"Teams should take creative liberties".

Johannes von Hoyos wants to bring people together to work in a resort. How is that supposed to work?

Flipcharts between ivy-covered walls, desks positioned with a view of the mountains, coworking spaces in the midst of nature: In the Italian alpine region of Piedmont, a campus is being built where people meet to work together - a so-called "Workation Village". Startbase spoke to Johannes von Hoyos, head and idea man behind the company "New Work in Nature Projects".

Mr. von Hoyos, with your new project "The Workation Village" you want to create a place to work where others go on holiday. Why?

A great many people in my network have always privately sought opportunities to work in nature, myself included. Corona has amplified all of that. True, the pandemic has created excellent remote teams. But face-to-face interaction is lacking, increasingly derailing the company culture.

Do you think such a concept can be successful?

We tested two pop-ups with friends and acquaintances from the start-up and scale-up world. In these, we rented larger properties and worked together for one to two weeks. The first time in the east of France. There we savored French country life. And the second time we were in Piedmont in Italy. Those were magical weeks where we were incredibly productive.

How could you be so productive when the seduction of vacation is permanently so close?

When you bring strangers together in nature and provide sharing, good internet and food, productivity runs itself. Some participants have hosted yoga sessions or running groups in the hills alongside work. People should take creative liberties. So I wouldn't recommend cramming yourself full of virtual meetings and fixed appointments all day. Socializing and inspiring each other is indirect work, after all. I see it in the participants of the trial run in June, some of whom are now doing business together because they have enriched each other on campus.

Large, open spaces, so-called coworking spaces, are to be created primarily for shared inspiration. In the new world of work, these are mainly used by freelancers or smaller start-ups. Is that your target group as well?

So far, 80 to 90 percent of the participants have been entrepreneurs or self-employed people. In principle, however, anyone can participate. The main goal is to create a place where communities can develop. If, for example, out of 100 registered people, eight existing teams and another 20 freelancers come together, they quickly mix automatically and enrich each other. But we also want to connect companies from the start-up or tech industry. In May, for example, we offer theme weeks on cleantech or food technology.

What does participation cost?

Prices range from 125 to 145 euros per person per day, depending on the season. This includes accommodation, vegetarian full board and use of the coworking spaces. But we give scholarships for people who can't afford that or for companies working in the impact sector. And if you stay longer, it becomes cheaper.

Organizing all that will take a lot of time, I'm sure. How will you balance the project with your current work as a coach for scale-up companies?

A super team is emerging, including my brother coming on board. I am also prepared to leave old projects behind and concentrate fully on the new venture. I see it as a personal, new challenge in combination with things I have built up in the past. I also want to recreate my own lifestyle with it.

Are you worried that the corona pandemic will kill the project again?

I'm not naive and believe that another lockdown is possible. But we're just operating at full steam under the assumption that it can happen. Even if the project gets pushed back, our energy for it won't disappear, it will just be frozen.And I'm also convinced that in five to ten years such working models will have massively caught on anyway.

Are you worried about competition?

It's not a "the winner takes it all" market. There will be no strong network effects, many projects can co-exist. In general, I think such projects attract ambitious people. Because they talk about what the working world of the future could look like and try to find a good connection to nature and community.

How do you finance the fun?

So far I have financed everything out of my own pocket. But a project like this generates cash flows relatively quickly, so you don't have to pre-finance it for years.

Will it stay with one working village in Italy or will new ones be added?

Europe has some cryingly beautiful landscapes that often lie fallow while we all kick our feet in the cities. It would be nice if our project could create as many such villages as possible. If we revitalize areas of land or even develop new structures. I could imagine Tiny House villages, for example. Or also mixed structures, where there are some central houses like in Piedmont, but in addition a few cool huts or tree houses are built. The environment should already be a bit "fancy". Not luxurious, but minimalist.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Johannes von Hoyos is a coach for start-up and scale-up companies. After graduating from high school and during his business studies, he founded his first companies in the food and retail sector, bringing frozen yogurt to Germany, among other things. The Munich native now wants to dedicate his future entirely to his new project.

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