Space Stories: Meet the VP of Marketing at Mindspace, Uri Bar-Joseph

We sat down with Uri Bar-Joseph, our new-ish VP of Marketing for a short conversation on customer obsession, the future of coworking and brands that are doing it right.

Written by Mindspace

8 months ago

Hi Uri, welcome to the team! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! Very excited to be here. A little bit about myself: I am 38, married with 3 kids. I recently moved back to Israel after 11 years in Seattle. We live in a small town in the north part of Israel, so I commute to Tel Aviv by train every morning, which is an experience on its own.

What did you do in Seattle?

I moved to Seattle following my wife who grew up there. After moving I went back to school and earned an MBA from the University of Washington and during school, I joined a local startup in the Marketing Tech industry that was just starting to grow. For the last decade I’ve been doing B2B (business to business) marketing, and in the last year before moving back to Israel,  I was working for Amazon Alexa on the developer marketing team where my team and I were responsible for bringing on new developers to build skills for Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant.

What made you join Mindspace?

First of all, the people. Before even meeting Dan and Yotam (the founders), I heard great things about the company and the people, and then I met the management team and had such great conversations and experiences with all of them.

Secondly, the company and the market. Coworking is experiencing explosive growth as an industry, and Mindspace is the European leader, at least in terms of market position and product quality. Also, talking to members and people who used Mindspace, it seemed very loved and appreciated. I knew I wanted to join a company that is positioned well to take advantage of a major opportunity, and Mindspace fits that bill perfectly.

Lastly, I thought I would be able to make a difference while being challenged in a new market and industry I haven’t worked in yet. I’m definitely challenged, and as for my impact, I guess time will tell.

Before we jump in, give us your first few impressions of the market, after 6 months on the job.

It’s definitely booming. I think coworking is in the stage of crossing the chasm from the early adopters to the early majority. We’re already there in the major hubs of coworking (New York, London, and even San Francisco), but not there in most of the markets. Which means that the growth potential of the industry is still enormous. Today, less than 5% of office space is coworking (up from about 2% just a few years ago) and some analysts predict that it will reach 20%-30% by 2030. If we use WeWork’s revenue as a proxy for the industry size, analysts predict that the industry will reach $25B by 2022 and over $100B by 2030.

We’re also seeing changes in behavior and new segments adopting coworking. If in its early days, coworking was mostly for freelance and the SOHO segment (single office, home office), in the last two years enterprises have started adopting coworking as a solution for local growth, geographical expansion, and project-based initiatives. This adoption is a vote of confidence in the industry and it helps to convince the early majority to jump in as well.

All of this growth means that more operators are entering the market, making it more competitive and harder to differentiate, but it also gives more options for companies to choose from and forces the existing operators to innovate and drive up quality.

What will the future office look like, in your opinion?

In general, we will see more customization and innovation that is designed to drive employee engagement and productivity as well as more opportunities for remote and mobile work.  IoT (internet of things) innovation coupled with AI and big data, will allow companies to learn more about how the space supports engagement and productivity, and make near-real-time adjustments to optimize the experience. For example, imagine getting the data on elevator movement in the building and optimizing the location of the elevators (and their availability) based on that data so you don’t need to wait for an elevator for more than 5 seconds. Or learning the use of the space and changes in temperature so the building can adjust the HVAC accordingly. Now, what if you can couple that data with productivity data and learn that there’s a certain temperature that drives higher productivity or engagement or employee satisfaction? There’s huge potential in PropTech and EmployeeTech that hasn’t been tapped yet.

On the coworking side, I think flex space will replace traditional lease, and additional services will be provided by operators and landlords that make the daily lives of members easier. For example, laundry services, car service, and possibly daycare service, as the lines between work and home continue to blur. Why would you spend your free time on mundane activities like grocery shopping, doing your taxes, or getting your car cleaned if someone can take care of it for you while you work, so your leisure time can be saved for family, friends and true leisure?

What are the main advantages of a co-working space versus a traditional lease?

First and foremost, the flexibility. There’s no reason anymore for companies to sign a long-term lease. This model will die in the next few years. Second, the office experience is far superior to what most companies can create and manage on their own. From the service, through the design and setup, to the community and activation, everything in coworking is designed to create a better employee experience. Lastly, the peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about anything but focusing on your work. A lot of companies have started to realize that and are adopting coworking as their solution, but we still have some hurdles to clear.

