Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, a country whose economy was traditionally based on its natural resources, such as oil. Situated in the valley of Paucarbamba, Cuenca is a charming city, 432 kilometers away from Quito, Ecuador’s capital. With four lovely flowing rivers that cross the city, and an average temperature of 17 degrees Celsius, Cuenca is a beautiful place to live and work. More than a decade ago, Cuenca was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and some travel magazines began to mention Cuenca as one of the best places in the world to retire.
Two years ago, the local government wanted to build a community of young entrepreneurs, and started Impúlsate, which was supposed to be the first coworking space in the city. However, with a change in government leadership, the plans for the coworking community were abandoned. But by that time, the idea had already taken hold in Impúlsate and continued to grow, even without the government’s sponsorship. After the city’s first TedX event, the first coworking space was created with Lynx Trade, a start-up that had plenty of room for more start-ups and entrepreneurs in its headquarters. Coworking Cuenca was born.
The first coworking community included just five start-ups. As the demand grew, a second branch opened in Cuenca. More than just offering a place to work and good Internet, the main goal of the Cuenca coworking community is to build an innovation ecosystem that allows new start-ups and entrepreneurs to take the risks of building new products and services, leading to local and national economic development.
At present there are three coworking spaces in the city, two of which carry the Coworking Cuenca trademark. About thirty small companies and start-ups have homes in these spaces, with names like Lynx Trade, Kanartek, Integrar, and Neuroworking are among them. Most are in the first stages of development, looking for their opportunity to be one of the leading start-ups in the country. However, the coworking movement and the innovation ecosystem are extremely young, so the success stories are still in the future. Even though the national government is determined to change the country’s productive matrix from exporting raw materials to exporting products and services with added value, the necessary cultural and mental change is happening somewhat slowly. Start-ups like http://meet2goconcerts.com/, born in Cuenca, have to go to the USA to maximize their growth possibilities.
Coworking Cuenca and Integrar, one of the local companies interested in building the ecosystem, find that their working with some local universities helps bring together investigation and innovation.
In a traditional city like Cuenca, the possibility of sharing ideas and know-how in a workplace where many paradigms are being overturned is still not that popular. However, the generations coming up are more concerned about enjoying work and building communities, so the main task faced by coworking is the lack of public and private investment. Coworking itself is not profitable yet, but the great power of putting creative people together is being discovered right now, and that will bring more attention to the coworking movement.
Meanwhile, Coworking Cuenca is growing and may even open a new branch by the end of 2015. They have also created a network with coworking spaces in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil called Colatam. Their ultimate goal is to offer a coworking place everywhere you travel in South America. The coworking is taking off among entrepreneurs in Cuenca, and its neighbors are coming along, too.