Recently I got the chance to interview Gert Ebner. Gert is the manager of Santiago’s most successful coworking space – Co-Work Monjitas. It’s a modern eclectic environment in which HelpStay is lucky enough to call home (for now).
By Shay Gleeson
Coworking space access is one of the perks provided to Start-Up Chile generation 18 participants, such as HelpStay. Previously, I wrote about my Start-Up Chile program journey and how my company chose an accelerator program.
For me, Co-Work Monjitas is an ideal coworking base while in Santiago. It’s a place to meet, befriend and mingle with other generation 18 participants. In addition, the Start-Up Chile staff are based onsite and always on hand if I need some quick business advice, as I often do!
Tell me a little about yourself and your background. How did you end up managing Co-Work Monjitas?
Ever since I was a kid I was always surrounded by the tourism industry, as my parents were involved in the business. I’m pretty sure that had an influence on me as I decided to study International Tourism & Hotel Management in Santiago. Three years later I had the chance to take a double degree program in Sydney, Australia. This was a great chance to develop my career, understand international business and meet people from many different countries.
After working in different hotels around Australia I decided to come home and try my luck in Chile. The chance came after a soccer match where I met a friend who was involved in Co-Work Latam. He invited me to apply for a position with their new project.
About Co-Work Latam – What problem is it solving? How many locations are there?
As a company we have grown organically. We currently operate 8 coworking space locations in Chile – one is in Puerto Montt and all the rest are in Santiago. We have expanded internationally too with locations in Colombia and Uruguay.
Co-Work Monjitas was created with two objectives – to be a business base for users in the centre of Santiago and to act as the Start-Up Chile headquarters. We wanted to provide a cool and exciting atmosphere to work, start/grow a business and network.
Being the headquarters of Start-Up Chile meant it had to be special. Start-Up Chile is an amazing government initiative to change our nation’s culture towards entrepreneurship and to position Chile as the hub of innovation for Latam.
Our collective goal is to deliver a great environment for entrepreneurs from Chile and the rest of the world.
What’s the coworking scene like in Santiago?
The coworking scene is booming. A few years ago when I was travelling throughout Asia I first came across the idea of coworking. Now, a few years later the scene is booming everywhere, including in Chile too. Our company Co-Work Latam was a dream 5 years ago but today we have over 2,000 co-workers distributed in 3 different countries. We’re always watching other coworking space operators as they appear – we see the competition as an opportunity to learn and of course to keep us at the top of our game.
What makes Co-Work Monjitas different from other coworking spaces? What makes it great?
I would say it’s a mix of things. The experience for instance – Co-Work Monjitas is the newest and biggest venue that we have launched so far. It represents the newest version of what we are trying to achieve. Co-Work Monjitas was the third new location that we opened last year. We are always learning with each new location.
As entrepreneurs do – sometimes we develop some ideas that at the end we have to fix or improve to create that “wow” factor that allows us to be distinctive. Once we’re happy with the results we roll out across other venues.
Another important factor is flexibility. We offer 3 different membership plans. We understand that that people have different needs and are looking for something that fits their schedule. We listen and offer them a plan that meets their needs.
Last but not least – the vibe. This one I think is a big one. We understand that your working space has to be comfortable. You have to feel proud of where you are working. This is important if you’re receiving guests onsite or bringing someone on board for a new projects.
The visual and practical part is important and we make sure everybody notices it as soon as they enter our space. Cool furniture, along with the latest technology gizmos all help create a relaxed but at the same time a serious work atmosphere.
The rest is provided by the coworkers themselves. We invite our coworkers to share and collaborate by embracing our motto #ColaboracionRadical. It’s all about being active, open-minded and community-oriented.
What vibe were you looking for when creating this space? What is your favorite thing about this space?
We were trying to create a place where people could really enjoy being there – a place where you are able to sense the creativity and are not limited – an innovation hub. A space that can be used interchangeably.
A good example is our use of wheeled-tables. This allows us to rearrange the layout as often as we like. Instead of using whiteboards, we encourage coworkers to write and express their ideas on the glass-walls. We want to create an innovative atmosphere that suits the entrepreneurs’ needs and help them to think outside of the box.
Thanks to all the different nationalities of our coworkers – my favourite thing is definitely the cosmopolitan atmosphere. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people.
It seems that as the digital nomad population grows, that coworking and remote working is the future- yet some spaces are failing and closing down. Why do you think this is happening? What are they doing wrong?
There are many reasons why a cowork business might fail. Location is very important. Over the years we’ve learned how important it is to find a great location – it has to have good connectivity and be a hub where things are happening.
Another important point is the space itself and how it is set up. Users have to feel comfortable- just like home.
Additionally the people who work for Co-Work Latam really enjoy being around entrepreneurs and are committed to making our spaces the best place to build a business.
How would you describe the people that frequent CoWork Monjitas?
The entrepreneurs are mostly young people full of energy and ideas. They are hard-workers and put a lot of passion into their ideas. The cosmopolitan environment creates a unique sense of tolerance and culture between all. It’s this multicultural feel that makes Co-Work Monjitas an extraordinary place to network, brainstorm and of course to go global.
What is the coolest company (besides HelpStay obviously!) operating out of your space?
Working here I’ve had the chance to learn about plenty of incredible ideas and startups. I don’t think that I’ll be able to pick only one!. I’ve seen medicine presented as ice cream, and I mean, who doesn’t like ice cream? On the other hand, considering my tourism background I’d probably pick startups focused on reducing pollution or companies related to the recycling industry.
Do you think coworking spaces/digital nomadship will continue to grow? Why or why not?
This business model is incredible. I truly think coworking is the way more and more both big and small companies will operate in the future. The model is suitable for both of them and by its nature it creates a great synergy to do business between companies from the same and different fields. We really believe this – that’s why we’re focused on delivering to coworkers a chance to create, work and bond together.