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This Man Wants To Operate 30,000 Serviced Offices And You Could Be A Partner

The IWG office in One Kingdom Street, London.

How can one company leap from 4,000 flexible office locations today to 30,000 locations around the world? And what is one of Europe’s most pioneering developers planning to bring to the London market? Bisnow caught up with two speakers at the BOLD event to ask those questions.

The Man Driving The UK’s Serviced Office Market

IWG is best known for its most established brand of serviced offices, Regus, but it has many more strings to its bow. An early mover in what is now a booming market, IWG’s brands include Spaces, HQ and No 18. Its reach is enormous.

“In the last five years particularly, as we see how technology has influenced how we work, we have positioned ourselves to drive the expansion of our networks,” IWG CEO UK Richard Morris said. “We have a strong focus on building a global network that provides the on-demand space that businesses need. It’s about convenience and flexibility converging across major economies.”

IWG currently operates in 110 countries and has aggressive growth plans. The company has two assets to help it reach 30,000 locations, Morris said. The first is the sheer amount of customer data it has collected to analyse.   

“We serve millions of customers around the world across industries and sectors,” Morris said. “This gives us the ability to get feedback and really understand what customers need today and in the future, and to develop our offering accordingly.”

IWG’s second major asset is its growing global network of real estate operators. Gaining the next 26,000 locations will depend on how well IWG can forge partnerships with building owners.

“We’re already the go-to partner for building owners globally,” Morris said. “We work with them in partnerships, bringing their buildings into this growing market. Real estate organisations can get on board with the revolution by partnering with IWG.”

Growing through partnerships is crucial to IWG’s ability to position itself for the continuing workspace revolution, as Morris termed it. He believed that the market is picking up speed almost by the month.

“Right now we’re responding to the fact that more large enterprises might not fulfil their space requirements themselves, but choose to get other people to provide space for them,” he said. “No doubt this is the next step in the workplace revolution. We’ve won contracts, started new relationships with large companies and the number is growing rapidly.”

The largest serviced office operator in the world is holding out its hand to invite the property owners to join in. It’s a tempting offer.

EDGE Olympic Amsterdam

The Man Behind Some Of The World’s Coolest, Most Cutting-Edge Buildings

Edge Technologies is possibly the most technology-driven real estate developer in Europe. The company has already crossed the Atlantic, taking its pioneering developments to the U.S. Now, Edge has its sights set on London.

“The UK, and London specifically, presents a deep and interesting market with lots of professional companies open to sustainability and new technology,” Edge Chief Operating Officer Boudewijn Ruitenburg said. “However, we see lots of developers investing in projects but not in creating a product. They create buildings, not a product with a full concept that includes a service level agreement, an environment, a look and feel that the tenant is seeking. We believe there’s space for us to deliver this product.”

Edge is best known for its developments in the Netherlands and Germany, such as The Edge in Amsterdam, which was the world’s most sustainable office building from 2014 to 2016. Its approach centres on creating sustainable, smart buildings that engage tenants.

“At the beginning, 20 years ago, our USP was the fact we were extremely client driven,” Ruitenburg said. “We cooperated with tenants rather than pushing our own agenda. Later, we were one of the first companies to focus on sustainability. Thirdly, we were one of the first companies to realise that sustainability would become standard and the next move would be technology. We realised that a mobile phone was smarter than a big office; that was scary.”

Ruitenburg admitted that to create the better buildings Edge is aiming for, which reduce carbon emissions in smart ways and provide the natural environment that tenants want, the industry needs to change. The way buildings are currently developed is too fragmented and people are too risk-averse, particularly those who hold the purse strings.

“Real estate is a composition of many people’s efforts,” he said. “What we’re missing is the conductor who orchestrates the total integration of the product. We try to be dominant in the process to direct the use of technology, to encourage people to take controlled risks. We need to push hard and be persistent to move barriers, as real estate people like to work in the same way that they have for the last 100 years.”

The UK CEO of the world’s largest serviced office operator and the COO of one of Europe’s most cutting-edge developers. These are just two of the speakers who will be discussing the future of the workplace at Bisnow’s BOLD conference in London next month.