New York Is Going To Get “Juicy” (GCUC) - Are You Ready?
The Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC - pronounced “juicy”) is the world’s largest coworking conference - and it’s about to host its first event here in New York on 5-7 May 2017.
Here at The Farm, we’re pretty excited to see what such a conference will bring to our city - and to our coworking space. So, we caught up with its director of operations, Stormy McBride to find out more about GCUC.
Tell us about your conference
GCUC is the premier coworking event of the year. We are an unusual conference that brings together industry icons and coworking newcomers to help propel the future of work and shared workspace community.
GCUC is a global venture, we host events around the globe and at each one we teach people what they need to know to run a successful coworking empire…. how to buy the real estate, open and operate a coworking space from the ground up. We talk about everything from design and finance to how to build a community and the technology you need to run it all.
Most of the people who come to GCUC are coworking newcomers and they are within a year of opening their own space. The other portion is a mix of corporations, CRE investors, and business centers. That portion (about 30%) is made up of people who are trying find out more about bringing coworking to their companies. For example, Coca-Cola and Justin’s have both implemented coworking spaces in their own offices.
We also get some commercial real estate agents who are trying to understand the magnitude of the “coworking trend”. Now that coworking is mainstream more and more people are looking into the CRE… mixed use buildings are drawing quite a bit of attention.
Sounds like GCUC is hugely popular - how do you think this movement helped ignite the coworking initiative around the world?
About 10 years ago (when coworking was just starting up), there were about 500 spaces. Now, there are between 10,000 to 11,000 spaces worldwide. With a lack of information, there was also a lack of spaces.
Coworking is now really catching a name for itself. People are finding that there is so much more to life than just a cubicle or working from home.
Conferences like ours, and other conferences that talk about coworking and the industry, allow for the spread of information. People can take that information and go forth and change the world…. Literally, we are in the midst of a workplace revolution.
It’s your first time in the Big Apple - why did you decide to come to New York now?
For the last two or three years, GCUC has been on the West Coast - now we are really pushing the East Coast.
We looked at other cities, like New Jersey, Miami and a bunch of other different places, but we really felt that, on the East Coast, New York was at the epicentre of everything hip and new.
Business is going on there. There’s tons of growth and its somewhere that people want to visit. There are SO MANY coworking spaces in the New York area, so coworking is really thriving there. What better place to go?
Why do we need a conference that’s dedicated to coworking?
I think there are a couple of reasons. First, the concept of coworking is still so new. This means that there are people out there that don’t really have a full grasp on what coworking is. It’s not a widespread concept, yet. People are still referring to coworking as a trend.
Second, coworking spaces all operate very differently. They don’t really operate on a “shark in the tank” principle. They’re not going to butt into the market and take everybody’s clients - that’s not how it works.
Coworking works on a collaboration platform. Coworking spaces are all different, one might not be a fit for you, but another maybe the perfect fit. Coworking spaces are not competitors, they are collaborators. And they need a conference to bring them together to foster these collaborations.
Do you think GCUC is introducing the advantages of coworking to the wider corporate world?
We truly believe that community managers and coworking space managers will be the managers of tomorrow.
They don’t just take care of the space and the people on the site, they help them network. Imagine you had somebody within your office that knew everyone on a semi-personal level but also knew their business strengths and personal skill sets. That person could then connect people and recommend partnerships. That’s where the network and collaboration portion comes to mind. Think of the things that could come out of that. How many times have you been talking to a colleague and said: “if I would have known you did that you could have helped me with X?”
A lot of companies could really benefit from the sort of collaboration and the partnerships that we see in coworking spaces. It’s no longer the self-made generation, it’s the collaboration era.
How can small spaces such as The Farm benefit from GCUC?
The Farm is exactly the sort of space that we want to come to our conference. We actually owned three small coworking spaces in the Austin Texas area ourselves and none of them are bigger than 5,000 sq ft. So, we understand what it is to operate small.
The conference is super interesting for small spaces because a lot of those spaces are worried about what WeWork and other major players are doing because they’re such big names. But, the thing is, you’re not competing with these big players, you’re coworking in tandem with them - and you can learn from them and other operators at our conference.
For example, some small coworking spaces feel they don’t have access to the huge global networks of bigger space. But, if you come to GCUC, then you will meet with the people of LExC (the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces) or Coshare (the Community for Community Makers). Or, you can meet with people in other towns who are willing to tell you about, not only their business triumphs but also the failures in flops that led them to where they are now.
We can share all that sort of information at our conference. We have spaces that are considered small but come to GCUC year after year because they learn something new every year. They find something of value every time.
What insights has GCUC given to the coworking sector?
I think that can be answered a couple of ways.... Each conference is a little bit different. Here in the US, we’re centered on technology and growing your business. We focus a lot on operational influence and excellence. So, if you’re looking to start, grow, build and optimize your coworking space - then the USA is for you. GCUC is the place where people come to meet the latest and greatest in the industry.
If you’re more interested in the community and helping the greater good with collaboration then GCUC Canada is where you want to be. It’s the grassroots for the conference. Ashley Proctor, Producer of GCUC Canada has built a wonderful community out there.
China makes us look like we’re standing still because they do everything rapidly and on such a large scale. When we were in Shanghai we had more than 800 attendees. If nothing else, it brought awareness to how the future of work is developing and is expanding the shared workspace.
Is there anything different about your upcoming New York conference?
New York is going to be a little bit different for us. Every year, we do something a little bit and off the beaten track. We don’t like to host conferences in a hotel, we always choose unique venues (think airplane hanger) and this year we’ve partnered with the event management and hospitality company Convene. It’s going to be a great opportunity for us.
We’re also going to be doing the Coworking Awards. This is an industry-wide award ceremony and a voting platform will be rolled out shortly with about 9 to 10 categories.
We also going to be focusing on our “Unconference” in New York. It’s basically a day of crowdsourced information where any attendee can put up a suggestion for a topic. Then there’s a vote on it. If your topic gets chosen, then you get to lead that conversation. It turns a session into an open conversation. This year, we’re really honing in on that. We want people to really connect and get the most out of their experience.
What do you think the future holds for coworking?
I think it’s going to be huge. I think, in the future, people are really going to understand the value of coworking or even a shared workspace. Particularly those people who are really into networking and marketing, or those that are working from home. They are going to find the value in having a network outside their dog or cat!
What is the most memorable moment from your previous conferences?
One that stands out is a recent icebreaker session. We really like to do something off the wall with these.
We had Jeremy Neuner from Google come up and lead an icebreaker. He did this massive rock paper scissors tournament where you had to turn to your neighbor and challenge them to the game. Then, of course, they had to introduce themselves before moving on to “meet and challenge” a new partner.
And then the winner turns to the next person and plays another game. By the end, out of the 300 people in the room, we had two people left standing on stage playing rock paper scissors. It was incredibly cool - but the attendees also got the chance to be face-to-face with so many different people. That was very interesting to see at such a large-scale.
You can pretty much bet that we will be doing something just as quirky this year. We would love to see as many people in or out of our industry present as possible. This is where the future of work is headed, who wouldn't want to be a part of this movement?
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