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How to Become the Most Awarded Space in the Country—Avila Spaces Story

Helga Moreno
Helga Moreno
How to Become the Most Awarded Space in the Country—Avila Spaces Story

After two consecutive wins of the South Europe Startup Awards (SESA) for Best Coworking Space in Southern Europe, Avila Spaces stands tall. Celebrated for its innovative coworking experience, this Portuguese business center just unveiled its first shopping center-based coworking space—the Avila Work City.

But what's the secret behind their success? What is it that makes Avila Spaces so beloved by its community? And what can other coworking space owners take away from all this?

Let’s ask Carlos Gonçalves, Portugal’s ambassador of Great Place to Work, the founder and CEO of Avila Spaces.

In 2010, Carlos burst onto the tech scene with his revolutionary myOffice app—a virtual office in your pocket. Two years later, he was awarded a CIO Award for one of Portugal's ten best IT projects. By 2013, this forward-thinking entrepreneur put pen to paper and released "Out of Office," giving readers insight into how workspaces will look in the future.

Carlos Gonçalves has a long and impressive history with workplace innovation—from being an ambassador of the Great Place to Work Portugal Certification Programme to displaying Avila Spaces as a case study at EWIN in 2016. He's frequently sought after by conferences and seminars for his expertise on modern office models like Virtual Office, Coworking, or Remote Working.

And now, Carlos is on the Coworking Smarts blog!

1. Please share the story of the Avila Spaces foundation. How did you come up with the idea? What does the name mean?

Avila Spaces member sitting on a sofa with a laptop

Avila was founded in 2004 under the name Avila Business Center, and the first offices were located in Avenida Duque de Ávila, hence the name we chose. At the time, the market was dominated by soulless and unwelcoming spaces, so we were sure we could do better.

The concept of a 'workspace boutique' did not exist, and that was what we decided to adopt.

Basically, well-decorated, comfortable offices where you could work, with all the comforts of a professional space, but which could also become very personal so that our clients would feel at home.

2. What is unique about Avila Spaces that can be found nowhere else?

Our mantra says it all: ”Work. Relax. Enjoy.”

We bring together the key factors that make our clients feel part of a family and a community. We want them to worry only about their work. We take care of everything else so that they can enjoy and relax in our space.

Avila Spaces members communicating in a lounge

Our approach led us to win the Best Coworking Space in Southern Europe award twice. We are proud of this distinction and the four pillars that we consider differentiators in relation to other companies operating in the same market.

  • First, we are 100% client driven and provide a personalized service with great proximity. We are always there for our members to listen and act on their needs. We also have an onboarding process to ensure each member becomes a part of the community and feels at home.
  • Second, we offer comfortable, ergonomic spaces with privacy and the latest technology. For instance, we offer standing desks, ergonomic chairs, soundproof phone booths, and acoustic materials to decrease sound reverberation in social areas.
  • Third, we value community and networking. We regularly organize events in partnership with clients to give them visibility. These can be wine tastings in partnership with members that work in the wine industry or networking events where we invite members to give a talk about a theme related with their activity, etc.
  • Fourth, we have a networking platform, Avila Connect, that works like a 'private Linkedin,' where we also offer a marketplace with various services: legal, accounting, or web design, for example.
A girl using Avila Connect networking platform

3. What key challenges do you experience growing the Avila network? How do you overcome them?

With the growth of hybrid working models, companies are increasingly demanding. On the one hand, they seek shared spaces, but on the other hand, they want to ensure some privacy for their teams, as well as excellent service.

Avila has been able to tackle these needs and has developed a specific plan for these companies called Flex Office.

Flex Office provides companies with an innovative solution to the problem of isolation in a home office. With shared workspaces and private offices, companies can access flexibly-arranged business environments tailored to their needs. This includes coworking spaces, business lounges, meeting rooms, and more.

Flex Office is suitable for businesses from any industry that have identified the negative impacts of remote work on motivation, productivity, team management, onboarding, and corporate culture.

This is an evolution of the offer that Avila Spaces already had with the Business Lounge and the coworking space, in which clients can take advantage of these two work models without additional costs.

