BELGRADE, Serbia (ViaNews) – Over the last ten years, the technology development and the Serbian high unemployment rate helped create new professions and new working habits.
Young people kept adopting alternative ways to work, and the Internet seems the perfect place for that. Hiring and working over the Internet is quickly expanding and being used by foreign and national businesses alike. Online and freelance jobs provide flexible working hours and fast pay. Market demand and the freelance/working community have created the need for the “coworking” space. Since 2012, there has been an increase in incubators and hub spaces in Serbia.
The evolution of coworking
The coworking concept was first mentioned in 2005 by Brad Neuberg, a Senior Software Engineer on the Machine Learning team at Dropbox. The purpose is to join people together while reducing initial costs in consumables and infrastructure.
Coworking goes beyond sharing a working space with someone. The essence of this concept is to create a comfortable, informal and creative work environment to work independently with the added benefit of mutual cooperation between experts from the same, or different, professions.
Coworking in Serbia
The first office space of the coworking type in Serbia was “Smart Office”, established in 2012 to help freelancers, small startup companies, representative offices and everyone in need of a smaller but fully functional office space. Soon thereafter, other coworking spaces such as “BeeHome Coworking Subotica” were founded, which besides the basic office offers, has an educational center that organizes free lectures every week with several topics such as “making websites”, “making a business plan”, etc… The “Loft Hub”, “Coworking Serbia”, “Nova Iskra”, “Business Incubator of Technical Faculties”, “Business Incubator Novi Sad”, “Impact Hub Belgrade”, and others, followed suit.
Coworking spaces in the Serbian countryside
Launching coworking spaces outside the main cities can be challenging. In the countryside, there’s a very small percentage of young people informed about this kind of business and an even smaller number of those are willing to join. “Mokrin House”, the winner of the best coworking space in Serbia, managed to overcome this problem with a slightly different approach to coworking. In a rural setting in the north of Serbia, he created a working space ideal for part-time workers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads needing to escape the big cities to enjoy, live, and work in the countryside, for weeks, months or even years.
The “Mokrin House” goes as far as taking full care of its members, providing three tasty, homemade, and healthy meals a day, a large table for work, and a comfortable bed. Free time is filled with good coffee, workshops, educational seminars, cooking lessons, movie nights, and many random activities. Research has shown that getting out of a regular work environment increases productivity and creativity. That’s why Mokrin House offers a program for teams and individuals wanting to replace a stressful and densely populated business environment for an environment-oriented habitat.
“I participated in the ‘Through the Lens’ program, which lasted for seven days in the photo-camp in Mokrin House. It was an unforgettable experience for me! I’ve met a lot of people with similar interests and I’m still in contact with them. Also, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to learn from excellent photographers who, through lectures and practice, managed to teach us a lot of things. Photography is just my hobby, and only a few days in this environment led me to think about changing my profession.” – says Andrea Krželj, a student of the Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy in Belgrade.
Coworking is fast becoming an effective working environment
The appearance of a cheaper, faster, and networked way of doing work has significantly improved and strengthened the competitiveness of the Serbian market. Especially for individuals and teams from various domains and industries, mainly from the creative and IT sector.
“Coworking provides a very needed service to freelancers and businesses who travel a lot because of the type of work they deal with. In a way, coworking has improved the competitiveness of businesses in Serbia. In addition, they get something that’s more important to me, networking with other users of the coworking space. Social networking helps to achieve high-quality projects.” – explains co-founder and project coordinator of Nova Iskra, Kristijan Šujević.
“Nova Iskra” incubator opened its doors in 2012 following the high demand for coworking spaces of the time – its founders had over ten years of experience with numerous professional projects in the past. In 2012, they wanted to make something for themselves through a synergy of experiences. They gather with designers, whose work they love and respect, and above all, with the new generation of creators, freelancers, and authors, both Serbian nationals and foreigners.
“We are certainly satisfied with the achieved results, but this is only a small part of what needs to get done, and we’re looking forward to it. We foresee the untapped potential of young local authors but we also need to account for the low level of visual aesthetics and design in Serbia. We must not forget that one of our main goals is to provide engagement for quality young creators, but also to contribute to the development of our business sector through the influence of creativity and innovation.” – says Šujević.
The Serbian coworking market
Coworking in Serbia is rapidly evolving, and the creation of more than 15 new coworking spaces over the past five years shows that exactly. The market is still avid for coworking spaces because there’s a huge number of young creators and professionals willing to work within the coworking framework.
Impact Hub Belgrade, which is part of the Impact Hub global network, is another coworking space devoted to the development of entrepreneurship and business contributing to social, economic, and cultural changes. Officially opened in 2014, Impact Hub in Belgrade received over 300 members in the first year alone, both from Serbia and abroad. Among foreign members are individuals and companies from Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, South America, United States, and the United Kingdom.
For people having a business idea or wanting to implement that idea, Impact Hub offers mentorship and workshops for better and faster acceleration of businesses, access to foreign markets, and capacities development.
“I think coworking and new ways of doing business are definitely expanding globally. In Serbia, though, it’s still rather modest. We’re falling behind on some global trends, but we also see huge improvements. The truth is more people need to know about this concept, but not at any cost. The coworking model won’t work if you have a high demand for the service, but fail to maintain a trustworthy relationship to, and among, its users. The community needs to grow organically, from the moment you know each member, what they do, to even knowing the name of their children. This whole concept revolves around organic development, which is opposite to mainstream globalization. Coworking needs to be organic and its processes must be solid enough to be replicated everywhere in the world.” – explains co-founder and Director of Sales and Development of Impact Hub in Belgrade, Pavle Krivokuća.
The Future of coworking in Serbia
Coworking in Serbia is expanding rapidly because there’s a large number of young creators and professionals eager to work, and the coworking concept satisfies their needs. It is not surprising that each time more young people are embracing this concept. Since 2016, Serbia was ranked the world’s first country in the Brain Drain indicator, It remains to be seen whether the Serbian coworking spaces will allow to, at least, decrease the departure of national experts into other countries.