At a crossroads: The future of member perks at coworking spaces

Building in public: The decision of what happens next at included.co and member perks across 100s of coworking spaces.

In October 2013 I founded included.co.

Over the years over 1,000 coworking spaces and business communities joined in, sharing their buying power and unlocking some awesome business-enabling perks for their near-quarter-of-a-million members.

In the decade since, I’m truly proud of the impact that the platform, its reach, and the global community have had on coworking spaces, surrounding businesses, and members.

I’ll share more on those in some posts in the future… but, today, I’ve become the bottleneck at the company and have a big decision to make.

In this post I’ll share where we’re at, and what could happen next, and ask for your advice.

"I'm no longer the right person to lead this."

Whilst I am still very bullish on the hyperlocal economic impact of coworking spaces and their shared buying power, I’m simply spread too thin to be the right person to lead included.co to where it can and should be in the current market.

Doing so would be unfair to the communities, and tens of 1000s of businesses, who could benefit from a strong business perks program.

With so much of my time going into improving how data seamlessly syncs across the tech stacks for leading flex workspace businesses, I’ve begun exploring options regarding how best to sustainably continue supporting coworking spaces, their members, and solution providers.

If we boil it down, there are 3 “real” options. I’ll list them (and then briefly go through each of them) in descending order of “severity”.

  1. We call it.
  2. A new home.
  3. New model.
 

But first, why share this publicly?

Great question friend.

I believe that blogging still has a remarkable power.
I mean you’re here reading this now right?

Personally, not only does it let me clarify my thoughts at a specific moment in my career,  but blogging has also helped me garner feedback, support, and even a co-founder over my career.

If you’d like to reply to this post, share ideas, or discuss any of the options further, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Option 1: Calling it.

The first option is to call it quits and shut down the platform, taking the content, campaigns, and brand offline after almost a decade of supporting business communities and their members.

A lot of folks would say that there’s no shame in having tried and failed.
But honestly, I feel that I’d still carry a lot of guilt and be a little heartbroken that this was how it played out.

Why? It would suck to let down communities, partners, and especially my family who supported me throughout the years.

Of course, I’d need to allocate some resources to help the existing operators off-board their hyperlocal or exclusive perks and benefits – but closing the chapter would still feel less painful than knowing my split attention was letting down communities.

Con: This is the nuclear option.
Pro: It is the neatest.

Option 2: A new home to grow from.

The second option, and my preference, is to find a new owner to take over (completely or a large majority) and lead included into its next chapter. 

In this option I’d be able to help with the transition, then move to more of an advisory role, helping the new team lean on me, my network, our work at Syncaroo, and the growing reach of my newsletter to build a bigger, better, stronger perks and benefits program than we’ve ever seen.

There are several platforms where websites, online brands, and the like can be sold. 

But for included.co to be truly successful, a transaction like this would require a very specific kind of company or individual. 

One that gets the power of coworking, flex spaces, and the huge opportunity of connecting the millions of businesses who do, and will, use coworking spaces over the next decade.

If you’re seriously interested in discussing this option, and providing a home for included.co to grow from, please drop me a line, I’d love to chat.

For operators, their members, and vendors this option may provide the biggest benefits, with the fewest amount of changes.

Con: Finding the right home/buyer/part-owner could be time-consuming.
Pro: Platform lands in good hands and focus can be shifted into growth.

Option 3: New model and leadership.

Now the third option is the most obvious. Under perfect conditions. With unlimited time and resources, this is where I’d focus. 

Building a new team, including a CEO, and shifting the model *slightly* to immediately grow to a more sustainable MRR and drive greater engagement and value for all parties.

As noted before, the problem here is me. I’m the bottleneck, and making these changes requires both time and resources I cannot currently divert.

Switching the team would require a shift in the business model to ramp up and keep everything sustainably scalable, so a percentage of operators and vendors may leave the platform.

This keeps the majority of ownership intact, but could (temporarily) shrink the network size during the changes.

Con: The most time-consuming approach, would need to further split time between nurturing and rebuilding.
Pro: One day, albeit far slower than option 2, included could still reach its full potential

What do you think?

Of course, I’ll make the decision that best serves my stakeholders, both professionally and here at home, but YOUR opinion does matter.

Whether you’re a current/previous included customer, a partner, a flex space leader, or just someone who’d like to share your thoughts, I invite you to reach out and let me know what you think.

Edit: I don’t know how quickly a decision will be made, but I’m grateful for everyone who’s responded and shared their ideas, insights, and experiences with me so far. Until a decision is made, I’ll continue to support and lead the platform and its network.

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Hey, I'm Hector 👋

I lead strategic initiatives for people, brands, and projects at the intersection of tech & work

I’m part web dev, part guerrilla marketer, and all geek.

I love working on interesting ways to build campaigns, implement tech, elevate voices, and drive revenues for market-defining personalities, brands, and platforms.

In 1999, I hit upload on my first “website”, and 12-year-old me was immediately hooked on the ways the internet would become a force multiplier for people, brands, and ideas.

Since then I’ve worked on over 850 strategic initiatives across media, advertising, non-profits, proptech, e-commerce, marketplaces, productized services, and more.

I’m currently a co-founder of Syncaroo.com and curate the This Week In Coworking newsletter.

Previously I founded included.co and led the growth of the global perks network to 700+ communities, supporting over 133,000 members and businesses.

In my blog and on stage I share thoughts, observations, and undercurrent trends at the intersection of workspaces and technology.

Would you like my blog updates via email?

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