The Habu Year in Review 2018

We share the highlights, challenges, insights, and trends from the flexible workspace and coworking industry's most epic year to date.
Robert Ollett
December 21, 2018
14 min read
Habu Updates

We won't bore you with any long-winded, emotive, or faux-seasonal introductions to this article. It's just not our style. This is what we're gonna do; one, share the key trends happening in flexible workspace, real estate, and coworking, two, give you the inside track on what we've been up to and three, share some of the most cutting-edge, insightful content in the flexible workspace industry. So let's cut to the chase.

January - Massive Growth & Niches Aren’t Niche Anymore

Massive Growth

January is always a busy month for the coworking and flexible workspace industries, with people returning to work rejuvenated and energized for a new year of possibilities. And 2018 was no exception. On the back of a solid finish for 2017, we brought in 2018 with a pile of new business, an exciting feature roadmap for Habu, epic conferences to attend, a fresh approach to coworking content, and a new addition to the team!

And we were delighted to welcome a groundswell of workspaces to Habu too, with our biggest increase in customers ever!

Niches Aren’t Niche Anymore

At this time the importance of niche coworking and flexible workspaces became apparent. Time and time again, spaces were joining us that didn’t fit the typical coworking mold. We formalized our thoughts on coworking niches in our State of Coworking 2018 article in August.     

But it was in January that we saw that there was a coworking space for just about every niche, and that the ideology of shared and flexible workspace was poised to transform every industry on the planet.

In 2018, we’ve seen, met with, worked with and worked at spaces focused on:

And that doesn’t even put a dent in it. Niches are not the exception anymore. In fact, going into 2019, if you’re not niche it might well be bad for business!

January Feature Releases

  • Enhanced booking configurations; admins can now allow members to book spaces out-of-hours, edit and manage their own bookings and advanced opening time controls.
February - CU Asia 2018 & the Explosion of Coworking in Asia

We Loved CU Asia 2018!

February is a highlight for us every year because it’s when we get to pack our bags, fly to the other side of the world, bask in the tropical sun, and attend the always-amazing CU Asia coworking conference. CU Asia is the largest Asian coworking conference on Earth, with several hundred attendees from all over the region and beyond.

It’s a favorite of ours for the unique vibe and top-notch speakers. We were lucky enough and proud to sponsor CU Asia 2018 as hosts of the VIP Dinner for speakers, partners, and organizers too. And very own Ryan Chatterton delivered a top drawer talk on workspace technology at the Coworking Academy for flexible workspaces.

Asian Coworking is Off the Charts

We were blown away by the sheer amount of operators opening up spaces in the region. But more surprising was the scale and speed at which these spaces were opening and operating. We had many conversations with founders that had only opened their doors in the last year, but were already working on massive multi-location expansions.

Based on our experience at CU Asia 2018 as well as news from others at conferences like GCUC China, the consensus is that the coworking industry in Asia will surpass that of Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, at least based on number of spaces and members, though perhaps in terms of revenue as well.

Reinventing Coworking Content

Additionally, between January and February we began a deep dive into top-quality content production. We felt that the state of coworking and flexible workspace content simply wasn’t cutting it. For such a vibrant and dynamic industry, we knew it could be better. And that’s when the idea for “More Than a Desk…”, Habu’s resource library, was conceived.

We kick-started things with a live webinar series with coworking leaders from around the world, including the likes of Alex Hillman on moving your space, Tobias Kremkau on coworking branding, and Tony Bacigalupo on super simple membership growth. What’s more, we began recording in-depth interviews with experienced coworking operators and founders in the hottest flexible workspace regions throughout the world; people like:

February Feature Releases

  • Advanced Invoice Exports; a great way to bring Habu’s in depth billing data into any accountancy platform as well creating custom billing reports month-by-month, or for any specified time range.
March - Coworking Values in Germany & A New Addition to Team Habu

In March, some of the team got on a train to Cowork 2018 in Bremen, Germany, hosted by the German Coworking Federation. It was interesting at Cowork 2018 to experience a nostalgic vibe. While other conferences have increasingly attracted large-scale players over the past years, the German coworking conference scene is adamantly indie. And they are laser-focused on maintaining a culture that adheres to the original coworking values. So much so that it’s a topic of heated debate every year.

Welcome to Team Habu, David!

At the end of Q1, we were delighted to make a new addition to the Habu team! The super-talented and all-round lovely human being, David Barrutia, joined our engineering team as a Senior Engineer, where he’s now hard at work implementing exciting new features.

March Feature Releases

  • Space Configurations; set who can see and book your spaces with public / member only / admin only settings.
April - A New Habu Resource Library

In April we set out to launch the stellar resource library that we’d conceived of earlier in the year. We wanted to host incredible content that could teach, inspire, and inform coworking and flexible workspace operators for years to come.

