Where Branding, Franchising Meet in Coworking


By Olivia Bunescu, Commercial Property Executive, February 29, 2024

As CPE observes Black History Month, we talk to Vast Coworking Group’s president about his strategy for growing his brands.

Jason Anderson has experience as brand president and has been active in the franchising and marketing fields.

Jason Anderson is the president of Vast Coworking Group, a company that has three coworking brands across nine countries and more than 200 flex office spaces. Vast is among the largest franchisors in the world, with Venture XOffice Evolution and Intelligent Office locations encompassing 2.4 million square feet.

In this interview, Anderson dives deep into branding models and talks about how he strives to transform his company into the “Marriott of coworking,” as he puts it.

 What has been pushing the coworking sector forward in the past few years?

Anderson: Currently, the coworking industry is experiencing a phase of rapid growth and expansion. The increased adoption of remote work arrangements has led to a surge in demand for flexible office space, as businesses seek agile solutions to accommodate distributed teams and changing work preferences. Vacancies in traditional commercial real estate have created opportunities for coworking operators to fill the void, offering landlords a viable alternative to long-term leases. This period of hyperscale growth has propelled the coworking industry into new territories, with a focus on innovation, collaboration and sustainability.

 How does your brand stand out in the coworking landscape? What’s your brand’s story?

 Anderson: At Vast Coworking Group, our branding model is inspired by the success strategies of established industry giants like Marriott in hospitality. Recognizing the lack of a dominant franchise player in the coworking sector, we set out to emulate Marriott’s approach to brand diversity and customer loyalty. We aim to offer a variety of coworking experiences under our umbrella. We tailor our coworking spaces to meet the varied needs of our clientele and our goal is to become the go-to destination for businesses seeking flexible office solutions.

We prioritize creating a cohesive ecosystem that incentivizes our members to stay within our network, fostering loyalty and maximizing value for both them and our brand. By positioning ourselves in alignment with Marriott’s successful branding strategy, we attract a diverse range of clientele, including top-tier businesses and industry leaders, who trust us to provide exceptional coworking experiences tailored to their unique requirements.

 Vast’s framework includes several types of offeringsCould you expand on each and how you’ve given them different visual identities to appeal to different audiences?

Anderson: Each of our offerings has distinct visual identities and service offerings designed to appeal to diverse audiences. The remote option caters to individuals or teams who primarily work remotely but occasionally need access to professional amenities and meeting spaces. It’s ideal for those seeking flexibility without committing to a dedicated office space.

Distributed hub-and-spoke combines centralized office hubs with satellite locations—spokes—closer to where members live or work. It provides the convenience of local access while leveraging the resources of larger centralized hubs. Our centralized locations offer comprehensive workspace solutions, including private offices, conference rooms and event spaces. These locations are characterized by their size and amenities, catering to larger teams and hosting a variety of events.

Each type of offering is visually differentiated to reflect its unique characteristics and target audience. For example, Intelligent Office emphasizes personalized service offerings, such as virtual assistant services and private office spaces. The branding is subtle, creating a seamless integration with members’ businesses. Office Evolution features branded spaces with a focus on flexibility and scalability. With a larger footprint and a higher number of private offices, it appeals to growing businesses seeking professional environments.

Venture X offers expansive, modern spaces with versatile layouts, including coworking areas and event spaces. The branding is vibrant and dynamic, reflecting a focus on innovation and collaboration. By tailoring our offerings and visual identities to different audiences, we ensure that each member finds a workspace solution that suits their unique needs and preferences, whether they prioritize flexibility, scalability, or comprehensive amenities.

 With so many locations in various countries, how do you ensure branding consistency across your portfolio?

Anderson: Ensuring branding consistency across our portfolio becomes easier as we expand. With a franchise model, success drives adherence to branding standards. When locations thrive, there’s strong alignment with brand guidelines. Our focus on three key performance indicators—leads, occupancy and revenue—guides our support team. If we’re driving growth in these areas, maintaining brand consistency is straightforward.

Challenges arise when locations struggle to meet these KPIs, leading to potential deviations from branding standards. Ultimately, by providing value and support that enhances location success, we mitigate branding issues and foster cohesion across our network.

