Extraordinary Coworking: An Interview with the Founders of LEXC
We’re proud to be a founding partner of LEXC – the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces. LEXC began with an idea by our founder and CEO, Mark Gilbreath, that excellent coworking venues around the world could create more value for their members, and help each other build better businesses, by working together.Today LEXC is coworking for mobile professionals at its finest. Members at each LEXC venue can access and enjoy privileges across the rest of the LEXC network, which currently includes 43 coworking spaces across the U.S., Canada, Australia and France. As LEXC’s technology partner, LiquidSpace’s website and mobile app power the network, managing member access permissions and unlocking member privileges across all LEXC venues.
As the coworking community prepares to descend upon Berkeley for GCUC 2015, it felt like a good time to share the LEXC story with our community. Read on for an interview with several LEXC founders.Pictured left to right: Jerome Chang, founder of BLANKSPACES; Don Ball, founder of CoCo; Bill Jacobson, founder of Workbar Boston; and Jamie Russo, Founder and Chief of Work and Wellness at Enerspace (and current President of LEXC).
How did LEXC get its start?
Jerome: In October 2011, approximately 30 of us – all coworking owners – convened at BLANKSPACES in Santa Monica to discuss national initiatives and a possible national organization. Mark Gilbreath called a few of us who had clearly expressed similar viewpoints on forming a national organization, and we all agreed to form LEXC.
Jamie: One objective was to create a global network of coworking spaces that could provide traveling members of LEXC spaces a consistent experience across cities. The second primary objective was to create a best-practices sharing forum as a tool to keep LEXC space owners on the forefront of the coworking industry.
What are the most exciting things happening with coworking today?
Don: When we started LEXC, we were all a fringe industry but we all knew at a gut level that it would take off. Now, we’re seeing evidence of the mainstream acceptance of coworking as a way of connecting and working in the new economy.
Bill: Coworking has become mainstream. People and businesses have realized that motivation, inspiration and connection are three most critical attributes of a modern office. Joining a coworking community – full-time or on a periodic basis – is a great way to get there.
Jamie: As the industry evolves, the number of spaces increases driving competition which results in more convenient locations, more thoughtful design, better amenities, and greater attention to community.
What do you think makes a delightful coworking experience?
Don: Like all great experiences, it’s the coming together of the tangible and intangible. The basics have to be in place – a comfortable setting, good WiFi and coffee. But what takes a coworking experience from good to great is how you feel, which is affected by the warmth and energy you get from the staff and other coworkers. Fostering that energy and warmth consistently is the real magic.
Jerome: In my opinion, it comes down to our customer service – no different than today’s hotels. Members will be attracted to certain brands and their brand/customer service experience. Simple feel-good community experiences will continue to go a long way. Everything from a good space, to regular happy hours, to just meeting and collaborating with others through serendipity.
Bill: The coworking experience is one that unfolds over time. At first there is an attraction to the vibe, the setup, the community manager, the energy of the place. Over time – through a combination of conversations with members as you go about your day, attending events and a healthy stream of business/social digital discussions – the true coworking experience unfolds. Usually at this point, people decide they don’t want to go back to a single company workspace community!
Jamie: A balance between a hospitality mindset and a community mindset. A facilitated experience that enhances serendipity, opportunities for building relationships and the potential for collaboration. A beautiful space is “empty” without a thriving community and a thriving community will struggle with well-being without the right space and design.
What are LEXC’s plans in 2015 and beyond?
Jamie: In the last year, we’ve added five new spaces, three of which are international. We started a webinar series and are hosting the “Legacy Unconference” at GCUC in May. We’d like to continue to add spaces that enhance our geographic coverage and that align with our mission to continue to develop and share best practices that help us to stay on the forefront of coworking growth.
Jerome: Continued growth in membership, hopefully from spaces in vacant territories (Rocky Mountain and Mid-West regions), plus some more international areas. It’s also time we solidify more tangible mechanisms for members to use other spaces; for us to provide value when approaching partnerships with other national organizations and corporations. Thought leadership will continue to keep us busy.
To learn more about LEXC, and to apply to join, visit http://lexc.org/.