How to create a living community with 250 professionals and 45 startups in the CEE region? Founders of Puzl CowOrKing know the recipe.

 

How does the Puzl story started?

Puzl started as an online platform for small and medium businesses. Our goal is to build LinkedIn for Small Businesses. A place for SMEs to sell, manage their business but also collaborate. As the project was growing, the team decided to replicate the online business model offline and to organize a space where industry specific businesses could share costs and resources and grow more efficiently together.

After a long period of real-estate ‘hunting’, we found a huge abandoned ex-sewing factory that had the potential to accommodate the IT community in Sofia. We started the renovation ourselves and designed an area to foster efficiency, collaboration, and creativity both for companies and individuals; a coworking space that is focused on IT and Innovation and is focused on the needs of Startups and Individuals.

The demands to join our community rapidly grew. A large part of the startup ecosystem appreciated what we had done, so a few months later, we designed and launched the second floor of the coworking. In addition to having 2,000 sq.m. already opened, we’re currently working on another 1,000 sq.m. space in renovation and 2,500 sq.m. space in design.

Who are the founders and what made you to start this journey with Puzl CowOrKing?

Thibaut Taittinger is the founding manager of Puzl and he’s responsible for all the design in the CowOrKing. He is the crazy inventor in the founding couple. Anton Stratiev is the co-founder and the construction development force in the team. Anton is the reasonable side of the team. As a combination, they form a great balance of passion and responsibility.

I would really like to know how you almost bought a theatre, designed your own furniture and discovered a stash of old military equipment! 🙂

Heh, those are fun ones! See we’re a group of crazy people and we were lucky enough to have a likeminded crowd. From the very beginning we decided to go outside of the box and design and create our own furniture. We’ve created custom desks, shelves, arcades, even concrete sinks (even though it took us 3 tries to get those right) to establish a creative atmosphere in the CowOrKing. Moreover, we’re inhabiting a military constructed building that has its own history and treasures. So, after a ‘breaking in’ in a forgotten room in the building we ended up with a storage room full of gas masks, instructions how to react in an event of a nuclear attack and military organizational structures. Now we’re pretty much ready for everything that might come along!

The theatre came along where we were looking for the right place to build our community. It is much more fun to re-purpose a building with a history than a new built. We therefore ended up walking around in Sofia looking for crazy abandoned places. After having just being rejected by the security guard of an old school – whom obviously thought we were crazy – we found an old historical building with a beautiful façade. We just walked inside of what looked an empty place and started knocking on doors until someone answered. This is when we found this beautiful theater. Although we fancied more the expansion potential of our current building, we were ready to take it and start our adventure there. We in fact nearly took it. On our final visit, all of us were sitting in the theatre and the moment we agreed and decided to go and sign that place, we got a call from the owners of the sewing factory saying that if we still wanted the place it was ours. It was really a matter of one hour – and we would never would have been to sign our current office because we would have committed somewhere else.

What are the services that Puzl CowOrKing offers?

Building a company or working on a project is challenging so we’ve build a space where all our members can focus 100% on their goals. We basically operate as a community and it’s not about providing services. We’ve built an amazing workspace and we’ve filled it with a thriving IT community and each member is а valuable part of this community. Everything that we do in the office we coordinate with the community members – if it’s requested, we’ll distribute the tasks and everyone would help accomplish the final goal. Do not give me wrong… It is not always fun when we call our community to help up carry upstairs our beautiful – extremely heavy – custom tables up 6 floors! But they join because Puzl CowOrKing is their home too.

Who are the community members?

As we’re focused on the IT sphere, all our community members are IT startup companies and professionals. Now, we’re hosting 250 professionals and 45 starting companies are developing their products and services at Puzl CowOrKing. Regarding the profiles – we have them all –  the quiet ones, the loud ones, the crazy ones, the inventors, the thinkers, the players. It’s a colorful and interesting crowd and you may find some inspiring people that will help you look at your idea from a different angle.

Do you select your members somehow?

Yes, we’re very careful about the crowd and from the very beginning we’re meeting each person that wants to join us. We want to make sure that everyone benefits from the space and the crowd, and each member would be valuable for the community. Our members have to understand that they are joining a community before renting an office.

What is Puzl’s biggest advantage compared to other coworkings in the area?

The fact that we’re industry focused is our main advantage. This way we make sure that we gather like-minded people that help each other and grow together.

What are your future plans with the coworking?

We’re currently renovating another 1000 sq. m. coworking space and in about 2 months we’re expecting 100 more members to join our community. Another 2500 sq. m. are currently in design. By the end of 2017 we’re expecting to have about 500 community members. The overall aim is to build 90 000 sq. m. coworking and coliving in Sofia; turning into the one of the biggest if not the biggest IT co-working in Europe.

Are the coworking trends different in this, CEE region than in Western areas? Are we lagging behind or just doing well?

We’re all living in a sharing economy and thanks to the connectivity I don’t think the CEE region is lagging. The coworking trends are pushed by the startup companies and because of amazing projects that are starting in the area, we coworkings are thriving also.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 🙂

Well are considering which country to move in next! 🙂 So if you live in Eastern Europe, want be part of our community and know of a beautiful old building that deserves better than its current treatment – contact us!

 

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One Response

  1. Richard

    The low tax rates and cost of living in Bulgaria are a massive advantage also. Very appealing to operate a business from there.

    Reply

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