Originally from Romania, Lavinia Iosub is an avid traveler and fan of multiculturalism who’s lived in eight different countries and visited ~40 others. With a background in business administration and an advanced degree in human resource development, she is a true “future of work” enthusiast, believing coworking is a disruptive catalyst for change and aligns perfectly with the way work has evolved. Learn more about Lavinia’s journey as Managing Partner of Livit International and the innovation hub’s coworking community at Livit Hub Bali in our latest interview.
How did you first discover coworking?
I discovered coworking in the early 2010s, when small collaborative spaces started popping up here and there, and I instantly took an interest in it. I strongly believe the ways most companies worked before the pandemic – and some still do right now (“fixed” schedules, spending a lot of resources on “controlling” their employees who sit in cubicles all in the same office, etc.) – was and is based on realities of the industrial era (e.g. factory work). And that type of work no longer…works. Coworking is a disruptive, powerful, yet very natural ‘invention’ and a wonderful catalyst for change.
What is your involvement at Livit?
I am the Managing Partner at Livit International, and one of our brands is the coworking and innovation hub called Livit Hub Bali. My business partner, Michael Bodekaer, came to Bali in the early 2010s – he was tired of the 9-to-5 and decided to run his own businesses, travel the world, and live life on his own terms. He did not miss the timesheets, managers, and long meetings from the office environment, but he did miss working with great people. So he decided to bring those people out of offices and to Bali and founded a co-living community for entrepreneurs and founders that, over the years, evolved into what is now Livit.
Michael and I worked together for the past six years on Project Getaway and other projects, and we discovered our values and ‘why’s are very much aligned. A few years ago, as he focused on a different company, I took the lead at Livit and decided it was time for us to reinvent the business, add a few more revenue streams, and build a physical home that would fit our needs.
I initially drew the space layout on a piece of recycled paper and proceeded to look for a space. After seeing 40+ buildings, we decided for a former garment factory that had not been used for several years. We took it apart, kept the “shell” of the building and rebuilt everything else to fit what I had in mind. A ‘short’ year and many ups and downs later, in mid-2018, we inaugurated Livit Hub Bali.
Our mission at Livit is to inspire and enable startups and entrepreneurs to change the world; and the concept at the hub is a ‘plug-and-play’ one, where everything is taken care of: from productive, inspiring workspaces, to meals, snacks, workouts, events, laundry and so on – so all you need to focus on is getting work done and… changing the world!
How would you describe the community at Livit Hub Bali?
Diverse. Supportive. Dynamic. Extremely innovative, as most companies based here are working on disruptive technologies.
The teams we nurture and host at Livit usually have some team members based at the hub and some distributed/remote, so we’ve seen first hand the rise, the joys – and perils – of remote work for many years now.
70%+ of our ‘residents’ are locals, which is quite unusual for coworking spaces in Bali, where foreign digital nomads are usually the overwhelming majority (again, in regular times, borders being closed at the moment). We invest in Indonesia and Indonesians and facilitate a great connection between location independent entrepreneurs and the local culture.
Due to the fact that we mostly have long term members, it also feels like one big family. And all of this gives us a lot of expertise in doing business in Indonesia, remote work, tech innovation, entrepreneurship, scalable startup teams, in addition to coworking.
Who’s your target group? What kind of professionals are you aiming to bring in your community?
Our main target groups are:
- Entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers who are passionate about what they do, about technology and the future of work.
- Tech startup teams. At Livit Hub Bali, we offer a great infrastructure for temporarily or permanently hosting small to medium-sized teams working on disruptive, innovative technologies. Granting access to fully serviced, inspiring workspaces is just one of the services we offer startups, in addition to business support services, training and consultancy, talent acquisition, and more.
Do you host any events to bring your community together?
Absolutely, quite a few types of events, open for all who are coworking from Livit Hub Bali on a given week, and many of them publicly as well.
Once again, in regular times, we have:
– Weekly sports & wellness activities, including football, yoga, etc.
– We throw monthly birthday bashes where we celebrate everyone becoming one year younger that month.
– Movie screenings at the hub or outings at the cinema.
– Adventures to explore hot springs, waterparks, other islands around Bali, bike through the jungle and so on.
– “Sharing Is Caring” events, where we host talks and skill shares on a variety of personal and professional development topics – we have moved these online for the past months.
– Training on remote work via our Remote Skills Academy for Indonesians – these are fully online and many of our coworkers are either participating or teaching classes within these programs.
What kind of amenities does your space include?
When we built Livit Hub Bali, the concept was to create a fully serviced, inspiring environment where all needs and wants of startup teams, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads are taken care of, so you can simply plug in and focus.
