Flexible Work Space Company LAUFT Plans Massive Expansion to be the “Starbucks of Space”: Interview

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Graham Wong has a grand vision for coworking concept LAUFT to eventually grow it to be the “Starbucks of space.”

And the company’s Founder and CEO is well on his way to getting there as the on-demand network for flexible spaces for remote workers and organizations grows in popularity and momentum. 

Graham Wong

LAUFT opened its first location in 2018 and today has five of its seven locations in the Greater Toronto Area open, due to the pandemic, where people and teams are connected to the spaces, tools and services they need to work in the most convenient, consistent and professional way possible.

The company has not reopened its Metro Centre PATH location since it shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic because “the PATH is a ghost town.”

Wong’s vision is a remote work solution where people can dedicate focused time on their work or project without being forced into a traditional 40-hour work week or a long daily commute. From malls to fitness centres to retail stores and self-storage facilities, LAUFT’s plan is to expand its reach nationally and internationally.

Image: LAUFT at Vaultra Storage

Wong said the company is working with a national retailer, which it can’t name at this time, exploring a store in store concept where LAUFTs will be integrated into their environments.

“Two of our current locations are in partnership with a self-storage facility. So you think about ecommerce entrepreneurs, we really did this partnership for that. We’re doing seven locations with this self-storage partner and really what that’s for is if you think about ecommerce and you think about some of the user behaviour in terms of online shopping, we want to create this ecosystem where someone could store their stock in storage and rent on-demand office space for pop up retail experiences or meeting clients or fulfilling,” said Wong.

“What we’re also doing is partnering with fitness brands, as an example, so that when you come to a LAUFT you can work for a couple hours, get an hour workout. We’re trying to create different experiences. We have a roadmap and I would say by the end of this year we’ll have 18 to 20 locations in and around the GTA and the majority of them are tied to retail for sure because that’s just where you’re going to get the most convenience, you’re going to get free parking, you’re going to get ancillary businesses around.

Image: LAUFT
Image: LAUFT

“We are looking at Vancouver, we are looking at Ottawa, Montreal and Calgary. The concept of LAUFT is that you’re supposed to be able to open that app and find a LAUFT just as conveniently as you would a Starbucks. We need to prove it in the GTA and then our goal is to go national and we have interest in the US as well. And we also want to be in Europe. Our goal ultimately has always been to be the Starbucks of space and that’s really what we’re going after. We’re even talking to some coffee shop brands in terms of reinventing what that coffee shop model might be.”

LAUFT opened December 2018 in Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket. Other current GTA locations include: Barrie (Georgian Mall), Vaughan (Vaughan Mills), Toronto (Metro Centre), and Burlington (Burlington Centre). There are also locations in Ottawa and Kingston.

The company is also looking at other unique ideas like perhaps rooms for therapists or interview rooms for people looking for a job. Also, podcast, green screen and content creation rooms.

“It’s really just retooling our space. When we first started we thought we would be this work amenity for a lot of gig workers, entrepreneurs, who could work remote and what we’re finding coming out of this it’s content, creative people, designers, developers and we also have a ton of companies now – we’ve signed over 35 organizations – where they’ve said they might not go back to a destination office every single day and they’re reducing their footprint, people are working from home and they need that third option in between,” said Wong. “Something like LAUFT makes sense because they can deploy people, they can have a central bill.


“One thing we’re really excited about is not only are we a space for people to get stuff done at a mall but we’re now working with some of the mall tenants. As an example, if I book a desk, can I have a coffee, can I have my lunch ready? So we’re able to actually be a generator of activity within the retail environment. How do we become part of the environment in a more meaningful way than just work?

“We think we’re going to be a great strategy for the malls to bring traffic back into them. Remote work is now ingrained. People just need a place outside of the house and they just need to be close and shopping malls just happen to be very close to where people live.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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