Sleeping capsules, hanging gardens, paintings, a huge old piano – this space has a rather untraditional atmosphere for the domestic co-working market. Networking Sofia is one of the newest coworking spaces in the Bulgarian capital. It was launched seven months ago when the founder Emil Shekerdzhiiski decided to expand the existing premium co-working chain based in the downtown area of Tel-Aviv. Today, Networking is about to launch two new locations in Sofia and a co-living line.
“Today in Israel most of the new large buildings have a coworking space, it is very hyped. And we believe that in Bulgaria there is a growing demand as well. Especially in the premium segment,” tells us Shekerdzhiiski.
Like office, like home
Networking has no industry focus and unlike many other spaces, is targeted especially at freelancers. Teams and companies are, of course, also welcome – for instance, the Bulgarian team of UK fintech Revolut also has its office here, but this is not the target audience. Soon, the space will have 120 working spots – most of them are flex desks. It’s located in a six-floor house in the downtown of Sofia, which the founder bought and has already invested over €500K in. Three of the floors are now dedicated to coworking, events, and …just hanging out. There are also different types of lounge zones and creativity.
“We give our best to offer the people a community, not an office,” amplifies Trifon Mihaylov, Managing Partner at Networking Sofia. “That is why we have a gaming area with consoles, chess and board games, so people can laugh and have fun together. All the areas are ready to cast screens, so you can have your presentation easily on, or just show the fun video to your buddies.”
Inspired by spaces in Tel-Aviv and the Valley, the Shekerdzhiiski and Mihaylov have added several more perks to the experience – free beer, a personal chef who prepares lunch every day, soon also e-scooters. The shared space also has homemade wine and their own brand of whiskey. “We make jam sessions and watch movies together. All because this place is created for the people,” explains Mihaylov.
But mostly, because people, who spend quite a good amount of their lives there have to feel good. Here is where the business part also kicks in. “When you are feeling well, you don’t want to leave,” Mihaylov explained. “Another great advantage is that you share everything under one roof, and practically even financially, it’s just better. How else would you have the pleasure to have a fireplace in the office or home-theater like a lounge area.”
The creativity scent
Even though the space was started with the idea to bring together the blockchain community of Sofia, things changed quickly, and it now has a more generalist concept. And is indeed open for any type of activities. Networking now also has a creators’ room inside which the occupants can laser print their designs or create real-world objects of 3D printed models. To unleash the inside quaint charm of the individuals, Networking have taken a step further by setting up a sewing machine and artistic tools. The whole spirit of the space is gently accompanied by musical instruments like electric guitars and a 200-years-old majestic wooden royal.
Artists are welcome to make exhibitions of their visual arts, and if the painting is sold, the buyer pays double the price, which is later equally divided between the artist and the other half goes to charity. The local artists are also in the process of creating graffiti but what the host wants to amplify is that they always, always listen to the other coworkers, and put their interest first.
Space for growth
So far Networking has three different locations in Sofia. The main one, described so far, is on Rakovski 25. It aims to have 120 desks in the near future when all the floors are being renovated. The second location is situated right in the heart of main pedestrian street of Sofia – Vitosha 63, small top floor chalet-like open space for about 17 people, where also boutique events for 20-30 people take place. The third location, that is still under construction, will be on Hristo Botev 82, and will mostly contain private offices.
Networking will soon offer to its customers the option to switch spaces as all three locations will be accessible with a single card. The founders decided to go even one step further and are currently exploring opportunities to have electric scooters so that occupants can easily get from Rakovski to Hristo Botev. In fall, the coworking space in Rakovski Str. will add a co-living element on the carte.
As the name suggests, pricing is also in the premium segment. “If we want to be able to offer the standard we are targeted at, we cannot allow ourselves to compete with the low-price spaces in the city. This is also not the vision in the long run,” says Shekerdzhiiski.
Part of his strategy also includes building a bridge between Tel Aviv and Sofia, and incubating startups and ideas in the space in the near future.