So we transformed the four-story factory I mentioned into a beautiful work and innovation space, which includes both premium fixed and flexible desks, as well as a coworking cafe, soundproof Skype rooms, collaboration and meeting areas benefiting from plenty of natural light, two multi-purpose event rooms that host anything from meetings to conferences, a quiet room for naps, prayer and meditation, showers (we’re close to the beach and some of us like to go work out or take a jog/walk and then go back to work!), and snack stations. Plus, there’s an absolutely epic rooftop with a 360-degree view over the surrounding region, a couple of volcanoes (this is Bali!), the ocean, and the every-day “sunset show.”
What is your favorite part of coworking?
How inspired, resourceful, and productive you can be in a well-built coworking community.
And most importantly, how coworking spaces and communities have been involved in and leading for years all the changes happening in our societies and economies that I’m personally really excited about. I’d mention here: the rise of remote and flexible work, of entrepreneurship, of lifestyle design, of flat hierarchies, of the sharing economy, as well as the growing importance of creative industries, to name but a few – all these have been the norm in many ‘corners’ of the coworking ‘world.’ It’s no wonder big corporations, investors, and governments are now trying hard to get into coworking, understand it, and control bits of it.
What types of cool projects are your members currently working on?
There are so many exciting things happening in our community, and many of them are based on revolutionary, disruptive innovation. Here are a few examples of projects the teams we work with are working on:
- The largest team currently working from Livit Hub Bali is Labster, who are revolutionizing education via virtual laboratories. Last year, they launched the world’s first online degree using Virtual Reality in collaboration with Google and Arizona State University (ASU).
- Mailbird is a multi-award-winning desktop email client for Windows. Combining email, calendar, app integrations, and messaging all into one beautiful and intuitive productivity app.
- Magloft help companies transition from print to digital publications and enable independent publishers to easily build their own fully branded, highly interactive digital magazine apps.
We also have members based in our space but running entirely remote tech teams, working on data analytics, building software or beautiful websites, teaching English, producing podcasts, writing books, and so on – the future of work truly is already here!
How has the pandemic affected your coworking operations?
Dramatically. We were fully closed for three months and only open to long-term members for three more months after that. We are now publicly open, but down 80-90% in membership numbers. We are very lucky that the physical space is just one piece of our many services for entrepreneurs and startup teams; that we already had several fully digital components, and pivoted a few others to be delivered fully online (e.g. the courses at the Remote Skills Academy, skill-sharing events).
What changes has your space put in place to help navigate the consequences of COVID-19?
We’ve put in place quite a few “New Normal” protocols. Checking temperature and using hand sanitizer at the entrance, wearing masks, well-spaced seating (e.g. every other seat has to stay empty), caps on the number of people at the hub and on each floor at one time, no large events, no buffet or shared meals, increased hygiene measures (e.g. we thoroughly disinfect the space every few weeks in addition to daily cleaning), to name just a few.
What are the most challenging parts of opening and operating a coworking space?
- Figuring out offerings that work well for people from widely different environments, backgrounds, cultures, and have widely different lifestyles – our space is located in Bali but caters to members of tens of different ethnicities and all major religions.
- Ensuring legal compliance and a smooth relationship with the local government in the absence of a wide understanding of what coworking is (the immigration legislation is very strict in Indonesia, and for example, it can be a challenge to explain, for example, that a foreign ‘coworker’/ client, doesn’t also work ‘for’ us, hence shouldn’t have a work permit sponsored by us for that).
- The one that trumps all the others: the 2020 pandemic.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to open a coworking space?
Start with building a community, even before opening the space, especially during this time. Gather, organize, facilitate, lead people around common interests, values, work styles, around all the exciting changes happening in the way we work and so on. This is what makes the difference between a coworking space and a shared office or a real estate business. The community will also be the catalyst for wonderful events and will be there to build and fight for the physical space with you.
What do you think the future of coworking will look like?
I think I’m on the same page with many in the coworking industry in saying that I believe in the long term, the pandemic will funnel more people towards coworking and its benefits (flexibility, innovation, lower overheads), including many companies or larger teams. The industry will emerge from this as a winner, with increased demand and opportunities, and everyone will be better for it.
Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the fact that things are extremely difficult right now for many space owners and operators. Over the last months, we’ve contributed to a few fundraising and re-training processes aiming to keep other fellow spaces going or offer further or temporary career options to their staff. Depending on the area and the specifics of each space, we will sadly see more closures in the near future. So now is the time to support each other in whatever ways we can and get ready to contribute to the next phase.
Coworking has been leading some of the most important changes in the world of work for many years now, and it will shine again. Let’s gather around this shared purpose and reimagine the future, once more.