Airbnb, hotels, and subleases may be fine for some, but there’s an emerging group of freelancers & travelers who are looking for something different that supports their passion for connection and experiences. PodShare posits an intriguing alternative with a one-of-a-kind “collaborative live/work community,” located in Los Angeles.
Meet Alice and Frank. They’re social creatures who enjoy exploring new locales and are moving to LA around the same time. Alice is a budding social media manager from Kansas, while Frank is a filmmaker, in town for a 3-month project. Both are searching for temporary housing that suits their respective lifestyle and budget, but what exactly fits the bill?
Alice and Frank are fictional characters, but their plight is very much real. According to Rent Jungle, the average monthly cost for a one-bedroom apartment in LA is $2301 and $3024 for a two-bedroom condo. Factor in food, utilities, internet, etc., and you’re looking at a rather depressing figure. The cost of a hotel, Airbnb or sublet can be prohibitively expensive as well.
So, apart from the monotony and expense of being cooped up in a stale hotel room or costly sublet, is there a viable alternative? Enter PodShare.
Transforming Commercial Spaces into Sustainable Environments
The concept is simple: take vacant commercial property and convert it into vibrant coliving/coworking spaces—accessible to all—where everyone shares the experience.
Implementing a modular pod design, each pod provides a cozy bed, television, USB charging ports, storage space, LED night light, lap computer pad and even a chalkboard to share your name. Other amenities include a well-stocked community kitchen, bathroom/shower facilities with included toiletries, computers, sound booth, video games, bicycles, lounge areas, laundry machines, WIFI, lockers, green room, workspaces and more.
Currently comprised of three locations, the startup intentionally repurposes commercial spaces, and not residential zones, to create sustainable environments. There is an abundant supply of disused properties just sitting throughout Los Angeles, affording PodShare the opportunity to readapt buildings into friendly and fun communities.
Elvina Beck, founder of PodShare, frowns upon “home-sharing type of profiteering.” She feels that it isn’t right to take SROs (single room occupancy) or affordable housing off the market. Mixed-use and commercial properties, in her mind, are much more appropriate spaces to utilize.
This concept is definitely not limited to Los Angeles. Through proper planning, PodShare could be replicated in any given urban area. With all the vacant spaces in the world, this company has potentially devised a highly scalable business model.
Don’t be mistaken—this isn’t mom and dad’s hostel of yesteryear; it’s a live/work community tailored for the 21st century.
As the site proclaims, “We want access points across the city. A social network with physical addresses. Instead of one building with 100 beds, we want 100 pods across the city with access to co-working tables, DIY hardware and software, shared kitchens, charging station, power naps and a friendly community of Podestrians!”
Combining the amenities of a hotel/Airbnb and the sociability of a co-op, PodShare is the best of both worlds, enabling a convenient and congenial environment.
The community is membership-based. Members—known as Podestrians—purchase passes, allowing them access to all PodShare locations during their stay.
Currently, there are 3 locations: “Hollywood,” offering 3 pods for $50/night plus coworking for $15/day; “DTLA Arts District,” offering 18 pods for $50/night; and “Los Feliz,” offering 10 pods for $40/night. Membership instills a sense of responsibility and connection to the community, as opposed to being just another nameless person passing through town.
People from all walks of life can be found mingling, coworking, sharing meals and enjoying impromptu performances. Of course, socializing is encouraged but not forced upon. If you’re not a particularly extroverted soul, this may not be your cup of tea, but if you love being around people, PodShare might be just right for you.
PodShare currently hosts 3 main types of members: travelers, transitioners and temps. Today’s travelers live by a different ethos, exploring the globe with the intention of “social travel”—instantly connected through blogs, videos, travel experts, and up-to-the-minute recommendations via social media. Transitioners are newcomers, like our fictional character Alice, who are “moving to LA with no friend’s couch to crash on” and want to get acclimated to the city. Last but not least, temps are those who come for film-related and summer work and need an affordable, pleasant place to “pass out” at night.
Along with the coliving amenities, coworking areas (both pods and worktables) deliver ample room to edit vlogs/photos/articles, work on a group project or run a Skype conference call. Whether you’re looking to socialize, nap, collaborate, or just recharge your battery (figuratively and literally), the community offers versatility in spades.
