Major Learnings from the Coliving Hub Conference 2019

What a kick-ass event!

Two weeks ago, the Coliving Hub team gathered 50 coliving industry leaders, operators, and enthusiasts into one room (and many bars) for two days, fostering connection and knowledge around the coliving experts of tomorrow.

During this weekend-long conference, a lot has been talked about.

Mostly, the knowledge exchanged was very on-hand and practical - from how to build community over to how to get grants and market rural coliving spaces, there has been a wide range of information.

Here are the highlights of this conference, sorted by speech and presentation. Definitely a few golden nuggets in there 😋

On Building Community

“Real community is always self-driven.”- Nikita Kuimov, Smena Station

Nikita and Anastasia from Smena Station shared key insights into organic community building.

They both launched Smena station two years back. Fun story - the first coliving space was a one-month program that was offered for free on a donation basis. Not only did it fill up, but it also became profitable from month one.

Since then, Smena Station has been launched in 8 different locations with the help of local organizers and connectors. The way it works: only participants who attended a Smena retreat can be eligible to open a new location or be facilitators. This ensures that each retreat adopts to similar principles and allows Smena to grow without the founders needing to be physically present.

Other key insights from their talk:

  • Smena station lets its member do their Instagram; every day, someone else is responsible for posting (which among others creates a “healthy competition” when spaces are run at the same time)
  • “People don’t commit to ideas. People commit to other people.” Communicating values is important. Embodying them on a day to day basis is even more.
  • Find your core value through the “picture exercise:” take 100 pictures, chose the  5 that you resonate most with, identify how they make you feel, and determine the underlying values behind those feelings.
  • “Culture over rules”: rules are created with the community over time and the group should have the ability to make decisions.

And lastly, there is a lot of room for retreats. As they said: “There is a lot of places of us. Giants of coliving do not cover all the needs of communal living.”

On Grants & Funding

“When you’re a first mover, use the opportunity.”
- Julianne Becker, Coconat

When Julianne opened Coconat in Germany two years back, she was the first one in her town of Bad Belzig (only 11,240 people living there). Here are a few of her best practices on how to gain traction and integrate locally:

  • Build up strong partnerships with NGOs, local townships, media partners, and local think tanks. This will help you gain exposure, grants, and more opportunities long-term.
  • Apply for public grants (in Germany, you have regional grants such as BAFA) and know the people who are behind the decision-making process.
  • Meet with municipalities for them to understand the value that you bring to the locals.
  • Be actively in cooperation with other programs: Coconat, for example, is part of Erasmus for entrepreneurs, ILB & IHK (supporting the employment of former benefits participants) and part of its own refugee program.

Lastly, promote your space before you open it. While Coconat has been opened for 2 years only, Julianne has been promoting it for 6 years, which made it well-known until now.

On Coliving Statistics

I also gave a presentation, this time on the 2019 coliving statistics. After doing tons of research with Coliving Diaries and filling out the Coliving Bible, I shared in a fun way (à la “who wants to be a millionaire” style) some key stats with the audience.

Here are the highlights:

  • 💥 30% of US adults live with roommates or adult relatives: this is 8% more than 10 years ago, and means that many know what coliving feels like.
  • 👉 Within 2 years, the term "coliving" rose by 555% (!) in Google. This is HUGE, and I expect it to raise even more within the next couple of years.
  • 💥 There are 954 people who have the term "coliving" in the LinkedIn profile. That is NOT a lot (compared to more than 43k+ for "coworking") and there is a high chance it will bloom in the next years.
  • 👉 You already have 7 coliving aggregators on the market. Most of them launched in the last 2 years. The next years will show a rise in coliving services and a fight to make sense of all the data around the industry.
  • 💥 3,5bn USD is the amount the 5 most funded coliving spaces secured collectively in funding. Fun fact: 2 of them are in China and barely known to the European/US audience.

Some other statistics included that there is a 1:2.5 ratio between the term "coliving" and "co-living" in Google. And my guess here is that this will eventually reverse, when "co-living" gets its own noun accredited (the same happened with "coworking").

Enough of the hyphenation, let's talk about responsibilities!

On the Responsibility of Operators

“Our customers live in our stores.”
- Jeremiah Adler, UP(st)ART

Jeremiah founded UP(st)ART, a coliving collective dedicated to artists in Los Angeles. Its goal: to allow anyone to move with $1000 in their pocket to a new location, without suffering from high housing prices and lack of community.

Since its creation a few years back, UP(st)ART is the home of more than 300 artists, offers pod-style accommodation, recording and video studios, dance classes and community events, and even its own award show.

A few key insights from Jeremiah’s talk were about the responsibility of coliving operators:

  • “We’re not in the real estate business. We’re in the human business. Landlords are unaffected by personal issues, but  as community managers, we are.”
  • Coliving spaces should focus on caring about its residents. “Not only can we provide a life, but we can change a life.”
  • Operators can set systems in place to ensure that community members are doing well. Among others, accountability groups that meet once a month for several hours, or offering career coaching.
  • Community managers (or “community leaders” as Jeremiah refers to) should be trained properly: in terms of conflict resolution, emergency aid, consent and sexual assault, or non-violent communication.
  • Coliving spaces should focus on keeping their heart and soul when scaling.

After all, coliving is about human connection. “Sleeping next to other people leads to a 50% reduction of loneliness” explained Jeremiah, and it’s up to coliving operators to increase residents’ well-being through a strong experience and safe container.

On Operations & Development

Tom Manwell showed Conscious Coliving's Manifesto of connection and space design.

The conference included a few other talks from an amazing diversity of speakers. Here are some other key highlights:

  • “Scaling up means change and change often means crisis.” Benjamin Röber-Rathay from The Fizz explained how it is important to “stay lean” while scaling up. Reducing complexity is key when growing your space.
  • Emerging markets have a huge potential for growth and demand. Romulo Navarette from Seedstars, a global accelerator program, explained the organization launched its own coliving spaces. Named Seedspace, they operate mostly in emerging marketing - such as Medellin or Tanzania. The biggest burden to enter the market is to “reduce the infrastructure gap” (such as living stability or internet bandwidth) yet those are not deal breakers when it comes to creating coliving spaces in unexplored markets.
  • Architecture should take into account the entire cycle of construction. Anton Chernikov from Exponentials explains how AlivePlaces, a project he is building in cooperation with Astir, takes into account each step from development to user experience and marketing. Its ultimate goal is to consciously live together - “living by being present in each other’s life.”
  • “The average medium stay in coliving spaces is 58 days.” Christine McDannell unveiled her Coliving Industry Report she did with Kndrd, a PMS software of coliving spaces. Another fun fact: the average time in business is 1.8 years - yet that is mostly because coliving spaces recently got born, not that they die early.
  • Developers should choose operations wisely. The Conscious Coliving team explained how “40% of the CO2 emissions in London are due to the built environment.” It is therefore crucial to incorporate social value and environmental responsibility when developing a ground-up coliving space.

That’s it! Anything you'd add?

Let me know by commenting below or tagging @colivingdiaries on Twitter.

Hope that was useful. Cheers!



I'm Gui, a coliving operator, facilitator, and industry builder with one mission: to make coliving the best experience one can have.

I founded Art of Co, a global resource platform and consultancy to create transformative coliving spaces, wrote the 📘 Art of Coliving book , and am the director of Co-Liv, the global association of coliving professionals. Come engage with other passionate coliving builders in my 👉 Telegram community or join the 👉 Coliving Cocktail newsletter, where I send out recaps of everything that happens within the coliving world!

PS: Need help to create state-of-the-art coliving experiences? Write me an email here or contact me on LinkedIn 💥

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