One of the big changes in Paris in the last few years has been the proliferation of co-working spaces throughout the city and the nearby suburbs. I have never used any of these co-working spaces, so I can’t speak from personal experience — I’m just trying to figure out what they are, who they are for and what they are all about.
My first photo shows a motto from one of the front windows of a site called “Spaces Les Halles” at 40 rue de Louvre in the 1st arrondissement, near the Bourse de Commerce and the shopping center Les Halles. The motto reads: “Welcome home. Opps, we meant to say, ‘Welcome to the office.’”
This particular site is one of eight Paris locations of a company called Spaces. As their website explains, “Spaces is part of the IWG network, the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace. With other brands including Regus, Signature, HQ, and many more, our members receive complimentary access to thousands of coworking spaces and business lounges around the world — during business hours of course.”
(Their business hours in Paris are currently Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 18:30, but it is also possible — for a much higher price — to book a “dedicated desk” or a private office which can be accessed “24/7/365.”)
(IWG stands for International Workplace Group, which now has its headquarters in Zug, Switzerland.)
This motto reads: “Welcome to the largest community of co-workers.”
Features vary from one location to the next, but they say this location offers six meeting rooms, “super fast Wi-Fi”, wheelchair accessibility, showers, parking (I assume in the nearby underground parking garage underneath the Jardin Nelson Mandela), “breakout areas” for taking a break from working, a gym and an outdoor area with tables and sun umbrellas.
As to who their clients are, the Spaces website says: “Whether you’re an established brand, a big corporate, a startup or just getting started as a creative entrepreneur, we welcome any kind of business.”
Of course the clients all bring their own laptop computers. This goes without saying, and is clear from the photos on the Spaces website. In this regard, today’s co-working spaces appear to be the opposite of the early-21st-century internet cafés, which existed to provide internet access for those of us who did not (yet) carry our own WLAN / Wi-Fi devices.
This is a smaller coworking site called “myCowork Beaubourg” at 5, rue du Cloitre Saint Merri in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near the Stravinsky Fountain and the Centre Georges Pompidou.
This sign at myCowork Beaubourg says it is one of two sites where you can come to “travailler, créer, turbiner, brainstormer, coder, inventer en toute tranquillité!” — meaning to “work, create, work hard, brainstorm, code, invent in complete tranquility!”
(I never knew the French verb turbiner, which has several meanings such as to spin around like a turbine, to work hard, to slave away, to work your fingers to the bone, but also to work as a prostitute. And I never knew there was a verb brainstormer in French — but of course there is. They simply took an English word and added a French ending, as in scotcher, meaning to attach something to a wall using Scotch tape, or in badger, meaning to open a door by swiping your badge on a card reader.)
The myCowork website specifies: “Welcome to our two coworking spaces designed to make you feel at home: myCowork Beaubourg and myCowork Montorgueil Les Halles. Centrally located in Paris’s second and fourth districts, we have light-filled, airy rooms, with office facilities that will help you get the most out of your working day. Come for an hour, a day, or become a long-term ‘resident’”.
In addition to their indoor tables, they also have a few outdoor tables reserved for their clients. Just judging from their website, myCowork sounds less elaborate than Spaces, but is also less expensive. Rates at myCowork (as of 2022) are € 4 per hour or € 20 per day, including taxes, and the site is open seven days a week, not only five.
Another coworking space I walked past a couple times was the WeWork site at 4 Rue Jules Lefebvre in the 9th arrondissement, but I didn’t take any photos because I only walked past late at night after the theatre.
I did look them up afterwards, however, and found that WeWork is a large American company with 756 coworking locations worldwide. Ten of these are in Paris.
A few weeks later, I was surprised to see WeWork described in the Washington Post as a former “unicorn”. This was in an article headed “The billion-dollar tech unicorn is becoming rare again” by Nitasha Tiku and Gerrit De Vynck, dated October 26, 2022.
I used to think I was fairly well informed about unicorns, having admired the ones in the tapestries at the Cluny Museum on various occasions. But I learned from the Washington Post article that the word unicorn has an entirely different meaning in tech-talk. “More than a decade ago, the $1 billion unicorn start-up became an aspirational marker of success in Silicon Valley. It reflected the exuberance and optimism of a near-mythical bastion of the economy where the boom times never seemed to end.”
A unicorn company is a start-up that is valued (by its investors) at over one billion US-dollars, often before it has even begun to turn a profit. “Many of those companies never lived up to the spectacular expectations thrust upon them. At one point, the office-sharing company WeWork was valued by its investors at $49 billion, but it now trades publicly on the stock market at less than $2 billion.”
Later in the same article, WeWork is mentioned again: “WeWork founder Adam Neumann, who became emblematic of unfounded Silicon Valley hype, recently netted a $350 million investment and $1 billion valuation for his new real estate start-up, which plans to offer a branded product with community features in the housing rental market.”
If any of you have actually used a co-working space, whether in Paris or elsewhere, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments below.
My photos and text in this post are from 2022.