Avila Spaces lounge interior

By bringing together access to a coworking space, meeting rooms, individual phone boots, videoconference rooms, meal zone, terrace, lounge, and private offices that can be used on a very flexible basis,

this hybrid working model is more economical as it allows a 75% reduction in costs, considering the monthly cost per employee in an office, in downtown Lisbon, which makes €500-700 VS €100-200/mo per employee at a flex office.

4. How big is the Avila community? What community-building tactics work best for you?

Currently, we have about a thousand active members.

The events are, without a doubt, an excellent opportunity to grow the community spirit. We have surf lessons during the summer, golf and padel tournaments, a running club (Avila Runners), and the Community Lunch, themed lunches that happen once a month.

Networking events at Avila Spaces

And, of course, one of the most popular initiatives: the Friday evening Happy Hour, with free drinks and tapas, to give our clients a relaxed way to end the work week—it's the highlight of the week!

Happy Avila Spaces community attending the event.

5. Office space, coworking space, meeting rooms, virtual membership, events—which of the products contribute to Avila's revenue most and why? Are you going to add more new products in the future?

The Office Space and the Coworking Space are the products that most contribute to our revenue.

But all the services we have are important, due to their complementarity. For now, we will not include more products, but it is essential to adapt the existing ones to the new demand, namely the Meeting Rooms.

Meeting rooms at Avila Spaces

This year we partnered with Logitech and created Logitech Room Experience by Avila Spaces. These are rooms equipped with state-of-the-art videoconferencing equipment and substantially improved customer experience. The product is included in all our subscription plans. The customers don't need to pay extra to use them.

Author’s note: Check out 30+ Wildly Creative Ideas for Meeting Room Design

Currently, our crown jewel is Avila Work City, which we opened this year. It's the first coworking space integrated into a shopping center and, so far, the only one. It's located in the Atrium Saldanha, right in the heart of Lisbon's financial district.

Avila Work City - coworking space in a shopping center

With an area of 1200 square meters, we recreated the winning concept of Avila Spaces, with a lounge area, individual and collaborative work zones, meeting rooms, booths for phone calls, a pantry, and something new: a presentation area with an amphitheater, prepared for business events or product launches.

Meeting rooms at Avila Work City

The great advantage of being in a shopping center is that our customers have access to a range of services, such as laundry, gyms, stationery, clothes, and book shops, where they can buy day-to-day products and clothes.

6. Avila Spaces is an utterly tech-driven company. Is it safe to say that technology is one of the critical components of network success?

Avila Spaces - stunning interiors

Of course, betting on technology is essential. The creation of the Logitech Room Experience by Avila Spaces is an example of this, as well as the Avila Connect platform.

Innovation is part of our DNA. In 2011 we developed myOffice, the first virtual office application in the world, putting Avila at the forefront of the industry. We even received several national and international awards that recognized our pioneering spirit by launching an app where customers could manage their entire virtual office. They could see missed calls and delivered mail, for example.

Generate recurring revenue and offer exceptional customer experience at your shared or coworking space

7. What would you suggest for coworking spaces that are only gaining momentum? What aspects should they focus on to replicate your success?

The coworking market is entering a maturity phase, and, in my opinion, new operators should have medium and long-term growth strategies.

Cozy Avila Spaces interiors

Primarily, it is essential to consolidate the brand, which is to reinforce exposure within the corporate market, namely the companies that are adopting new hybrid and flexible working models.

Also, you need to work on reputation, define positioning, and only then, make significant investments in business growth and expansion.

Additional Read: How to build a coworking space brand

8. How do you see the future of Avila Spaces?

Networking event at Avila Spaces

Avila Spaces will continue to grow steadily, and we plan to open two more locations within a year. After being considered the 'Best Cowork Space in Southern Europe at the SESA Awards (twice), we want to be the best cowork space in the world. This could happen in 2023 because we are nominated for the international competition Global Startup Awards, which will take place in Denmark in March.

Carlos Gonçalves is just one of the many incredible coworking influencers we have had the pleasure of interviewing. If you liked what you read, be sure to check out our other interviews with top professionals in the industry.

Otherwise, Carlos Gonçalves and Avila Spaces are definitely worth following on social media for anyone interested in learning more about Lisbon’s thriving startup scene or office design trends.

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