“Coworking holds the key to success for Hungarian businesses on the international scene” – Kata Klementz, Loffice Budapest
Hungary’s first coworking space opened its doors in 2009, setting a new standard of work in the country, and since then, they’ve never looked back. Loffice, like most coworking spaces, wanted to create a space where people could come to work, connect and relax with access to knowledge and space sharing.
The first location opened in Budapest in a former printing house and since then they established five locations, 4 in Budapest and 1 in Vienna. And their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Honored with various awards, such as the Young Entrepreneurs of the Year 2010, Green Office of the Year 2011, Coworking Office of the Year 2014, etc. Loffice has had a positive impact, not just in Hungary, but on the European coworking scene.
We spoke with Loffice’s cofounder, Kata Klementz, to learn more about Hungary’s scene and how they are actively bringing Europeans together through their various cross-border collaborations.
Hi, Kata. Can you please tell us a bit more about Loffice’s Mission?
We provide companies’ growing needs in-house resources, to make sure that they develop and expand by securing their constructed community. We also make sure to help individual entrepreneurs make connections to micro and mid-size ventures, as well as enforce their national and international presence.
We also host various events; the majority of these are primarily located in open space factory buildings, characterized by industrial design, recycled furniture, and environmental awareness as a way to integrate contemporary art into the work environment. We also offer a lot of other activities and thematic events, where community members can speak about their success and failures, as well as present best practices for young entrepreneurs, women, families, startups, mothers, migrants etc.
Can you tell us about some of the cross-border projects to come out of your space?
Our aim is to help entrepreneurs and startups with regular business consultancy and in-house training. With our “cross-border” programs and events, we provide professional support to companies who want to enter a new market. As part of our export advice activity, we provide professional support in the context of cross-border business.
We are also in partnership with an accelerator called OXO Labs and together we have a regional startup competition called CEE Lift Off. Our aim is to expand the domestic borders of the startup ecosystem and become a dominant market member in the CEE region.
In addition to those projects, we are also active members of the European Coworking Network project, which was started in August 2015.This project connects different coworking providers (from public, private and civil sector) in order to create diversified network and cooperation that aims to enhance and boost the self-employment possibilities of young people. It’s an effective tool for supporting entrepreneurship, with a strong focus on supporting young people who are interested in starting their own business. Our main goal with this project is to promote and inform young people about all the aspects of social entrepreneurship, as entrepreneurship is an important driver of economic growth and job creation.
All of these projects aim to show that coworking is the best platform to perfect start-up business ideas, by letting them grow in an inspirational environment, with a goal of sustainable growth.
What was your experience in the early stages of establishing a coworking space and when it came to introducing people to the concept?
At the time there wasn’t even a Hungarian expression for “coworking”. Our mission was to spread the word, explain the importance of this new way of working and make it available to help people better understand why it’s beneficial.
We have been involved in the launching of the European Coworking Assembly with coworking entrepreneurs and professionals who were looking to improve Europe’s economy and society via coworking. Another aim was to help and promote collaborative working to allow it to reach its full potential.
Hungary was hit hard during the financial crisis in 2008. What were the needs of people in Hungary at that time in regards to employment and jobs?
Declining exports reduced domestic consumption and fixed asset accumulation did hit Hungary hard. But we experienced a quick recovery and when the country’s GDP started to grow again, Hungarian businesses found their way out of the crisis.
In fact, Hungary and Budapest are considered to be the perfect home for self-employers and entrepreneurs. While multinational businesses do take up a significant amount of labor power, the current conditions are good for mid- and micro-sized ventures, in regards to investment, workforce and markets, national and international as well. From the coworking perspective, our aim was to motivate people and show them useful examples and best practices. We wanted to make entrepreneurship sexy for them!
Coworking spaces are the best channels to connect people and all types of professionals, these hubs for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and budding organizations are building the future economy by providing jobs and innovation. And this is exactly what people need to be able to move on from the crisis.
Today would you say that there are more freelancers in Hungary than before, and is it a term that’s generally accepted?
Yes, “freelancer” is a generally accepted term and also appreciated. These people are mostly working independently and have different reasons for freelancing, like freedom, flexibility, family, passion, or even because they can’t find a full-time employment. At Loffice there are definitely more freelancers than before.
Budapest considered one of Europe’s Startup capitals, can you give us some examples of how is it different from the other major cities like London and Berlin?
Budapest has changed a lot in the past years; for example, today innovation receives special attention and support. We can see that from the numerous accelerators that have launched and achieved great success. Hungary can show off several global successes in the startup scene, such as Ustream, Prezi, etc., which is something we are very proud of considering our population and economic conditions.
In addition to the new economy receiving support, Hungary has a lot of professionals with excellent qualifications and unique mindsets. Unfortunately, they still often leave the country. Hopefully, this will change, as Budapest is on the now at the top of the list of the world’s trendiest cities and you can really feel how incredibly vibrant the city has become. Today, we have multiple festivals and events, from musical, cultural, business, etc. There is a real sense of a newly developed freedom.
Do you feel that coworking communities in cities like Budapest are overlooked because of the attention given to bigger “tech capitals”?
I wouldn’t say that coworking communities are overlooked here. Moreover, they are the foundation that allowed Budapest to become such a tech and startup capital! We recommend everybody to experience coworking. It can really change the way people think about their job, entrepreneurship, sharing, and success. We want to encourage everybody to try coworking and open their world to new experiences, new approaches, knowledge, inspiration, and community.
What have been some of the major social, economic changes that have come about from the rise of coworking in Budapest?
The coworking concept has a major role in evolving sharing economy in Hungary. It encompasses many aspects of sharing in the world of working, such as space, ideas, experiences, costs, projects etc.
Coworking and sharing changes the way people think about working and their jobs, for both employers and employees. Today, Hungary is a good place to work and live, as the ecosystem is stabilizing and the new principles of employment are securing the rights and conditions for employees.
You also have a space in Vienna. Does having a space in another country help develop your vision as a coworking operator?
I lived and studied in Vienna for a time and got to know the city’s cultural and business scene. So when it came to expansion, Vienna was the obvious choice. One of our investors is also from Austria.
I really love Vienna because the business and public safety highly functional. It’s like a Swiss watch: Branded, durable, stylish, and prestigious. Being in Vienna always shows me new directions as well, and whenever I return home I am filled with fresh ideas. I have also noticed that is has helped with creating a positive change in willingness to cooperate with local organizations and businesses.
What do you see for the future of business in Hungary because of coworking’s influence?
Coworking is a very innovative concept. We believe that it holds the key to success for Hungarian businesses on the international scene. It’s all about sharing, cooperation, and community, and we believe that these are values that move forward not only our economy but our society as well.
A creative, intellectual atmosphere comes to life where workers can share their experiences, information, and knowledge with one another.