Week 12 – London. It is time for a feature in the Workplace Series. Today, we are featuring Pier Paolo Mucelli’s visit to Rainmaking Loft and presenting their journey through an interview with General Manager, Jane Campbell.
Rainmaking Loft is a coworking space that is located in the historic St Katharine Docks Marina. The space was set up in 2013 by co-founders Mats Stigzelius and Oli Johnson as a result of their needs to find a space for their own startup company along with a desire to create a community for other startups to benefit from. And so, the space was created to allow teams and companies in similar positions to be in the same location and support one another. Jane explains: “So, the way Rainmaking Loft came about was quite organically. It was a great location and opportunity to invite other startups to come and work with Oli and Mats’ startups.”
You have a couple locations in Denmark and Berlin, are they all a part of the same ownership? Pier asks
Jane replies that Rainmaking Loft London was the original space. “We opened first in 2013, in 2014 our Berlin location opened, and then Copenhagen Rainmaking Loft opened last year, in 2015. The Berlin Rainmaking Loft is a slightly different setup and has a slightly different ownership, but the space is still very much a part of the same coworking community. In fact, they are all a part of an interconnected community and we welcome members from the other Rainmaking Lofts to benefit from using the spaces when they travel.”
Pier continues: When Rainmaking Loft London was set up 3 years ago, what were the initial steps and marketing initiatives in creating this community?
According to Jane, everything within Rainmaking Loft has been quite organic. The space was built with the purpose of creating a coworking community where startups, companies and entrepreneurs who are all in the same boat may help and support one another on their journeys. Jane says: “It was a very organic way for the coworking space to come about, and when we started, we were one of about 10 other spaces doing a similar concept. Our concept is based on our ethos to be an open-plan working space without boundaries and walls between the companies.”
She continues by saying: “We have always been very much geared towards the startup community and we are all about supporting early stage startup companies through natural development within our community. However, we have never really had a marketing budget or a strategy towards marketing the space. A lot of it comes through word of mouth and through the growth and knowledge startups who join our community acquire when connecting with one another.”
We are interested in knowing how they choose their members and Pier asks:
Do you have an interview process or can anybody apply and access the spaces?
Jane explains: “Well, Rainmaking Loft is predominantly a tech-focused space and many of our teams in the space come from a FinTech background and are working on FinTech products. Therefore, we have got a lot of software services, a VR company, and other e-tech focused companies here. I would say it is very much a natural progression in that way, and as a result, we have been mainly tech focused. But that’s it, we don’t limit who comes into our space. As a matter of fact, we choose to focus on full fit within the community instead. If we think that a team is going to benefit being amongst our startups or give anything back in terms of being good influence towards our startups, then we definitely want to make sure that they get a membership with Rainmaking Loft. In other words, we definitely are not restricted, but we do choose for a fit.”
Does it happen that a client is so successful that they outgrow the space and move on? Pier asks.
Jane smiles and says: “Yes, we have had a number of different scenarios. Obviously, we celebrate any success that takes place throughout the journeys in Rainmaking Loft. For instance, a company that was working with us, Magic Pony, got bought by Twitter back in June and it was a huge success for the Loft community because the company was an important part of our network. So, we are very appreciative of teams who have been in the Loft, who have grown with us, and undergone such great success.”
“On the other hand, we also find some teams that end up and having to adhere rules or suggestions made by their investors and some teams are even asked to come and work from their investor’s offices, but luckily, sometimes we have teams that decide to come back later on. One may say that we have that balanced and defined line of outcomes.”
And do you shift companies around if they downsize or grow?
“Yes, our desk model is on a permanently fixed basis, not hot-desking, so teams have a set area and a set desk that they work from. Sometimes we have a team growing and we have to do some every now and then shuffles to ensure that we accommodate the growth. Likewise, if a team is decreasing in size we may look at the floorplan to make sure that they are best accommodated.”
Moving on to discussing the space, Pier asks:
Jane, can you please describe briefly how the space is organised?
