UPDATED 23:01 EST / MARCH 07 2011

LiquidSpace Repurposes SXSW for the Modern Mobile Workforce

If you’ve ever been to SXSW then you know a few things: stay hydrated, never put down your cell phone, and prepare for at least one week of recovery time.  Equally as important, you’ll also find yourself longing for work space.  Seriously.  It’s one of those things you don’t appreciate until you’re surrounded by chatty bloggers, overzealous social media advocates, seas of t-shirt promotions and unending party talk.

My first year at SXSW, I landed a great angle on Sarah Lacy’s interview with Mark Zuckerberg, only to read the post hours later wondering why it had even been published.  Between other blogger interviews, loud music, food carts and kegs, the lounge that had been set aside as a workspace had turned into party central.  I thought I’d been able to focus on my writing, but had unwittingly turned out a barely intelligible rant.  Even three years later, no one’s bothered to spell check that article (it was long before Mashable had anything like a real editorial system–ah, the good old days of blogging).

So when Liquidspace pinged me about their new AirBnB app, I was glad to learn they’d be proving their worth at one of the most difficult conferences to actually be productive.  Funded by Reid Hoffman among others, Liquidspace is a company that’s redefining what a mobile work space is, taking an eco-friendly approach to its business, empowering a new generation of employees.  What Liquidspace offers is a marketplace of local venues where you can get some work done, from Starbucks to empty office space that’s desperately in need of warm bodies.

“We wanted to illustrate drastic improvement around utilizing a building,” Liquidspace CEO Mark Gilbreath tells me.  “What we found is that there’s an absolute demand for this type of space. We also learned, the hard way, that there’s a lot of office space, in part due to the recent economy.  The need is there–we want to connect workers to spaces.  But we don’t have to build new structures to do this.”

No new structures?  That’s because Liquidspace looks at the landscape of real estate in three ways; public venues, paid venues and private venues.  These make up the whole of the Liquidspace market, which connects road warriors with nearby work spaces, searchable and filtered by your needs.  For each venue, Liquidspace offers company info, wifi offerings, directions and more.  Need to meet someone there?  The Liquidspace mobile app pulls your phone contacts for making appointments, has calendar integration, and even gives you parking details for that given venue.

Depending on the type of venue, you’ll also be able to reserve a work space, receive network login info and other details.  You see, private venues are at the heart of Liquidspace’s business model, which acts as a middleman between mobile workers and venues like offices, cowork spaces and hotels.  These types of venues have space, often empty space, that can be “rented” out to mobile workers.

Liquidspace presents a marketplace for real estate, too.  From the venue side, “we work directly with offices, businesses and hotels to have them adopt Liquidspace in order to manage existing shared spaces, and get into the shared spaces industry,” Gilbreath explains.  “They can use this to manage existing users.  In addition, they can leverage Liquidspace to attract new customers.”

It’s a marketing tool for real estate means, touting already-present pipelines for a repurposed use.  Liquidspaces works directly with venue owners, which can charge rental fees, generate revenue from empty space in their buildings, and become part of a growing industry that’s addressing the needs of today’s mobile worker.  As Citrix noted earlier this year, the cloud is empowering the workforce to leave cubicles, venturing into the mobile realm as a virtual office wherever they are.  This leaves actual office space free to be more practically oriented around modern needs, which revolve specifically around collaborative spaces.

For private venues, Liquidspace is working with companies like law firms, realtors and leven large corporations that may not be looking to extend their real estate for revenue generation, but merely want to manage such workspaces at an internal level.  In this way, Liquidspace becomes a resource that a company can use with their partners and clients, or their own employees meeting back at the office for a whiteboard session.

Liquidspace covers three distinct but necessary aspects of the bourgoining mobile workspace environment, pragmatically approaching each channel.  This is still managed from a single application, which can be personalized for varying venue owners’ needs.  From a user standpoint, Liquidspace manages access points with “passport” badges, which are activated based on venue specifications.  This keeps the bulk of the power in the hands of the venue owner, while providing an open market for mobile workers to peruse and use at their discretion.  If you’re at SXSW be sure to look out for Liquidspace work spaces, and tell us what you think in the comments.


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