Podestrians are granted a unique experience here, something not found in typical temporary housing. They feel appreciated and invested, happy to add to the social fabric of the community through conversation, collaborative work, performances, cooking and other shared experiences.
“I hadn’t expected much when I first booked PodShare while traveling to LA, but as soon as I reached the place, I was totally surprised. I arrived on Thanksgiving Day, and this was my first Thanksgiving in the US. PodShare had organized a dinner with all the members of the community. There were people from all across the world getting an authentic American Thanksgiving experience. We had turkey, cakes, drinks and all sorts of other food, which everyone brought with lots of love. They made my first Thanksgiving a memorable one,” said Niloy Jain, a member from India, who stayed during his 4-month trip through Central America.
Social Network with Physical Addresses
Elvina Beck and her team have conceived a modern take on temporary housing in urban areas, balancing a “social network” approach with a sustainable spin.
“The future is ‘access not ownership’ so we are establishing ‘access points’ across the city to allow members to lay their head, pull up a chair, meet other Podestrians, charge devices, use the community kitchen, showers, lockers, laundry and WIFI,” as stated on the site.
“Millennials don’t own a gym at home, they buy a membership. We don’t subscribe to cable television; we watch Netflix. We don’t buy CDs; we stream music. American car sales are on the decline because we Lyft or Uber. We can rent a bicycle, get a degree online, have our meals delivered to us, and document our entire lives on social media. We make decisions based on trust (reviews) + value (location) + price point (affordable).”
According to their Facebook page, the community is “a collaborative live/work community across urban cities.” Connectivity is a key component. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of los Angeles, but here, you will find like-minded, friendly people with whom to connect and share, just like social media but IRL.
After choosing a main location, or hub, members can freely bounce between PodShare spots, taking advantage of the unique qualities of each space.
Kirsten Dirksen, a popular YouTube filmmaker, showcases Beck’s vision in the video, “LA Coliving: PodShare’s Permeable Intersection Between Social/Privacy.”
Building trust and bolstering social interaction, also known as “collisions,” is paramount here. According to Beck, this promotes a safe and engaging environment.
Another strategy that reinforces this approach is the use of member profiles. Upon booking/arrival, every Podestrian is assigned a number and profile. Along with future benefits—including discounts and first dibs on certain pods—this “time capsule” helps to catalogue all members and maintain records of their behavior and reputation.
A team member lives in the community, creating a system of oversight, and there’s also a standard of cleanliness present—both of which are lacking in other types of temporary housing.
“We call it ‘safe, sane, and social,’” states Elvina Beck. This provides a source of accountability. As a result, members feel perfectly comfortable leaving laptops and other personal property out in plain view.
PodShare as the Embodiment of its Founder
Elvina Beck is a Russian immigrant whose family was welcomed with open arms by their adoptive community. This has left a lasting impression on her—something she has carried into her work.
PodShare is a structural manifestation of Elvina Beck’s spirit: open, friendly and brimming with positive energy and excitement. You are instantly enveloped by her infectious enthusiasm. This is a person who enjoys the company of others, and this permeates throughout the community.
Through entrepreneurial savvy and ingenuity, she has built a community that embodies her affinity for people and shared experiences. She believes, through coliving and coworking, members benefit more so than by living alone. “Studies will show you that we’re happier in groups than solo,” says Beck.
Prioritizing in the Freelance Economy
“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – Unknown Author
People want experiences. The compulsion for material fulfillment has been waning, and many have begun embracing a more sustainable, enriching way of life.
Disillusioned by materialism, folks are seeking ways to genuinely connect with others, creating lasting memories and breaking ties with the untenable “take, make, consume and dispose” model by paring down to the essentials and prioritizing what really matters to them.
Consequently, a lot of people are ditching 9-to-5 jobs. The freelance economy has emerged as an attractive model, enabling participants to live life to the fullest. Coupled with an increased interest in the minimalist lifestyle and sharing/circular approach, PodShare offers an intriguing alternative to the norm.
“Welcome to the Rise of the Freelance Economy,” states the company’s site.
So far, over 4,000 Podestrians have partaken in the PodShare experience. About two-thirds stay for 3 or more nights, with a ceiling of about 3 months. The company is in the process of expansion and sees an opportunity for successful scalability. According to PodShare, “the future is access and not ownership” and believes it has found an answer for the Alices and Franks of the world.