“Yes, so the space is an open plan coworking space, open 24 hours a day. The Loft itself is a long workspace. On one side we have four meeting rooms, four phone boots, and a large events space. On the other side, we have the majority of our desk space overlooking the marina of St. Patrick’s docks, which is a lovely view. In total, we have 186 desks, of which 25 desks are available at the moment.”
“In terms of the facilities, we don’t restrict the usage of the meeting rooms or charge any additional fees. Instead, we have a one-off flat fee for the use of all the facilities. Finally, we have shower facilities, bike storage, kitchen and dining area, printing facilities, and a soft informal meeting area that we call The Club.”
Pier: Do you have any private offices as well?
“No, we don’t have private offices, but we do have one large space in the back, where we have placed our two largest teams at the moment. But in terms of availability we don’t have any spare spaces,” Jane replies.
Can guests have access to the space and pay a daily fee?
“No, we don’t actually do a daily pass thing. Obviously, any teams in our space can have a lot of guests and clients coming in and use the meeting rooms. That’s absolutely fine.” Jane says.
What about pets, are they allowed? Pier asks
Jane laughs and says: “I wish! Unfortunately, the building is very strict about having pets, so we cannot allow that.”
Pier: How do you manage the branding environment within the space?
And Jane replies: “We are absolutely open to our teams putting up their brands. In fact, we want to celebrate who our members are as much as they want to put up their branding, hence we are very open to our teams putting up team names in the work area, as well as we are very flexible about how the space is used. For us, it is important that the space function as a Launchpad for their business and we want them to be able to use it however they desire.
Pier continues and asks: Can we discuss a bit about technology, how do you manage the technology in the space?
“Yes, obviously we provide as fast internet connection as I believe the building can allow us in through the pipes.” Jane says and then continues: “and we are constantly trying to keep our Wi-Fi hardware up to date. In addition, as we appreciate that developers and other tech clients need a super-fast connection and to not be restricted by Wi-Fi activity, we offer both Wi-Fi, and have installed internet connections in each desk.”
Let us talk a bit more about the community, Pier continues. How do you manage the community in terms of events?
Jane explains: “We know that a startup’s time is quite precious. Through lots of trials and errors, we have tried to work out an events program that works best for our community. Through simple polling systems, we have now learned that there are some events that are going to get great reception from the community and there are some that you think will get great reception, but actually don’t. So, from these systems, and based on what the startups genuinely want to learn or hear about, we have learned different strategies for working out the best turnout for events. Also, we have done a lot learning from past events to make sure that our community events are successful.”
To illustrate, Jane explains about a learning program called the Loft Lunches, where experts are invited to talk to startups about different areas of business that can be useful to their business. Furthermore, they do quite a few social events as well, and they try to do one big-night-out or one big event every month. “For instance, in October we had a big Halloween pub crawl. These events really show how close the members of the Loft are as a community.” Jane adds. “We genuinely enjoy going out together and getting to know one another better.”
Moving on to the end of the interview we would like to discuss a bit about the market and Pier asks: What is your view on the market within the next couple of years?
Jane says: “We know through experience that it is actually very hard to make a profit on coworking spaces. Rent prices and business rates in London are just so high that it is more or less impossible to charge a rate for a membership that is appealing to a startup while also making a profit. In Rainmaking Loft, we definitely have an intention for growth, but rent prices is a massive limitation. We are still very much a not-for-profit as we are not making a profit on our memberships, but rather staying dedicated to ensuring attractive prices to startups. Our business model is that we cover costs with our income and a sponsorship from Tesco.”
Just one last question, do you think the flexible office market will keep on growing or that it will stabilise within the next five years?
“I think we will continue to see some growth in the market” Jane says. “I also think that we are going to see a number of corporates becoming stakeholders in this market and that a lot of corporates are trying to tap into the startup ecosystem. Whether or not we are going to see a growth in coworking spaces I don’t know. I believe London has reached a saturation point as there are a lot of options here already. But still, in terms of the flexibility and the price range for small businesses, I think a flexible office is the best option for an early stage company and that demand is definitely sustainable in terms of the startup market.”
Thank you for your great hospitality Jane Campbell and Rainmaking Loft!