It’s undeniable that the way organizations, teams, and individuals think of workspace continues to change.
But underneath all the visible market changes, there is a huge undercurrent trend that has the potential to change who in the flex workspace industry wins, loses, survives, thrives, or reimagines themselves in the next 30+ months.
What the fudge is an 'interface'?
Put simply, I use the word interface to reference something an end-user (ie a current or potential customer, member, or guest) or your team interacts with.
In today’s post, I’ll be focussing on the interfaces that could be used to transact with your space.
The current staple interfaces.
One of the most discussed are “Aggregators” which are typically web or mobile applications that help specific groups or individuals search, book, pay and sometimes review workspace or meeting rooms.
Some have been around for almost as long as there were more than 2 great spaces for people to pick between. Others have gone away, been turned off, or merged or acquihired into other entities. Even more have started over the last 3 years, supporting whole new niches or industries to engage with flex or on-demand workspaces.
There’s also a whole trove of “Direct booking” interfaces, in which there’s rarely an obvious intermediary between the person making the search, booking, and payment and your own business. Things like online maps, your website, search traffic to content, social media channels, any internal app/portal, and referrals are popular interfaces in this group.
Whilst there’s still often some platform, tech, or service involved with direct booking interfaces, the interactions are usually more direct – with a member of your team engaging directly with potential or current customers.
So what's changing?
Web3 is waning, but could still be interesting.
If you looked at 2021 and 2022 you’d see a growing trend of “Web3” apps and platforms being developed. There was a lot of movement toward how NFTs, Crypto payments, and DAOs could impact booking, accessing, and engaging with physical spaces.
The potential was huge, and for some, it may still be a growing opportunity. But in general, it seems like we, and the public markets, are still waiting for the right platform to make Web3 ‘make sense’ in regard to office buildings and meeting rooms.
If something does work here, it’ll open a new booking interface for flex spaces.
(If you’re working on something here, do reach out, I’d love to have a look)
Remote Work tech heating up.
Ever since the pandemic, there’s been a flurry of activity in technology to improve the running and supporting of remote, hybrid, or even traditional workforces.
Some of these platforms have raised huge funding rounds, and almost all are exploring ways to enable 3rd-party space bookings for the 1000s of businesses and teams who use their tech daily.
As these platforms begin turning on bookings for workspaces not owned or rented directly by employers, these booking interfaces have the potential to grow revenues for flex spaces.
AI + APIs
But, in November 2022 OpenAI launched a preview of their ChatGPT platform and it send shockwaves through the artificial intelligence industry and almost everything else.
Not only did our collective imaginations get a good workout, but it pushed other firms from NVIDIA to Google, to IBM to double down on their consumer-focussed AI tools.
Then on March 23rd, 2023 OpenAI raised the bar a little higher, making it possible for online platforms to hook their systems right into their platform. An example shared in the launch was having the ChatGPT find restaurants serving a specific dish, with availability within specific days, and booking tables – within a single command.
Recently researchers from Microsoft highlighted office automation as an example use-case of their API-connected TaskMatrix AI engine.
Expect to see booking and aggregator platforms explore how they get involved here, once again opening more potential revenues for the spaces listed with them.
Opportunities or just more overheads?
I truly believe that the interfaces through which millions of people will interact and transact with physical spaces are still being built and/or imagined today.
I’ll keep tracking moves in and around coworking on my free weekly newsletter, share more longer-form observations here on my personal blog and discuss these topics IRL or virtually at upcoming events.