities in Europe. But mobility, remote working, happiness and productivity at work—those are topics where North America is really more advanced. So, I actually believe this is a very important place for us to be. Being a small team, it was easier for us to start in Europe, but North America is on the top of our list. We want and need to be there for sure.
Anything you'd like to add?
Maybe a little word about the camps we've been doing. Copass Camps are gatherings of usually around 25 people in a really nice space to live, work and have fun together for a week or more. Basically it's a temporary community of people that can work anywhere. Those have been incredible experiences and a fantastic way to build up our community. It's also a way to show that today you can work differently.
Being mobile doesn't need to be a radical choice. I think the term digital nomad can scare some people off (and excite some others) because it feels like you've got to make your backpack, leave your friends, and hit the road. That's one version of it and I think it's awesome to do that sometimes, but you can also have a base and do some little work-trips. I've been working from 15 different locations this year. I've been away from Paris 33% of my time, usually travelling for a week or so. I have a home, I've got friends, I see my family but, at the same time, I travel a lot and have been working from dream places like the Canary Islands.
Visit Copass.org for more information
All photos by Copass co-founder Stefano Borghi. Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter