Like so many people in the coworking industry, John Driftmier and Craig Baute saw a need no one else was filling.
It came from personal experience. As operators of their own respective coworking spaces, both saw a pattern emerge as other operators neared the end of their commercial leases. They were faced with the same question: Now what do I do? Do I expand? If so, how? Do I sell? If so… how?
“We wanted to equip people with the ability to know how much their businesses are worth,” explained Driftmier. “We wanted to give them the tools, resources, and intelligence to either sell their space and do something else, or buy other spaces and expand their brand.”
And thus, DenSwap was born in September 2019. Of course, no one knew a global pandemic was around the corner. But that turn of events also revealed a need: management consulting.
“We were starting to get a lot of landlords and commercial real estate (CRE) professionals coming to us as we were outputting general information and tools for the industry. They had tenants who had vacated their properties or had coworking businesses in their properties that were struggling. They asked us to find other operators — like matchmaking.
That was when we started developing management agreements, coming up with the legal frameworks, valuation tools, and the processes around that. And we tie that in with education for CRE folks, so they could start understanding coworking, they could assess the risk, and then be equipped to place coworking operators in their spaces.”
“We’re data nerds over here,” laughed Driftmier. But that data is what powers the relationships between coworking operators, who can join the DenSwap network, and the CRE professionals looking to monetize commercial space.
This relationship between CRE and coworking is the way forward, Driftmier predicts. It’s that ‘future of work’ concept that is very buzzworthy right now, as companies rethink their next generation of office leasing and professionals who have been working remotely realize they need a middle ground between the cubicle and the kitchen table.
“I think we're going to see a lot more hybrid flex spaces become the norm as opposed to the one-off, coworking hot desk.”
Even so, coworking still has that feel of bootstrapping entrepreneurs where each new stage is a welcome evolution.
“Any industry development is seen as a good thing,” Driftmier said. “And we're symbolic of the growth of the industry. People will often say to us, ‘Oh wow, it's great that coworking is big enough to have brokers!’ Now it’s worthwhile for them to talk to property owners on our behalf. It feels like we as an industry have made it.”