BELGRADE, Serbia (ViaNews) – Young entrepreneurs in Serbia, although full of ideas and enthusiasm face many of the challenges shared by other Europeans. Among those challenges are initial funding, risk aversion, high initial costs, market uncertainty, and today’s fast-paced market changes. Coworking spaces are offices which share equipment, ideas, knowledge, and promise to deliver solutions to some of these challenges.
Young people’s use of coworking spaces has been growing steadily so to take advantage of the perks that come along with them. One such coworking place for the development of entrepreneurship is “Impact Hub Belgrade”. It opened in 2014 as part of the same global network that currently has 86 hubs in more than 42 countries around the world with about 15 thousand members.
Pavle Krivokuća gave ViaNews an interview to talk about the state of the Serbian coworking market in Serbia. At only 20 years of age, Pavle Krivokuća became one of the founders and chief executive of sales and development of Impact Hub Belgrade. He’s a co-founder of two non-governmental organizations, two startups, and one social movement, he’s also an active member of eight international organizations. He’s a license holder for “Incitement” Serbia, the international motivational platform which spans more than 30 countries. He strongly believes in searching your own “why” in every aspect of life.
Nina Karaicic: After four years experience working with the coworking community, what do you think triggered the need to create such a concept?
Pavle Krivokuća: It’s a set of social and economic factors which tell us there’s a need for this kind of working concept. Impact Hub has been around for 12 years. The initial idea was: “Hey, why would we work in the cafe shop when we can have our own place to work?” As mushrooms, hubs started to grow and multiply. Over the past two years, there have been more than 30 new coworking spaces, globally. Projections point out to the fact that there will be more than 180 hubs around the world by 2020.
Can you compare work in coworking space with other systems?
Working in a hub, incubator, or any other coworking space, in the private, non-governmental, or public sector, I would say, it’s a much more flexible environment, more relaxing because it’s not based on the “9 to 5” principle. Of course, you can organize your day like that, but that’s usually not the case. People can take a break when they want, make lunch with colleagues, hang out or relax by practicing yoga. We are very friendly and allow pets and children in the space. More or less everything is allowed within the social limits of respect.
At what point did the coworking concept start to include business development support?
To this day, coworking spaces continue to expand in the world but most of them are still just a coworking space that offers working facilities. Our global network, Impact Hub, began offering services dedicated to developing the entrepreneur’s skills. Coworking places are primarily based on the user needs so it’s not surprising that at a certain point a whole set of complementary businesses and types of support would be needed.
How does the coworking concept help beginners developing their business?
For people who have an idea or a long time business, Impact Hub offers mentors and various programs to help them get better, faster acceleration of their business, to enter the foreign market, and build capacities. The number of members grows precisely from their need for support in the business development part. Someone will need a bookkeeper, maybe legal advice, or a designer, and now they can find it all in one place.
Why do people opt for such a system of work and are attracted by the coworking concept of support?
I believe that people, especially young companies and startups, are most attracted to the networking part of the system. What makes most people come to us is usually the workspace, but what keeps them, in the long run, is the community and the events we’re organizing.
What is the key advantage of the help offered by the coworking community, from state aid, subsidies, and other forms of financing?
Unlike financial support, we offer support in knowledge and connections, which I consider to be more important. The advantage is also that within our system other small companies and individuals offer their services at a lower price, just for being members of the hub. This allows for a more cooperative and mutually advantageous internal micro market. The main goal of this concept is making entrepreneurs successful, supporting them to reach their goals, and do that as fast as possible.
Using coworking to support business development seems a valid concept. Why not invest in more of such projects and spread awareness about this working style?
I think that coworking and similar concepts for doing business are definitely expanding globally. In Serbia it’s still rather modest, we’re falling behind on some global trends for some time now, but we see improvements. The truth is more people need to know about this concept, but I think it shouldn’t be a forced process. The model will not work if you have people looking for a service while mutual trust isn’t achieved. When a community grows organically, that’s easier to achieve. When you know every member, what they do, their children’s name, and the problems they’re trying to solve, you know right there and then that a system based on trust is born. This whole concept of business advocates a process opposite to mainstream globalization.
Sometimes, incubators never succeed, because it’s not just the number of inhabitants per city that counts, but also a more complex set of social and economic factors telling us how ready the market is for new spaces. We had the example of Impact Hub in Brussels, which tried to establish on one or two occasions. However, the local community did not vibrate with such values. Why? The highest percentage of Brussels residents are state employees of the European Union or large agencies who have little global entrepreneurial spirit, so the coworking community didn’t thrive.