Software as a Service (SaaS) arrived in 1998. With SaaS, instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet – and, voilà, you have the latest, debugged version at your fingertips. It remains a much-appreciated innovation, especially for those of us who remember physically purchasing and loading new software – and trying to keep up with version changes.
The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new SaaS – Space as a Service. Already a trend pre-pandemic, those SaaS options are set to explode in 2021. (Yes, Boomers – it’s a twist on the Shared Tenant Services model you experienced in the 1980s – but way cooler and more flexible.)
Think about this. Typically, businesses lease space for their offices or purchase or build a building. The square footage, lease term, and space design is based on growth assumptions. In the case of startups, those multi-year assumptions involve wild guesses. While intended to be a long-term solution, the reality is the space often isn’t optimal for the company’s actual needs over time.
Introducing…SaaS 2021. It’s time to break the mold and offer spaces that live and breathe in sync with new ventures — spaces that are flexible, upgradable and adaptable.
In Coworking Megatrends 2021, Liz Elam reports on the coworking trends she’s identified. Liz founded Link Coworking in 2010 when there were just four coworking spaces in Austin, now there are over 70. When she sold her company to Common Desk in 2019, it was the fourth largest in Austin. (Oh…speaking of Common Desk, they’re set to open their Wilmington location at 226 N. Front Street in January.)
Here’s what Liz predicts:
- Shifting Power: As companies strive to keep employees, many workers will have more say in where they work. Working from home can be distracting and lonely. Major growth in coworking will come from corporations that are telling their workers to stay home.
- Happy, Healthy, Inspired Workers: Companies will look for spaces that are easy to engage with that are safe, secure and support the wellness and productivity of their employees.
- CRE and the Human Element: Commercial real estate vacancies are on the rise. Landlords will look to enter the market with “flexible” space solutions. Successful ones will do their homework to understand the human element, or they’ll partner with existing coworking brands.
- Huge Opportunities for Coworking Brands: Most brands are not poised for growth; they’re not interested or not ready. Enterprising entrepreneurs are stepping in to take advantage of this opportunity. (Check out Genesis Block in downtown Wilmington.) Coworking brands that were in trouble before Covid-19, are going out of business. Brands that navigated 2020, have plenty of opportunity with suburbs and rural space particularly well-positioned.
- Smart Design Trends: Offices will be less dense. Open space will be physically distanced. Conference rooms will become project rooms; meeting rooms will be team collaboration rooms.
- Low-touch Tech: Aggregators with online platforms that help employees find spaces, such as Liquidspace, Deskpass and Upflex, will thrive.
- Community Wins: When big companies offer “flexible space as a service” you get a space offering a service. In a true coworking space, you become part of a community within a supportive and inclusive space where you can accomplish your work. People and startups will be leaving their homes to focus and stay inspired, but more importantly, to have connections. Coworking provides this.
The CIE offers the longest-standing coworking community in town – and is introducing new flexible space options for 2021. Conveniently located next to UNCW, there are private offices, conference rooms, coworking space, virtual tenancy options, free parking, and more.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.