Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe. Mattia Sullini’s 5 answers.

Mattia Sullini, Coworking Cowo Firenze/MattonaiaMattia Sullini is known in the coworking community for at least three reasons.

First of all, he’s the enthusiastic and proactive manager of his coworking space in Florence, Cowo Firenze/Mattonaia; secondly, he actively takes part in most coworking events (Cowocamp Italy 2010 and 2011, Coworking Europe 2010, and more), third – and most valuable – he is one of the most helpful and collaborative people you can find in a coworking space…

He kindly agreed to answer Cowo’s 5 questions to Coworking Europe 2011, thank you Mattia!


Has your own life changed since you practice coworking?


Well, rather than having changed, I can say I moved to a completely different stage!
In a few months I switched from being a lone bedroom monkey (that’s the way young occasional freelancers in 3D graphics world are called) to an highly social, stimulating and crowded environment, with a lot of people coming in and out, chatting, inviting you for a coffee break, asking for your opinion wheter on their work or on the latest new… distracting?
No, it’s simply the coolest thing it might have happened. 

We are not done for staying alone, what might seem confusing and distracting, such as intense social interaction, is indeed the natural environment for the human being.


Is coworking a commodity (i.e. the chance to share an office with little money) or a strategic option (i.e. a platform for all kind of sinergies)?


Being a coworking manager, I can say I’ve experienced this is the core of the matter.
Despite all discussions on coworking, everyone still mean different things with the same word .
In my opinion, coworking places are just hardware, such as a computer.
The results widely depends on the operator and on the software you installed.
If you limit the coworking idea to a shared office you just get the operating system running, but you won’t  experience its real potential.
I could summarize the “softwares” into two main categories: interactions among coworkers and collateral functions suitable to be added on a coworking space.
For the first group you just have to immagine you’d get in a coworking space professionals, with skills that are often complementary one with the other, similarly flexible and mindshaped, that working in the same place and not beeing competititors quickly learn to trust each other. And remove all limtations such as physical distance.
You’d get an almost ideal incubator for projects and ideas.
For the second group, coworking spaces can succesfully melt with other functions such as exhibitions, temporary shops, events, courses, meetings, art, workshops.
And I’d dare to say that these could be the functions that could make coworking spaces profitable: maximizing the income from the coworking itself might mean suffocating the process of making the coworkers feel as members of a community, and thus collaborative and active,  leaving them just thinking to have found a somehow cheap workplace solution. 

After all these years of discussing, I think we should know by now if business rhymes with coworking. Does it?

Not in the traditional way.
Coworking is in my opinion the pre-condition for successful and innovative business.
Building a coworking place means setting up a nest for ideas and projects, and by tuning the place you could even choose what kind of professionals it will attract, by that choosing also what kind of community and team you are trying to build.
But as I’ve stated before, there are direct chances for business, also.
Joining networks and giving the chance of feeling active members of a community, will multiply the chances of feeding all your collateral businesses connected to the activity of the coworking in itself. 


Considering the media craze, the flourishing of spaces, the many online tools coworking-related and… why not,this conference itself, do you envision the risk of tranforming coworking in a sort of bubble, where a minority just trying to make money spoils the beauty of the idea, ultimately depriving the word coworking of its true meaning?


This risk is real, and is nested in the perception of coworking as a “thing” that works in itself.
This would mean betraying its DNA. Coworking spaces are exactly what our society evolution needs.
It’s not time for whales anymore.
Almost all professions now need flocks: specialization requires high mobility and flexibility, optimized teams working for continuously changing needs and tasks.
The crysis atomised many  classic working teams, creating an unprecedently wide number of independent, unbounded workers. The number of freelancers is growing, and big companies often cannot afford anymore the cost af working teams that need to be at the same time effective and economic.
Coworking is the ideal base for crowdsourcing and hiring professionals on project, or for delocalizing them even temporarily.
So, coworking will die if the coworking managers won’t realize that the place is just the beginning.


What are your feelings about coworking as a public service, just like schooling or health services?


I really think that coworking would deserve much more attention, and a quicker response by public and private.
The social impact of the wide diffusion of coworking spaces could be very high.
I’m just imagining specialized coworking spaces, organized in a dense network, where every kind of worker might find an optimal environment for its profession.
A place with shared tools and machinery for craftmen, a place with a nursery for young mothers and fathers, or  another with a huge cool showroom for creatives and artists…
I mean populating our cities with nodes that would eliminate the need of making huge investments for igniting everyone’s potentials and projects.
That would – in my opinion – boost economy and society in way that is at the same time ethic and effective. Oh, and enjoyable, of course!

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