The new Habu Resource Library is sleek, organized, and filled to the brim with top-quality articles, interviews, and webinars to help flexible workspace teams level up their workspaces and communities. To date, Habu has produced 48 in-depth articles and more than a dozen insightful interviews and webinars with in-demand coworking and flexible workspace thought leaders.

One of our primary goal is that the resource library become a destination for learning, inspiration, and connection to the wonderfully changing world of workspaces. And we constantly get feedback like this:

So make sure you stay in the loop!

May - The Times, They Are a Changin’ in Spain

Coworking Spain 2018

It was evident at the Coworking Spain Conference in Madrid, Spain that times are a’ changin’ for the Spanish coworking and flexible office market. The conference draws some 150 coworking practitioners from all over the Iberian Peninsula.

With the focus being on more professional workspaces, our Content Director, Ryan, delivered an advanced talk on coworking technology, honing in on methodology rather than specific tools. The key ideas from the talk are:

  • There is no single tool or software that will do everything for you
  • It’s best to pick a small handful of tools that specialize and are really good (Habu!)

While touring around Spain and attending the Coworking Spain conference, we realized that the Spanish coworking scene was finally following the global trend. And that trend is about big, corporate, large-scale flexible workspace brands.

In fact, we sat down to interview Marc Navarro of Coworking Spain about this very topic. During our conversation, Marc revealed that he’d been attempting to nudge the conference content in this direction for some time.

"We are in a business,” he said, “and we all have bills to pay, so we must make money. Yes, this is a business with soul, but nobody feels it's strange that a doctor or a nurse gets money to help people. But we also help people, in many different ways, but we must earn money because we are human beings and have to pay the bills."

The shift is evident with many large flexible workspace brands opening their doors and scaling up, such as Aticco and Utopicus.

May Feature Releases

  • Enhanced Notifications; stay on top of what members are doing in Habu by customizing what notifications to receive and whether they are in app or straight to your mail.
June - Habu’s Biggest Update Ever & Alex Hillman on Team Building

The Habu User Area - Our Biggest Update Ever

After months of planning, design, development, and testing, we released our most exciting release to date: the Habu User Area.

The new user area is delightfully designed, powerful and role-responsive area for all users, not just members allowing them to connect with their coworking community online and access space services.

Our goal was to allow customers to provide unprecedented autonomy for their members, enabling the latter to do more of what they want and giving them control over their data. All of that means that space operators end up with more freedom, liberated from the multitude of tasks created by workspace users over the course of a day, week, or month.

We wrote a detailed article all about the features and benefits of the new Habu User Area. Check it out!

Building a Rockstar Coworking Team

We were delighted to welcome Alex Hillman back to the Habu stage with his second webinar, Building a Rockstar Coworking Team. This webinar sold out. Well, the tickets are always free, but we ran out of space due to the incredible popularity of this topic, as well as the immense quality of this pioneering thought leader.

If you’re looking to expand your operations in 2019 and build an outstanding team to make your workspace rock, don’t miss out on this webinar.

July - Habu Expands to Portugal & The Rise of Rural Coworking

Habu Expands to Portugal

Co-founder Robert Ollett, relocated to Portugal, a top quality tech hub, to begin laying the groundwork for opening a development studio. This will see us double our engineering capacity in 2019.

Rural and Suburban Coworking Is On the Rise

This is the trend that won’t stop trending, and we get a birds-eye view of it at Habu. More and more of our new customers over the last year have been rural or suburban flexible workspaces.

It’s incredibly exciting to see flexible workspaces and coworking communities opening up in smaller cities, towns, and villages. It shows that the modern world of work is filled with possibility. Possibility to live where you want, close to home and hearth, and work wherever there’s a roof over your head, a decent wifi connection, and heartwarming people to share it with.

We identified a few reasons for this rise in rural and suburban coworking in our State of Coworking 2018 article. But to summarize:

  • It’s become cheaper to install excellent IT infrastructure in rural and suburban areas.
  • There is an abundance of sleek online tools for connection, project management, and communication.
  • Life in rural and suburban places, especially for digital workers, is often calmer, less expensive, quieter, and more spacious.

We’ve also highlighted a couple of our favorite Habu users that are running suburban and rural spaces on the Habu Resource Library. If you’re interested in checking out those stories, you can read them here:

  • Coworking in the Suburbs: A Suite Story
  • From Church to Coworking: The Oak House
August - International Coworking Day &  Mike LaRosa on Coworking Partnerships and Sponsorships

International Coworking Day

August 9th is international coworking day and we decided to celebrate with our most popular article ever, State of Coworking 2018. In it, we included the top trends we’d seen over the past 365 days, plus tips on how to take advantage of what’s to come.

