We+ Review: The "Coworking" in "Coworking Space" Is a Promise You Need to Deliver on
We+ Kaapeli // Grade: 7
We+ is on the surface a rather traditional Finnish coworking space, in the sense that it’s a sort of jazzed up office space for tech startups, specifically gaming apps. On top of workspace, We+ offers matchmaking and access to China. Their edge, the angle that sells the space, is their connection to Peter Vesterbacka, the illustrious Slush/Angry Birds leader. Peter sometimes spends time at the space, and both the members and the Business Development Manager Katherine Cao at We+ say this access to Peter could be vital to young gaming startups.
The space has been around for quite a while but doesn’t seem to have many hot desk members. Having a clear and wide enough target group with appropriate services is the walk on tightrope coworking spaces need to master, and it seems We+ might be loosing audience by restricting it so aggressively to this one type of precariously solvent and rare startup. The laser sharp focus may guarantee a small base of loyal members, but makes expansion hard. It’s also worth a mention that such a narrow target group might be restricting diversity as well, as we were the only women there.
Comparing We+’s targeting with the other reviewed spaces does show that a general but personal approach is key in coworking spaces. The top rated space UMA Teurastamo targets a large, and growing, group of knowledge workers in team sized companies and mobile teams who need a city base. Whilst the poorly rated Helsinki Think Company has no clear target, becoming a space with no coworking benefits and inspires no member loyalty.
Iffy targeting doesn’t really matter much, if you offer a superb service and you get good word of mouth. Unfortunately service, hosting in particular, was not We+’s forte. Their representatives told us We+ does offer hosting, among other services, but having spent time there we can say for sure, that for day members at least, there’s no hosting or reception. When we first arrived for our agreed meeting with their representative, we were forced to wait by the door in utter confusion for 25 minutes while watching them scroll through their phone in one of the phone booths and chatting with members, despite our numerous calls, texts and emails. We never got any explanation or apology, and after giving us our tour they disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again.
Hosting is not just a matter of giving someone the title of host, but a service you have to design, test and develop. The title with no content, which is how I’d describe the We+ method, fails to bring purpose to the space or the community, and leaves the members rather alone in their daily struggles.
Helsinki Think Company gives us a great example of the result when taken to an extreme. They have no hosting in name or practice, downgrading the space to basically a café with extra space. UMA Teurastamo again shows the other end of the scale by making a point of designing a personal and communal UMA workplace experience, and knitting together their space, service and people into a real community.
So how was it working at We+? I was never taught to keep quiet if I don’t have anything nice to say, so here goes: Working at We+ was uncomfortable, at least for someone not in their target group and visiting for the first time. It wasn't about poor ergonomics or amenities but a lack of a common thread online and on site. The space is hard to find and hard to get into. The hot desk members' space consist of an assortment of identical glass walled rooms with plain desks and chairs, with no obvious differences between their purpose, and the event space pictured above. We were consistently confused as to how to use the space and where the community was, and since there was no hosting or reception, we couldn’t ask anyone. Manager Cao didn’t see fit to make introductions to the community or explain how the community collaborates despite inquiries, so that’ll remain a mystery to us.
For someone only visiting the space at times, there’s no narrative, collaborative work or flexibility to the space. I'm on the fence whether we should call this a coworking space or a flex space, as it's not really either. It’s just a serviced office space with Peter Vesterbacka.
Tallberginkatu 1C, 2nd floor
Hot desk: 149 € + VAT/month
Fixed desk: 249 € + VAT/month
Private office: 900 - 2400 € + VAT/month