HUMANS OF IMPACT HUB
I am an entrepreneur because I value independence. I do not like it to be permanently employed.
I love to build things up. Once they run by themselves, it gets a bit boring and then I look for something new to do. That’s why we sold the coworking space we had ran for five years in Frankfurt. The story behind it goes like this:
I met Jenny, my girlfriend, when she had just come back from Canada where she had worked in a coworking space. She talked to me about opening one in Frankfurt. I thought it was impossible because of the housing prices in Frankfurt and we forgot about the idea for some time.
I was working in a Publishing House as a Project Leader for City Magazines and Portals, but I hated the job. I managed to stay there for one year.
After we quit our jobs we travelled through Germany and Europe with our train cards 100 (this is a German card that covers all cost of train transportation) that we had from our previous jobs and worked on the road. During that time we realized that working from home was shit and also we didn’t want to go back to be employed.
One day I was thinking about the coworking space idea we had. So we sat down and crunched numbers for a few weeks. It seemed do-able with the right property. From then on it developed its own dynamics. We scanned the property market and signed the contract for a space in the nicest area of Frankfurt 9 months later. It was a huge project and we got a loan from the bank. I think we were even after a month or two and that was great. It became quite exhausting though because we first had to renovate the place and worked 14-16 hours every day. We soon had 40 members, a decent amount for the start I believe. We tried to attract a lot of meet-ups and started to rent out the place for external bookings.
Coworking spaces back then were a completely new concept. Some business centers propagated this but when you got there it was nothing but an empty office. We tried to stick to the coworking principles Community, Openness, Collaboration, Accessibility, and Sustainability. It wasn’t just about working alone in a fancy office but also about the exchange between coworkers and being open to everyone.
It was very cool to do this as a couple because we are such different people. I was the janitor and the printer-is-broken-dude and Jenny was basically the one talking to the people. It was a really rewarding job because people appreciated what we did for them. In the first place they were really happy that we facilitated the communication between them. Around 30% of people living in Frankfurt are actually from Frankfurt. The rest of them move there because of their jobs or something. So there were lots of people that were socially isolated and didn’t know anyone.
Our lifestyle in the first two years was basically 14 hours a day of work. Many things would only start at 19:30 in the evening. They were mostly external events and we had to be there. The next day things had to be build up and put back. We promoted the place on each meet there was for startups and we became very well known. We wanted to be accessible. We wanted to create value for the community. If someone had lost a big costumer we would let them work for free. That wasn’t a matter. We had big companies that wanted to come to us to be in a hip and creative environment and we would charge them more. Because they weren’t beneficial for the community of coworkers. Instead we used that money to lower our membership prices.
I never networked in my life before so that I had to train. We became a model for many open spaces and coworking spaces. We adapted the place according to our own needs. We wanted it to be a place that we really wanted to go to every day.
After 3/4 years we were so exhausted and wanted to start new projects. We bought a mobile home to travel around and get away from the city for a bit. Then I started with the project of an app where you could see which places you could stay at with motorhomes and what these places offer. But it grew and became bigger than a hobby. Jenny was doing her PhD. at the same time and after finishing it she was offered a research position in Oxford. So we decided to sell the coworking space and move ther. We lived in England just one year because we wanted to move to Norway for many years. And then the opportunity came when Jenny wa proposed a research position at the University of Bergen. I have always loved Bergen, I think it is the best city in Norway. And now I’m here and it’s so hot (laughes), I don’t like it 🙂 but the rain will come again.