Coworking Sponsor & Partner Strategies

We were delighted to welcome Mike LaRosa to the Habu webinar stage for an incredibly insightful talk on attracting partners and sponsors for coworking spaces. So, whether you’re interested in funding your coworking space entirely through sponsorships, offsetting some of your costs through in-kind partnerships, hosting a huge event, or anything in between, this webinar is a much-watch.

September - Coworking Summit in Copenhagen and GCUC Goes to London

Coworking Summit Copenhagen

Content Director, Ryan Chatterton, hosted an intimate coworking summit at Techfestival in Copenhagen, Denmark. The aim was to bring together a small group of Europe’s most experienced coworking founders and operators for talks and discussions on more advanced topics than are typically covered at other coworking events.

Ryan was joined by co-hosts Tobias Kremkau of St. Oberholz and Matthias Zeitler of Coworking Bansko, who together welcomed nine expert panelists and two dozen more attendees for a day of in-depth conversations, connection, and riveting panel discussions.

We’ll link to the recap video as soon as it’s available.

October - A Coworking Tour of the Balkans

In October, coworking maven and Habu content director, Ryan Chatterton, set off on a two-week road trip through the Balkans to meet and work with coworking founders at different stages of operation. The tour took him through Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. He worked with nearly a dozen coworking founders in six cities with both established and up and coming coworking scenes.

While the highlight of this trip could have been the immense natural beauty in a relatively under-visited part of Europe, what was really eye opening was the communal spirit and entrepreneurial drive in each of the cities he stayed. That truly confirms that coworking is everywhere and it shows no signs of stopping.

November - Habu Launches Team Billing and More & Coworking Unconference Bansko Bulgaria

A Massive Month of Habu Updates

November was a busy and exciting month for the Habu platform. We officially launched four new features: Team Billing and Management, Advanced Turnaround Times, and integrations with both eZeep and Zapier.

With the addition of team management, in a few simple steps, Habu admins can set up a team within an organization, enabling bespoke member-by-member allowances, streamlined invoicing and billing and a simple interface so they can see all team activity.

Advanced turnaround times allows admins to add room setup/pack down times with even more control. Admins can even set independent turnaround times for individual bookings.

The addition of a Zapier integration has been a long-requested feature, and we’re glad to finally release it to our loyal users. Zapier allows you to connect Habu with thousands of apps and trigger almost any action you can dream up.

And lastly, we brought printer management to Habu with our eZeep integration. This means Habu admins can charge members for printing directly through Habu. And in the future, they'll be able to add printing allowances to plans too!

Coworking Unconference Bansko, Bulgaria

This time at CUBB, Ryan delivered a new talk on the impact that coworking communities can have on local ecosystems and neighborhoods. The main contention was that coworking communities are good for local economies, but that coworking spaces themselves are merely a part of the ecosystem, not the creator of that ecosystem.

That means that coworking spaces need to strive to be a member of the greater community before they build their space. And they must remain a cherished member of that community going forward. We published an article as a precursor to this talk, called Building Your Ecosystem for Coworking Success, which outlines much of Ryan’s ideas behind this topic.

December - Corporate Coworking is the New Normal

Corporate Coworking is the New Norm

Throughout the year, we’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible expansion and scaling of so-called corporate coworking spaces. What started as a trickle a few years ago has transformed into a torrent of huge investments and interest. So much so that we don’t know of a major corporate real estate firm that isn’t looking to make a gigantic play in this market. And many already have.

While indie coworking will never go away, we see that the growth in interest in scaled-up coworking and flexible workspaces is on the verge of exceeding that of indie spaces. According to Deskmag data on the amounts invested into new coworking spaces, when counting out the most extreme 5% on either end, the average investment in USD per space has more than quadrupled since 2016 to $450,000, up from $90,000.

This is reflected in the attendance at coworking and flexible workspace conferences globally, as was evidenced at Coworking Europe 2018 in November. According to Habu friend Tobias Kremkau, “There were a lot of real estate industry people there, who appeared very self-confident. We should learn to talk to them and how to make corporates happy. We still have a lot to learn from each other and how to talk to each other.”

The market makeup is changing rapidly. And it’s exciting to see so many opportunities that simply weren’t there even a year ago.


It's clear that this once-budding industry is undergoing massive changes and explosive growth. And with that change comes a lot of opportunity. Opportunity for a more balanced and healthier world of work, for creativity, for connection, and of course for wealth. By and far, those boundless opportunities are what excite us and keep us striving to build the best workspace management platform available. We look forward to a prosperous 2019, and we wish you the same. See you after the break!

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Robert Ollett

Co-founder, designer, reader, philosopher & plant whisperer. He plays dad, husband & attacking midfield.

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