Travel Coworking Is Exploding, But There Are Problems
If you haven’t heard of the travel coworking industry (“travelworking”) or noticed how Remote Year clones are popping up left and right, I wouldn’t blame you. The entire industry only popped on my radar a few months ago.
The travel coworking industry is essentially what it sounds like. Hop on a plane to another country where you’ll live and work for the next month or more. Then hop on another plane and repeat the cycle. That pretty much sums it up. Costs vary between $700/mo and $2000/mo, sometimes a la cart and sometimes all-inclusive.
There are two reasons I believe this industry is about to really explode.
First, Remote Year only takes 75 applicants on each year-long trip, yet they receive 50,000+ applications for each cohort. Ho-ly shit.
Second, most of Coworking Insight’s followers on Instagram are coworking spaces or interested parties. Over the last several months I’ve noticed a significant influx of travel coworking startups, such as Wifi Tribe, We Roam, and others. At least one pops up every week or two.
The first problem is most of these groups aren’t differentiating enough. Many are following almost exactly in the same footsteps as Remote Year. Some offer only slight differences such as the ability to commit to only 6 months instead of the full year, which is the case with We Roam.
However, if you know anything about positioning and remarkability, you know that slight differences aren’t enough to anchor your brand in a customer’s mind, especially one who’s already been exposed to a competing brand message. You need to do something riskier to stake out your claim in the industry.
The other problem is that with only slight differentiations, even if your change improves the experience, the dominant brand can too easily adopt your only-slightly-changed methodologies. This will render your differences pointless in the eyes of customers, making your brand irrelevant.
Here are some recommendations:
1. Instead of a remote year, make it a remote month or remote quarter. Instead of moving every month (12 locations per year), buy one location and cycle groups through. When you have a little more money buy another location in the opposite hemisphere. Summer in one place, winter in another (2 locations per year). Less logistics, less headache, just as much fun and work getting done.
2. Host an incredibly intimate group of travelers who can’t take a remote year. Have them live together with locals on site, teach them to cook local cuisine, avoid the touristy spots, and do it all in less than a month. One location, life-changing experience, charge a lot. My Tribe is doing something like this.
3. Wifi Tribe is also taking a path that is worth talking about. Instead of saying, “Give us $2000/mo and we’ll handle everything for you (all-inclusive with a one year commitment),” they are saying, “Give us several hundred dollars per month and we’ll only handle your accommodations and community. The rest is up to you. You can come and go as you please (month-to-month).”
It’s not enough to just copy the competition. You need to anchor what you’re doing in your customers’ minds by being different enough to be worth talking about. What’s more, your model needs to be different enough that the dominant brand can’t simply adopt your business model without severely disrupting their current business model.
There will be a lot these brands in the startup graveyard in a few years. Only the ones who are taking an authentic and divergent approach will survive.