A couple of years back, the term co-working would be unknown to most people. Today, every millennial knows what it means, whereas the older generation is starting to learn that this trend can bring practical benefits and, even more importantly, new business opportunities as well. This is illustrated by Global Coworking Survey, which, in comparison to the last year, forecasts doubling active users to 1.2 million. Entrepreneurs and freelancers are the natural early adopters, however, growing number of large corporations and their managers are starting to use the concept as well. They want their employees to work in an inspirational space with a possibility to network apart from the everyday corporate life, with the possibility to work at a different setting, or by using new exciting space for workshops and seminars.
The principle of shared office space, in its practical way, is the large flexibility of the usage of the space. Most spaces offer monthly memberships relying on the number of hours needed by the user, various meeting rooms and other services, where sharing brings the user all sorts of savings. Even a more essential principle of shared office space is the fact that it serves as a setting for natural networking with other members. Thus new business opportunities, inspiration, and enriching experience emerge. For many, shared office space brings a new way to start a business outside of a home, yet also new opportunities for experienced entrepreneurs and managers, who look for inspiration, contacts, and opportunities.
The trend of shared offices is slowly gaining its place also in the Czech Republic. Around 25 coworking centers can be found in Prague today, and a handful more throughout the country. Many of them are focused on a specific group, most of them are however focused on the community of young entrepreneurs, who are looking for a place for the growth of their first project.
In Prague, the first exception to this rule is the Opero project. „Our focus is to create a space where the experienced professionals and entrepreneurs can meet, network and get inspired,” explains Pavel Přikryl, one of the co-founders of Opero. “Among our members, you can find startups, but they are established by people with twenty years of experience in the corporate field. And sitting beside them are lawyers, HR specialists, investors, advisors, and IT specialists. What connects them is primarily business experience and an advanced career,” adds Přikryl.
Opero opened its doors at the beginning of the last year, and today it is a growing community of more than 130 professionals, whose fields vary from financial managers, coaches, translators, IT companies, to experienced company owners from different backgrounds. Among the members, one can find many Prague and non-Prague based entrepreneurs, who use the space for business meetings, workshops with their teams and networking. First-rate corporations and institutions organize events for their clients, journalist and the public.
„Our focus was clear, and for our project, we needed a unique space – in the city center with appealing genius loci. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to revitalize and renew the history of the Štenc house,” says another co-founder of Opero, Pavel Bouška, owner of VAFO/Brit, a leading European pet food producer. This house, next door from the Oldtown Square, was built in 1909 – 1911 after the design of architect Otakar Novotný, in the geometric secession. The house is an example of unique industrial architecture and was first used as a then modern printing house for the needs of the publishing company of Jan Štenc, member of the Manes group. Thanks to this, a unique association, important cultural and public figures met here at the beginning of the 20th century, such as Max Švabinský, Jan Štursa or Jan Kotěra. Revolutionary works of Czech art history were born here, and social life was flourishing.
Today, after the reconstruction of, the house ideally connects a couple of private offices on the first floor with the ground floor open offices for flexible use and a number of meeting rooms. The whole space is interconnected with the outside atrium, fitted with an antique fountain. It is possible to have a coffee here or calmly work on projects. Space is also equipped with private Café for the members and their guests. „It is a space, where working professionals from different fields interconnect modernity with practicality, history, and elegance, where you can work alone, but at the same time be a part of a community. A place that will be quiet but lively – depending on what you need,“ says the third co-founder Luboš Černý, past CEO of eBanka and a currently an investor.
The busy program of the center also helps to interconnect and inspire. In the past half year, members and public had a chance to visit many evening talks, discussions and networking events, organized by various institutions and companies (Aspen Institute Central Europe, Forbes, ELAI, British Chamber of Commerce, or NF Neuron are among the official partners of the center). Every month, the Operitiv talk show takes place here, where among the past guests were businessman, artists and scientists, such as the manager of the Czech and Slovakian Google Taťána Le Moigne, architecture critic Adam Gebrian, co-owner of Asiana company Šárka Litvinová, economist Tomáš Sedláček, serial entrepreneur Tomáš Čupr, music conductor Václav Luks, or past director of the Academy of Sciences Helena Illnerová. September last year brought a new cycle of talks called Žárovky, where three young scholars discuss where their field is heading and what it means for the society in the future.