Earlier this year we have been part of Co-Liv summit with lots of interesting talks around the subject of colivings. The range of speakers and subjects was enormous. That made us realise the wide spectrum of colivings it is out there - from big developments in city centers with 300 rooms to small colivings for 10 digital nomads in remote locations. It is hard to feel like one coliving space’s model can be grouped with another one under the term coliving.
So what is a coliving? The concept has been around for centuries, but according to Co-Liv the actual term first arrived only in 2015. It’s very new. On top of that it gains massive popularity.
There has been 830% google search increase for the term coliving in the last 2 years.
My personal journey with colivings started in 2020 when there was one coliving for digital nomads in Tenerife. Today - 2 years later - there are 9 on the island with lots of new projects still on the way. Many people believe that we are at the beginning of creating a new industry as coliving is entering a mass market so we want to take a step back and reflect on the concept.
Let’s start with looking at a few coliving examples so we can understand better the spectrum of colivings today.
The Collective is an established coliving brand created in 2010 with locations in London and New York. It is targeted at young individuals seeking flexibility and community in urban settings. Its business model is quite light on services and community facilitation. It offers a wide range of communal spaces including communal kitchens, gyms, library and coworking as well as housekeeping services. The size varies from 125 bedrooms in New York to 705 in Canary Wharf. You can stay from a few days to many months. For one person it can be a hotel, for another one home for a few years.
It operates based on the funding rounds with a large expansion focus. The company planned many new investments just before Covid, but as many other big players of this type, they really struggled during 2020/2021 and had to cease many upcoming projects. It’s partially because of the pandemic, but also because it is a new emerging market that works based on the “trial and error” basis at the moment.
Zoku is an example of a business model moving into the coliving sector. It’s a home-office hybrid with hotel services. Its founders - Hans Meyer and Mark Jongerius - both come from hospitality. In response to the need for more flexible international living and working spaces, they aim to change the industry by shifting the focus from sleeping to living, working and socialising. Their concept supports the rising “work from anywhere” lifestyle and is targeted at traveling professionals. Zoku has three locations at the moment - in Amsterdam, Copenhagen - where our founder, Martina, was a usual resident during the construction of Nido Bryggens - Vienna and soon to open the fourth location in Paris. Each location hosts circa 100 units. It offers primarily studios with their own kitchen and a variety of communal spaces including restaurants, rooftop gardens, coworking, event spaces as well as wellness/treatment areas. It hosts regular events that can connect individuals and companies to exchange concepts, products and experiences.
Outsite is a collective of high-end colivings under one umbrella name for location-independent professionals who value the quality of life. It offers small-scale remote and urban spaces usually with a strong connection to nature in the United States, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. I have personally stayed in Fuertaventura in the Yurt for over a week. That’s where I conducted my interview with A Designer at Heart actually supporting a “success from anywhere” lifestyle.
Outsite has very small properties with 5-8 bedrooms only. Unit types vary from private accommodation with en-suite to dorms. Each space has a coworking area, a shared kitchen and usually a yoga space. They operate as a membership model that provides discounts and access to members-only spaces.
Tertulia is a forest coliving for remote workers in Tuscany in Italy where I am staying at the moment. It's run by a private entrepreneur - Italian Francesco who moved here from Milan to seek a connection with nature. He created the entire space by himself and build a purpose-based community focused on sustainability and permaculture. The house can host around 12 guests. It has individual and shared bedrooms, a communal kitchen, coworking and lots of outdoor spaces with amazing views of Tuscan landscapes. We held weekly Monday meetings to plan activities together which include communal dining, hikes, skillshares - whatever the group feels like doing. Guests stay here usually between a week and 3 months. I am a full-time digital nomad for 2 years now and this type of coliving is my favorite so far. There is something magical in those boutique one-off colivings to me. A small community has its charm where you can build connections with others very quickly.
From the above, we can see that the spectrum of colivings is enormous. How can we group them? Can we call them all colivings? I think that yes. I have recently come across a categorisation developed by Co-liv together with Sun&co which I found interesting. They group colivings into 2 categories:
I think on a bigger scale those two groups help understand different business models and different target groups. Different target groups can be also defined by the below criteria:
It's a complex ecosystem. From my personal experience, visiting lots of boutique colivings, I can see a positive collaboration between them. I am sure that bigger developers also have the means to exchange experience. We believe it would be beneficial to look at all the colivings from the bigger picture in order to understand the emerging industry better. It's a perfect environment for new platforms like Co-Liv or Coliving Hub. They aim to initiate a dialogue to exchange experiences and learn from all the players - big or small. Co-liv summit was a perfect example of this kind of initiative. There has been also a growing number of consultancies supporting colivings - from community builders to interior designers.
Some business models that have emerged so far are relatively basic and sometimes they promise more than they can actually deliver. Is a house with X number of bedrooms, communal spaces and few organised events a coliving? What makes a good coliving that can actually change the way we live? There is a risk that some investors will focus purely on profit, maximising beds and compromising experience. Rating apps like Airbnb or Booking could be a solution.
Another limitation is a very narrow proposition targeted at a specific demographic profile: millenial freelancers/digital nomads/students usually 20-35 years old. There are many other groups including families, lower income brackets or elderlies which are not yet being addressed directly.
As the industry is just emerging there are many unanswered questions. We believe that we are part of a pioneering process that will shape the future of living. Housing has been a big subject for a long time, but it has been the same for decades giving only renting or buying options. Colivings are a game-changer. They introduce something different - the concept of shared living by membership. There is a lot of work to be done to make the business models work efficiently, learn how to create colivings that are actually changing the way we live as well as include all the social groups. The idea is big and we are proud to be part of it.
Cover image courtesy of Zoku. Credit: Ewout Huibers & Concrete
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