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Serbia's Coworking Pioneers

Nova Iskra

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There was also the issue of convincing people that paying to rent a space is worthwhile because of the benefits of working with others and exchanging ideas. And it wasn’t just the guys at Nova Iskra who felt resistance, but also the founder of Smart Office as well.

“I think there is something about the way the community understands work in general,” recalls Mijatov. “I must have seen about 200 of my potential clients in coffee shops who could have joined our coworking space, but they didn't. I think the reason for this is because they are more interested in just sitting down and talking about business instead of actually investing in a space and being productive.”

Smart Office leans towards the more traditional style of coworking spaces, offering flexible desks, a meeting room ready to be rented, and of course, a creative, collaborative environment that is welcoming to everybody.

Mijatov has a passion for coworking. Without any government support, he invested his private money in Smart Office. That has resulted in one of the first major stepping stones in creating a successful coworking community in Belgrade.

“I think that coworking is really ideal, and that it will create a balance between collaboration and the corporate community of the future. As for Serbia, we have a specific labor market, and I am not sure how it will work. But there are certainly people who are promoting the concept.”

As we sat in the carefully designed cozy meeting room at Smart Office, Mijatov treated us to some Elderberry juice that was his grandmother’s own recipe, and gave us valuable insight into the beginnings of coworking in Serbia. He shared with us a wonderful story that gives a first hand look at the positive effects coworking can and will have on youth.

“See the desk in the corner?” said Mijatov, pointing towards a young man working with his headphones on. “There are six guys, working in that space who are developing a video game. They have dedicated their entire summer to working here to be able to code. It’s one thing to be so dedicated, but the amazing thing is, those guys are only 18 years old and only just finished high school. I saw the preview of the game and I really think it’s going to be very successful.” 

Mijatov explained that many young people often have really great ideas, but cannot realize them because no one will support them.

“I offered them some discounts so they would be able to use Smart Office, because I remember how difficult it was for me to start off. I want it to be easy for them, and the example of those kids really shows what people can do when they are empowered. They are very productive, and they come to work everyday.”

 Next page: reaching out to the greater business community

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