When Corporate Gruner + Jahr Met The Coworking Space

As part of their quest for new business models one of Europe's leading publishers, made a bold move and located one of their teams at a co-working office. We sat down with them to understand why

Written by Moran Zohar

6 months ago

It’s been a well known fact that coworking spaces around the world have become homes for freelancers and startups companies in various sizes and funding stages. From the web designer to the architect, from the app developer to the accountant, coworking fits all. However, in the past two years, a new trend has emerged as more teams coming from established companies are settling in leading coworking spaces, creating an interesting mix of new ambitious companies alongside well established enterprises, each bringing their methods and styles.

One perfect example where “old” meets new comes from Mindspace Berlin, where one of the leading publishers in Europe, Gruner + Jahr of the Bertelsmann Group is taking an office for their Digital Ventures fund team. The G+J ventures encompasses a volume of €50 million composed as a combination of cash and media focusing on food, living, fashion, and family markets as well as exciting topics from higher-level segments such as AdTech / AdSales and publishing (particularly video and mobile).

Just like many other corporates, G+J are now adapting to the new way of working. “Gruner + Jahr stands for quality journalism, both online and offline. As the channels are changing through which people are consuming media, we also need to create new business models and offer our content right where our readers are”. says Julia Köster, a G+J investment associate working from Berlin.

Mindspace Berlin. “A different working style than what big corporates are used to”       Photo by: Boaz Arad

According to Koster, they are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and new ways to promote theirs business. “Around a quarter of revenues already come from G+J’s digital activities. The main drivers of the company’s digital transformation process are three business divisions – you might also call them innovation catalysts – which accelerate our change process:  Greenhouse, the innovation lab where new ideas are tested, validated and, if successful, integrated into the company, a traditional M&A unit and our venture fund G+J Digital Ventures, here in Berlin, with which we focus on investing in scalable, early-stage digital companies”.

Looking for startups that have already provided an initial proof of market on one hand and investors to cooperate with on the other, is what led them to Mindspace. “In the first few months after moving to Berlin we had our own space in Friedrichshain, but when you are working for a VC you need to network, you need to interact and talk. It’s definitely a people business. Hence, we moved to a Mindspace office״, she says and adds that it’s not only about the business, but also about the lifestyle: “It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s young. It’s a different working style than what big corporates are used to”.

It’s no surprise that in joining Mindspace G+J had business goals in mind as they are looking for new investment channels. “Every good founder is someone that you can learn from”, says Koster, “but we mostly focus on startups that match G+J’s portfolio and its strong brands in fashion, beauty, living and food as well as AdTech. An example: We recently invested in Makerist, an online handicraft school that brings together content and DIY interested people. This business model fits perfectly to G+J: Makerist reaches women above 35, and G+J’s magazines BRIGITTE or FLOW also cover this target group. In connecting them and cooperating, both parties can learn and profit from each other”.

As far as Julia is concerned, to get the business wheels going, startups that are looking for new business opportunities should simply approach her and schedule a meeting. “Good conversations and good deals for both sides always start with a first chat and a personal meeting. From there you take the next step and see how to establish a solid business relation. Hence, networking and mingling are essential and one of the reasons why we chose working from a coworking space”.

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