What is coliving and what makes it attractive?

As a start I’ll define what coliving is to me:

  • Smaller than normal living space
  • No kitchen, instead this is available in a shared area. A cafeteria or canteen also seems like a great thing to have and another to generate revenue.
  • Month-to-month lease
  • Furnished
  • Defaults to community. Unlike moving into a typical apartment building, in coliving spaces it is assumed that you will get to know all your neighbors. In fact that’s the point.
  • Membership based, you have to apply
  • If a typical studio or 1 bedroom in the same area is $2,000/month, you might expect to pay $1500 for the coliving space. Yes it’s much smaller, but it’s also less expensive and comes with potential friends.
  • Great for folks moving to a new city
  • I think each unit should have it’s own bathroom
  • Free weekly room cleaning
  • Laundry services or just available washer and dryer
  • The community has a way to chat. This could be it’s own app or just a Slack channel.
  • All utilities included and the wifi is stellar.

I’m personally not a fan of spaces that talk too much about their “unique community” or about folks taking too much ownership in the space. This doesn’t scale, you can’t build a brand around it. I want the coliving space to be a service.

Lyft tried their fist bumps and large fuzzy pink mustaches, but eventually these features have diminished because they are not scalable. What is scalable and liked by the majority is quality and consistency. This is why I think Welive and Common will become billion dollar businesses, while most of the others on my list will stay lifestyle businesses.

To me the Ace Hotel is a great example of what the space could feel like.

Where are coliving spaces going to flourish? In North America it’s the usual suspects: Austin, Boston, DC, NYC, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver. The cities where wealthier millennials are flocking.

Soft landing, and that’s it. I move to a new city and stay in the space for 3 months, then I make a couple friends and we all move out to get our own 3 bedroom. Is there always going to be a stream of newcomers to take the empty beds? Or, how to you design the same so that people stick around for longer. Common offers discounts if you sign a longer lease.

Do we really need to use the word coliving? Aren’t these just small apartments? Yes and yes. It’s important to use the word because it differentiates these spaces from others and carries with it all the bullet points above. I do think it will be important for early spaces to brand the word, otherwise people might recall images of college coop housing, which can be quite fun and nice, but is different from what’s being developed here.

So what makes coliving attractive?

Community and friendships. Access to a high quality living space and a high quality city at a lower price point. Many folks are happen to trade apartment size for convenience and access. Note that this lower overall price point for the end user does not mean that the coliving company and the real estate developer generate less income. In fact prices per square foot are and should be higher.

What else?

The future of living? Coliving locations in the US

Two of my favorite topics are the future of work and the future of living.

In 2008, three other freelancers and I started Conjunctured, the first coworking space in Austin.

There are different models to coworking. Our model was: charge $250 per month, share desks, be friends. For myself and others it also was a source of great consulting work, though the space itself was never significantly profitable. Conjunctured was open for eight years?—?I was involved only for the first two?—?and I’m proud that it was a catalyst in the Austin startup scene.

For the last few years I’ve watched WeWork grow. While I have not officed with them, it seems they have done the best job of commercializing coworking. To me, WeWork succeeded because they saw the larger trend: coworking is serviced offices for millennialsRegus being the status quo here.

WeWork is CB2 and free beer. While Regus is cubicles and bad carpet, though I hear they are improving.

Here are their CEOs side-by-side. Could they be any more opposite?

Coliving. My prediction is that WeWork can succeed again with WeLive, because WeLive is a remake of serviced apartments. They are month-to-month serviced apartments that urban millennials want to live in.

Again, small spaces, free beer, nice furniture and community vs bland hotel feel and bad carpet.

Below is a list of coliving companies in the US markets I know best. Besides WeLive, the second most notable to me is Common in NYC.

Some traits I think are important:

  • Spaces are in buildings, not houses
  • Own them if you can
  • Build a community, but also build a brand
  • No strange names, no URLs that aren’t .com
  • Leverage an existing community

I would love to see a successful competitor from SF. I was quite sad whenCampus Coliving closed its doors last year, but I think there is room to try again and improve. (See Tom Currier’s new startup Sleepbus.)

Noteable coliving companies

San Francisco Bay Area coliving location

Los Angeles coliving locations

East Coast coliving locations

* added an asterisk if the company seems to be further along in growth

There is also another set of spaces/communities that are emerging. Nomadic communities who have houses around the world that one can travel to for a short period of time. Two notable companies doing this: