Finding myself talking at a startup conference in Kosovo three years ago (as one does), I realized how close I was to Albania, a place which held some fascination for me. I managed to grab a lift with a friendly techie to Tirana, where they arranged for me to speak to the local tech community. That meetup was held in a small co-working space called Talent Garden. It gradually transpired that, while WeWork and other such co-working/offices spaces were concentrating on New York and London, Talent Garden had been busily populating southern and eastern Europe with a network of spaces crisscrossing the continent.
That strategy has now paid off with their desire to raise money from investors. Today, it announces that it has raised €44 million ($49.5 million) in a funding round led by Italian private equity firm Tamburi Investment Partners alongside Social Capital, Inadco Ventures and a range of European family offices. Tamburi previously led a €12 million funding round for Talent Garden in 2016.
The company, founded in Brescia, Italy in 2011, now plans to expand its co-working and education to places like Spain, Italy, Denmark, Austria and many more countries around Europe, focusing on second or third-tier cities where tech communities tend to grow fastest because costs are lower than in the major capitals.
Talent Garden’s chief executive and co-founder Davide Dattoli now plans to open 20 new international co-working campuses over the next five years and expand the scope of its “Innovation School” in digital training (as an analogy, think a combination of offices and General Assembly) and generating a “second tech ecosystem” around Europe outside London, Paris and Berlin. It’s also a licensee of the SingularityU Summit brand across Italy, Spain and Switzerland, for instance.
So far, it is now present in eight countries and has 23 active campuses with the Talent Garden Innovation School present in five of those countries.
There will, however, be a particular focus on Spain, with new locations in Madrid and Barcelona; France, with one opening planned in 2019; Italy, where it already has more than 10 campuses; and Austria, where it just recently opened.
In 2018, Talent Garden opened a new campus in Dublin as part of a strategic partnership with Dublin City University and also created a joint venture with Rainmaking Loft in Denmark, and has more than three locations across Copenhagen and is now looking for more locations in the Nordic region. Germany, Israel, Benelux and the CEE region are also within its sights. It won’t be ignoring San Francisco, however, with a kind of the “campus” project planned for next year.
Will things be different as Talent Garden tries to make incursions into bigger cities? For starters, WeWork is building from a very expensive base (major capitals) while TG isn’t. There are fewer revenues in these third-tier cities, sure, but geography has been downgraded for startup teams that are well-used to remote working. So TG could try to lock-in members who only need to “pop in” to the major capitals now and again, where TG has a “landing pad” for them to visit. This potentially creates an incursion into WeWork’s space directly from emerging markets and second/third-tier cities.