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Second Home: On Building Europe’s Most Innovative and Iconic Workspace

Grace Chen
Grace Chen|

Second Home has been referred to as “the coolest workspace in London” – and it’s home to Europe’s most creative community, including Kickstarter, Artsy, TaskRabbit, and Bulb.

It’s easy to understand why.

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This members-only space for is entrepreneurs, innovators, and social impact organisations who have shrugged off the traditional desk and cubicle nine to five in favour of a futuristic concept of work. At Second Home, members work in beautiful hanging gardens or around 25-foot tall trees growing through the space, or hear talks by luminaries like Stella McCartney, Richard Branson, or Thomas Heatherwick.

With its first, now flagship location having opened in 2014, Second Home has grown to four locations as of today: Spitalfields, where it all began, Lisbon, the first international venture, and the upcoming Holland Park and London Fields, where the concept that the workspace of the future should indeed be a second home will continue to be solidified.

Sam Allen, Membership Manager, says that one of the main reasons for the success of Second Home, which boasts a member business growth rate ten times that of the national average, is that every aspect of the space and culture has been meticulously designed to push the boundaries of creative potential, productivity, and social interaction.

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1. You don’t just decide to build the coolest workspace in London overnight. Can you walk me through the steps of what initially inspired you to create such a space and what drove you to work through such an extensive project?

Our founders, Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva started Second Home in 2014 with a single purpose: to support creativity and entrepreneurship across the globe.

We believe that creativity and innovation best happens at the intersect of different industries, disciplines, and types of businesses, and that great things happen when diverse people and ideas come together. Everything we do is designed to help teams at Second Home flourish and succeed in the modern economy, and unlock their full creative potential. It’s because of this that teams grow ten times faster than the national average at Second Home – through connections and collaborations with other members, our world-class cultural and educational programme, ongoing community support, and radical architecture.

2. When designing Second Home, you hired architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano of SelgasCano, who have done an incredible job with the space. Can you give me more details about your collaboration process?

Second Home’s buildings have been designed to spark serendipity, creative collisions, and chance encounters. You won’t find a space like Second Home anywhere else. Our architecture is inspired by academic research in evolutionary psychology and biophilia, and every aspect has been carefully designed to support wellbeing, productivity, and creativity.

We work very closely with our architects to achieve the perfect environment for our members. Each Second Home houses thousands of plants and trees, there are barely any straight lines in the buildings, and every private studio and collaborative workspace is bathed in natural light, making Second Home a calm and beautiful place to be.

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3. 80% of members chosen for Second Home are to contribute to diversity and the other 20% are to support these companies as they scale. How did you come up with this model? Has it served the mission of Second Home well?

Our carefully curated community is what makes Second Home special. We do this to produce a diverse and ambitious community where innovation can flourish.

80% of our members are chosen because they contribute to the diversity of our community by being at the intersection of different fields or belonging to an underrepresented industry or demographic.

The remaining 20% are picked because the work they do is helpful for companies as they scale, and so contribute to the success of the overall ecosystem. Examples include venture capital funds, graphic designers, and growth-hacking agencies.

With such a vibrant community, there’s always an opportunity at Second Home to do business with the people around you. Our expert team is there to connect our members to one another.

The decision to curate our community in such a way is so we ensure Second Home is a space where business can thrive, and that the Second Home ecosystem helps businesses grow at every turn. Inside each building, you’ll find every possible type of business, all mixed together. We believe that true inspiration comes from those meetings you didn’t expect: different industries interacting over coffee, meeting at one of our member-only educational Be Better sessions, or collaborating on a new project after being introduced by our community team.

The 80:20 make up of our community ensures that not only are different businesses meeting and collaborating every day, but that they have access to those companies that will help them grow faster – from headhunters to design agencies, accountants, and law-firms.

4. What is the process for deciding what companies you accept into Second Home? How do you vet them? Is it their product, vision, values, people, etc.? Do you take their suitability for getting along with others already in the space into account?

We work with potential members to understand their business and what they want to achieve while at Second Home. Once they’ve joined, our dedicated community team spends time with them to understand which connections will help them grow faster – whether it’s an intro to members from the global community, invites to a Be Better, the opportunity to run their own session, or to be partnered with another member for mentoring. Then we make that growth happen.

Connections that would normally take weeks, months or even years to make, happen in a matter of days.

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5. London is unique in that it is a global hub of science, media, politics, finance, property, advertising, design, and tech. One of the purposes of Second Home is to utilise this position by encouraging companies from diverse backgrounds to interact. Can you tell me about some of these interactions and the projects that have come out of them?

Every other day, we connect one member to another in the community, and it’s amazing what they are achieving together.

This can be for new business: within a year of moving into Second Home, studio members Wonderland Collective have worked significantly with Second Home members, including innovation agency The Upside and Global Innovation Fund.

Virtual reality studio Visualise collaborated with several members on key business projects, including developing a VR App with The Economist.

Or for growth and accolades: studio members Bulb and Threads Styling are taking part in Tech City’s Future 50 Programme.

Or partnerships: studio members WP Engine are working with many others in the Second Home community: Fueled, Visualise, The Upside, Wonderland Collective, and Tech City are all using its platform. Congregation Partners have helped recruit and headhunt for many other businesses within Second Home.

Businesses within Second Home also often use each other’s products. For example, many members work with WP Engine to host their websites.

The corporates within Second Home connect with our entrepreneurial members daily. Ernst & Young’s Innovation team EYX – who moved in at Second Home to be exposed to new technology and to work close to startups – are now working with many Second Home members and are consulting with some of our charity members as part of their CSR strategy.

It’s inspiring to see what our members are doing together. This collaborative culture is something that we champion at every turn. Our community is what makes Second Home special – you’ll be hard-pressed to find this kind of collaboration and opportunity elsewhere.

Explore Second Home: Holland Park, Spitalfields, and London Fields.

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