 Is it difficult to balance between maintaining brand consistency and allowing for localized customization to meet the unique needs of different markets?

Anderson: Balancing consistency with localized customization is akin to the approach taken by well-known brands. While customers expect a certain level of consistency, variations exist to accommodate diverse market needs. For instance, within the McDonald’s chain, locations can differ significantly in appearance and amenities. Similarly, our coworking spaces maintain a minimum level of quality and consistency defined by brand standards.

However, we also allow for creative flair and customization by franchisees, as those have the flexibility to personalize aspects of their spaces, such as interior design, within the parameters set by our brand standards. This approach ensures that while there’s consistency in quality and brand identity, each location can reflect its unique market and clientele.

For example, at one of our Venture X locations in Fairfax, Va., the franchise owner added elegant chandeliers and a living wall to enhance the ambiance. We support such upgrades if they align with our brand values and elevate the overall experience for members. Ultimately, we aim to maintain a balance where franchisees can infuse their creativity and local market insights while upholding the core brand identity and quality standards across our network.

 Can you tell us more about how you acquired and refined your three brands?

Anderson: Venture X, Intelligent Office and Office Evolution were existing successful brands we acquired to enhance and expand. Intelligent Office was founded in 1995 and started franchising in 1999. We acquired it in 2024, with the goal of further improving its offerings.

Office Evolution originated in 2003, stemming from the founder’s positive experience utilizing flexible office space at an Intelligent Office location in Boulder, Colo. and we acquired it in 2022 to bolster our portfolio.

Venture X began in 2012 in Naples, and we partnered with them in 2015 to explore franchising opportunities. In 2016, we launched Venture X as a franchise, leveraging our industry analysis and vision to position it as a premier coworking brand.

 How do you ensure that your coworking brands remain adaptable and responsive to the constantly changing needs of modern businesses and remote workers?

Anderson: Unlike a corporate ecosystem, our franchisees are deeply immersed in their businesses daily, with a personal stake in their success. This means they’re constantly attuned to the evolving needs of modern businesses and remote workers. With over 160 franchise owners actively engaged in their local markets and the industry, we receive real-time updates and feedback. This keeps us informed and agile, ensuring that our coworking spaces remain aligned with the changing landscape of commercial real estate and the demands of our clientele.

 Why should potential partners consider utilizing a franchise model?

Anderson: Utilizing a franchise model offers significant advantages, particularly in industries with large investments, local presence and service-related offerings. Consider industries like gas stations, hotels and fast-casual dining, where franchising is the norm and success often hinges on local expertise and investment. Franchising allows for shared risk and capital, with franchisees having a vested interest in the success of the business. They bring local knowledge and a personal stake, often resulting in higher operational efficiency and customer satisfaction compared to corporate-run establishments.

While franchising isn’t the sole path to success, it’s a proven model in many sectors, offering a higher probability of success than solely corporate-run operations. In industries where competitors are franchising, it’s a strategy worth considering for scalability and market competitiveness. For us, acquiring existing successful brands was a strategic move to combine strengths and leverage franchising as a means to compete effectively against larger players in the coworking industry, ultimately enhancing our market position and scalability.

 Looking ahead, what are your growth objectives? What role does branding play in adding more locations to your portfolio?

Anderson: Our growth objectives revolve around achieving market dominance, albeit with a touch of humor. When we started with just one Venture X location, aiming to become the third-largest player seemed audacious. Yet, through strategic expansion, we’ve achieved that milestone, boasting over 200 locations worldwide.

Our brand consolidation under Vast has been instrumental in signaling our unified approach to landlords and investors. With a database of 45,000 potential franchisees and 220 locations already sold, we’re on track for exponential growth. Moreover, our diverse portfolio, ranging from 2,500 to 50,000 square feet, allows us to cater to various property needs, setting us apart from competitors.

Looking ahead, our goal is for Vast to be the go-to choice for landlords and consumers alike, akin to how travelers rely on Marriott or the One World Alliance for consistent service and rewards. By positioning ourselves as the Marriott of coworking and the One World Alliance of flexible office space, we aim to establish Vast as the premier solution in the industry.