The concept of flexible office is expanding. While there are some landlords that have expressed concern about signing long-term leases with flexible office providers like WeWork, others are embracing the concept as a building amenity. The most recent example is Brookfield Property Partners partnership with Convene, a flexible office provider that calls itself “workplace as a service.” Convene is unique in that it provides both highly designed flexible office space and tech-driven hospitality services—but perhaps most unique is that Convene partners directly with landlords to provide these services to existing tenants as well as Convene’s clients.
As Convene makes its foray into the Los Angeles market with its Brookfield partnership, GlobeSt.com sat down with Ryan Simonetti, co-founder and CEO of Convene, to talk about the platform and how it’s a peek inside the future of office space.
GlobeSt.com: Why is there such a high demand for flexible office space and office service platforms?
Ryan Simonetti: We are one of a few companies—obviously WeWork is the best known—that is really pioneering what we call workplace as a service. We believe that the way that people work has changed, and a lot of that is driven by technology and demographics. Today’s companies are looking to consume their real estate flexibly, particularly because there is ore complexity today involved in running a company. The ability to have a real estate strategy that allows you to scale up and scale down in real time is relevant. That is different than the way the real estate market has traditionally run, which as you know is historically made up of 10-year leases. We are seeing that that trend is changing and most companies now want to consume part of their real estate strategy flexibly.
GlobeSt.com: You have a unique platform. What do you mean by “workplace as a service,” and what services do you offer?
Simonetti: We call our platform workplace as a service, and we are partnering with companies like Brookfield to help them run their office buildings more like a full-service lifestyle hotel. We design on-demand meeting space, conference space, training space and co-working space with all of the hospitality amenities and services to not just support the flexible office users but the entire tenant base. That allows Convene’s clients to use the space on demand and it allows the tenants in the building to utilize the space to be more flexible and to tap into the hospitality infrastructure to deliver a different experience to their employees in the building. We’ll be doing room service catering to offices, for example. Or, we have a concierge platform and we’ll be planning community-based events.
GlobeSt.com: You mentioned WeWork earlier. How are you approaching flexible office differently?
Simonetti: We are partnering the landlord and giving them our tool kit, and we are partnering with them to deliver this experience to the tenant. Anything that the landlord wants to deliver from a flexible space perspective, instead of leasing space in the building to a WeWork or Regus, Convene can do that in partnership with the landlord. That is the big difference between us and other co-working spaces. We are really the landlord’s response to companies like WeWork.
GlobeSt.com: Why do you think it is important to partner directly with the landlord rather than rent space in the building?
Simonetti: The difference is that we think of every single employee in every building that we are in as a member as opposed to just the people that are in our branded space. We are looking for ways to deliver a hospitality experience to them that is different from other office buildings. Our clients are predominately enterprise customers. We are only partnering with the best-in-class landlords that own class-A assets in class-A locations and want to deliver a class-A hospitality experience. We spend more money on our build outs and we are delivering a deeper level of hospitality. Every location has a culinary team and an onsite concierge, and we are able to deliver a differentiated experience to every tenant in the buildings where we operate.
GlobeSt.com: How is office changing, and how will landlords need to adapt?
Simonetti: Regardless of whether you work in technology or law or finance, we all really want the same things out of our lives. We want to be inspired; we want have purpose in our work; we want to work for a company that treats us well; and we all have a sense about what we want that experience to be. I don’t think that is unique to the creative class and I don’t think that it is unique to millennial. There is an experience that all class-A office buildings should be delivering regardless of the industry. Our view of the future of office is that every class-A building is going to have to deliver flexible space options to tenants and their employees and is going to have to deliver a technology-enabled hospitality experience.
Learn more about Convene’s vision for the future in our ebook, 5 Predictions for the Future of Work.