“Working on the identity of a coworking space is more important than the offered services or the design”- Le Tank, Paris

As the workplace in a stage of transition, it is rapidly transforming the way we define the space in which workers interact and innovate.

Damien Cahen, director at Le Tank based in Paris, France, spoke to us about the importance of space design, and what it means to create a community identity.

Hi Damien, can you please introduce yourself and give a brief introduction to Le Tank

Le Tank is an open coworking space that caters to professionals from different fields, like developer, designers, project managers, and community managers. We first opened in 2011, and were very small with just 10 members. We have since expanded, and now have 50 members occupying a five-story building.

The space allows these individuals who have a creative vision and passion to come together. This is the core philosophy. For example, we don’t want to pony up startups, but we want to make space for people to discover different profiles and thus induce creativity.

Can you describe the types of tenants you typically have in Le Tank?

We have people from very different fields, but what they do have in common is that they are all professional. We have some who just quit their job after 20 years and decide to launch their own media. For example one member, Joel, worked many years for the French radio and also Arte but recently quit and is now freelancing with us. A lot of our members have years of professional experience, but we are also home to younger people who are developing projects in politics, citizen engagements, such as the Green Party in France.

We also have startups that are well on their way, like 87 seconds, which is a company, that designs narrative video for the event organization ecosystem.

Damien Cahen

Is the design of the workplace important?

The design is very important, especially in our case. Currently we have five floors and of course not everyone is on the same floor. When you are on the first floor you cannot interact with the fourth floor, so each floor has areas with different services, such as a kitchen, meeting room, and living room spread across the space. This increases the chance of mobility for the workers and also fosters meeting points.

On the 5th floor, which is open, we have a kind of meeting room that was inspired by the Stanford Design School. The space is entirely flexible, with moving walls and you can also write on the walls. It is designed to create space where all different people can work and it is meant to lively and noisy

How can coworking spaces become sustainable?

It’s hard work to be sustainable. For us we have two pillars: We have coworking, which is a regular income but not quite enough. To earn additional income we host events for clients, conferences, and seminars for bigger companies. Today corporations are becoming more interested in the flexible workspace, and we are able to sell our expertise and experiences to these companies, which are new to the field.

In Paris, social workspaces collaborate to exchange knowledge and remain strong. The region also has established a program that gives money to collaborative spaces in exchange for knowledge. For example, Le tank was financed by a communication agency called Spintank, which wanted to open the space. This has helped us to grow and stay out of financial danger.

At one point there was a large gap between coworking spaces and corporations. But now that gap is closing. How do you build a relationship with corporations while still maintaining your own identity?

We actually have a good example of this. We have been working regularly with Adobe, and they have organized a lot of events. It’s been a good collaboration for us because they are a creative design ecosystem, so it connects us to our target group and naturally brings more money. We organized a five-day event about typography and we had over 200 people attending each time. In addition to supporting our space, Adobe has also brought us really valuable content, which contributes to the overall value of Le Tank.

How important is it to nurture the identity of the  coworking spaces ?

When I look around at different workspaces, I think a very important trait is the identity, maybe even more than the services offered or even the design. What you say and what kind of members you attract make the identity. I believe that Le Tank is not corporate in the way that a company like Regus is, but rather that we are serious and professional, at the intersection of coworking a big business.