Hotel Schani offers a coworking experience based on flexibility and mobile apps
Europe’s premier “startup hotel” Hotel Schani Wien officially opened its doors in April 2015. Ideal for digital nomads who need a place to work and rest, Anita Komarek and her team are working hard to develop a platform that meets the needs of the coworking community as well as the needs of contemporary travelers and guests. This year, Anita will be speaking at the Coworking Europe conference, and we caught up with her to find out more about her experience developing this innovative concept.
Hi, Anita. What inspired you to start Hotel Schani Wien?
The hotel was already a kind of family business. My husband’s family has been in the business for around 40 years. After my brother finished university he started to work in the hotel and he decided that he wanted to focus on his own project, and to realize his own ideas. The whole family was supportive and worked together to come up with a new concept for the hotel. We started to look for a local where to build, as location is one of the most important things, which took around two and half years. Luckily, the city was building a new railway, Hauptbahnhof and the railway company started to sell the surrounding land, which we purchased
Why did you decide to take a different take on the coworking model by integrating a hotel into the space?
I became self-employed in 2012, and I was working in a coworking space, so I thought “why not integrate this into a hotel”. Usually the lobbies in European hotels are empty, besides breakfast. The coworking was the idea on top, but in the beginning we concentrated on running the business, and testing out novel technologies.
What types of needs did you see in the community and how does your space cater to these?
I think that they need what many coworkers need: community. Aside from having the chance to meet locals, they also have the possibility to meet global coworkers who are travelling around. We are working to position ourselves as a startup hotel in Europe and we think our members would be attracted to this.
What types of members do you attract? Are they typically nomadic, or are they long term? And what kinds of services and perks do you offer?
We have all of the basics: event rooms, a coworking space with flexible rates, and fixed rates, in addition to a conference room. Right now, we have a couple regular members, but most of them are flexible. We offer 10 and 30-day passes and members can use these for 3 months (10 days) and 6 months (30 days). We have the feeling that flexibility works better with our guests, as they still don’t quite know how coworking in a hotel will suit them since it is quite a new concept. Many guests are travelling a lot, so they just need a few days.
How does Hotel Schani Wien offer a sense traditional Viennese culture while also meeting the needs of future workers?
When we started to plan the concept for the hotel, we knew that we wanted to integrate traditional Viennese culture. The word “schani” means “good host” in Viennese. We were inspired by Viennese café culture, which was the center of where all these thinkers and intellectuals came to meet and talk. It was a lot like a coworking space 100 years earlier.
For today’s workers, we wanted to use new technologies, which meet the needs of the future. We also met with the Frauenhofer Institute, which helped us a lot. They are running a project now where they started conducting surveys in 2008 that explored the needs of hotel guests of today and tomorrow. We learned a lot from their research, for example, we saw that people don’t want to spend too much time checking in and giving data, so out of these ideas we picked some that fit with our developing concept.
One idea that we developed was the online check-in with the option to choose your room on your mobile phone; similar to the way you can choose seats on a plane. When you come in you pay, but you can have your key on your smartphone with an application that you download. In Vienna, you have 70% business people and they like to save time.
In your opinion, is the coworking movement in need of some changes? If so, what would those be?
I am quite new to coworking in a sense, so I am still experimenting with the model. Every time I talk with someone who is running a successful space, they always tell me that they also had no idea what to do in the beginning and they just try things along the way. It’s a lot of learning by doing. You have to learn to be open and communicative, which is key, and all rest you can learn by trying.
In Austria people are not used to talking honestly about their business ideas and as a result they lack an exchange of ideas, so I think the concept of coworking could really help open people up to communicating and thus lead to more innovation.
Have you been to the Coworking Europe Conference before? If so, what do you think the benefits are of attending the event?
Yes, I went to the conference in Lisbon last year with my husband. The event is really all about networking and I think that just being at the conference and listening to the presentations is enough for some. I came back with so many pages of notes and the feeling of “okay I need to try this and this”. It was really educational.