And what are those? If coworking is so great, why do some companies stay in a traditional lease and why is coworking only less than 5% of commercial space?

There are both psychological and technical challenges to overcome. First of all, coworking is still a new “product” so the adoption on the demand side (renters) will take time. But as I mentioned, we’re seeing that happening in greater rates across all markets. On the supply side, we’re seeing tremendous growth as well but transforming spaces from traditional lease to coworking take time. On average, it takes about 18 months to open a new coworking space, so as demand continues to grow, more spaces will be opened, but it will take time.

The other reason is that you have a lot of companies that are in traditional leases and can’t leave yet, even if they would want to. Traditional leases can range from 5 to 10 years with extension options, and exciting these agreements is notoriously hard.

Additionally, coworking is not a good solution for some types of organizations. For example, medical and pharmaceutical industries can’t utilize coworking, even if some of the benefits allure them. However, we might see in the future specialized coworking operators that address specific niche markets like architects.

Lastly, the industry is still facing some physiological challenges in adoption of the model. For example, there are some misconceptions about cost-effectiveness at a certain company size. We’re also seeing concerns about the companies’ ability to maintain a unique internal culture and brand recognition. Those are valid concerns that we try to address with our members.

What is the impact of the millennial generation on the way companies now think of working spaces?

The new generation of employees expects the office to reflect their values and the things they value most. Diversity, equality, community, mobility, and flexibility. “Work-Life Balance” is transforming to “Work-Life Fluidity” where the lines between work and life blur. In this new reality, work and the workspace need to be more than a cubicle with a desk and internet but feel and include “features” that in the past used to be saved only for home, or high-tech companies. They expect their employer to provide those features, opportunities, and activities, and they are becoming the norm so companies that cannot offer that will be left behind.

What marketing or customer-related trends do you see emerging, and shaping the industry and ways of working in the next 5 to 10 years?

Experience is the name of the game nowadays and I suspect it will continue to be in the next few years as marketers adapt to this approach for connecting with their audience, driving better engagement, and improving the interaction of buyers with their brand.

To achieve that, marketers will have to manage marketing across the entire buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle, and brands will have to reach beyond their product category to create assets that allow them to engage their audience better, collect more information and optimize the experience.

Additionally, brands will have to bridge the gap between digital and physical to ensure the experience is consistent. IoT devices will allow for that and I think the next evolution of marketing tech will be related to those devices.

Lastly, as new channels emerge, they create new opportunities for marketing to connect with audiences. Voice, AR/VR, and Gaming (as a channel) all present new, exciting possibilities for marketing and marketers.   

Which principles guide your work as a global marketer?

Like any marketer, first and foremost, start with the customer. There’s no limit on how much you can continue to learn and work to understand your customer and target audience. The more you learn about them, the better your marketing will be and the value you give them. For that, I think one of the most critical traits marketers need to have and work on is empathy. Trying to put yourself in the position of your customers, understand their point of view, their pain points, their needs, their state of mind is hard but essential for good marketing.

How did your past role(s) impact you as a marketer, and how you market?

I’ve been fortunate to work for some really interesting startups in very peak times for those industries and had the pleasure to work and meet great people  Since my formative years as a new marketer were during the emergence of marketing automation and demand generation, I learned the importance of data-driven marketing, and what I’d like to call now evidence-based marketing. With that said, I’ve always been an admirer of companies that build great brands and brand presence, and am constantly trying to learn how to strike the balance between performance marketing and brand marketing.

Any interesting insights/anecdotes from your first half year in the role? What have you noticed as you’ve traveled to the different Mindspace markets?

This is the first time in my career marketing a physical product, and in this case, one that can’t be shipped. I’ve been amazed by the level of details that go into creating a Mindspace office, and how much work and thought is put into things that end up looking effortless. It’s a great reminder that getting to an elegant and simple product is one of the hardest things to achieve.

Favorite marketing books? Brands? And why?

Crossing the Chasm is one of my favorites, but I read and listen to a lot of books, podcasts, and blogs, so it’s hard to pick just one.

As for brands, I love everything that Drift is doing right now as well as I think they are pushing entire industries forward and how it feels like everyone in the company is part of the marketing effort.

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