OurPlace is community
Founder of Alaïa, the first indoor and outdoor action sports centers in Switzerland.
Coworking is a community story. After talking about the concept behind of OurPlace, it is now time to introduce, little by little, the heart of OurPlace: our members. Who are they, what are they doing, how are they innovating are some of the questions we’ve been asking them.
To start the year off, let’s talk about sports, more precisely riding sports with Adam Bonvin, President of Alaïa – the first indoor and outdoor sports centers in Switzerland. Together, we discussed about his company, his vision and of course, about OurPlace and OurCommunity.
Are you ready for an inspirational ride?
Hi Adam, can you tell us a little more about Alaïa?
Alaïa was born 3 years ago with the idea of making action sports in Switzerland more accessible. I had the idea of creating an artificial pool for surfing because I really wanted to try one and there were none in Switzerland. I talked with two friends of mine who are more into skateboarding and snowboarding and we realized that in Switzerland there is a real lack of infrastructure for action sports. Those sports which have become Olympic sports have gained big notoriety over the last decade. I got inspired by a concept called Woodward in the United States. Existing for more than 40 years now that it they started with sports such as gym and went to skateboarding. In Europe, this kind of concept does not really exist so we decided to make it happen.
The name Alaïa comes from the first surfboards that were made in Hawaii. The idea for us is to improve the image of other action sports along surfing. If you look at surfing it is the ultimate sport in action sports. Whether you’re a climber, snowboarder or skateboarder you want to try surfing but a surfer may not want to do these other sports. Surfing also has a better image. Parents would prefer their son to become a professional surfer rather than a professional skateboarder or freestyle skier. We want to use the positive aura of surfing and its image to show that the other action sports are also Olympic sports, with federations where people train professionally.
We worked on two concepts:
The first is the Alaïa Chalet located in Cran Montana and will open in a few days from now. It is an action sports center where you can find big air trampolines, foam tub, indoor and outdoor skateparks. The idea behind Alaïa Chalet is to create a hub of art and sport. There are several multipurpose rooms on site with a music studio, a media room where young people are taught how to film themselves and edit their videos. We developed this idea after realizing that these young people share the same universe but they do not have the same objectives or the same desires in this universe. In these groups, there is always one who is more talented for movies, one who is more music oriented and then one who is more head-burned, who will really break into the sport and try to reach a high level. We have created a meeting place where all these people can meet and progress in their respective fields.
The second concept is Alaïa Bay, which is based in Sion and will open in July 2020. It is an artificial surf wave with a swimming pool of 100 meters long. Accessibility to the site will be guaranteed all year round. The pool is temperate so it does not freeze. In winter it will be colder than the rest of the season but it won’t stop people from using it. During the high season people might use more the Chalet than the Bay. There may be fewer beginners during this period but for seasoned skiers it will also be a great opportunity to ski and surf the same day. And that’s pretty rare in the world. We really bet on that. With a good combination of skiing or surfing you can now practice all year round.
In Switzerland, 40,000 surfers leave each year and a good part of them go during the winter in France or Italy. Surfing is the only sport we miss in Switzerland. We can do everything except that. Our idea is to bring the waves to Switzerland. When we talk about the project to people, we really see that it touches them. We create a happiness machine in fact, it’s difficult to come out of a wave without a smile.
Switzerland is also a very active country, in the top 5 of the most sporting countries in the world. There are more than 2 million people in Switzerland who practice action sports. The idea is also to facilitate access to action sports for the youngest. When their parent ask them “do you want to go to a skiing camp, a basketball camp or a football camp” we want to widen their choices by bringing boardsports like skateboarding in a supervised context, so the child can learn with professionals.
Alaïa was conceived with the idea that any level of athletes can progress on our sites, from beginners to professionals. We focus on quality rather than volume. In Cran Montana, for example, we are aiming at 30,000 entries per year (when we could do 50,000) and in Sion, as it is a bigger site we are aiming for 200,000 entries over the year with 120,000 surf sessions and 80,000 other related activities. The idea here is to raise the level of sport in Switzerland, thanks to our coaches and on-site experts who help people to progress. It’s not just a gym where you pay for it and you’re on your own.
You are President of Alaïa, you tell us a little of a typical day?
My role in Alaïa is to develop projects which means finding partners, finding places where we can carry out these projects, developing the concept both in terms of interior design and infrastructure. I also find the companies that can help us to build these sites.
I am also in charge of the more “political” side – land approval, building permit, press, etc. I push the bar in the right direction but I also have a team (9 people) who manages the vision at 6 months whereas on my side I look rather at 1 or 2 years.
I don’t really have a typical day, which is really interesting. Sometimes I’m in Cran Montana all week long or maybe abroad to meet our wave suppliers, etc. Rather than typical days, I have missions. I test the sites to develop others in the future. The idea in the long term is to develop the concept in other cities in Switzerland and Europe. We have the will to export, to study the trend in terms of sports and to propose sites that meet the needs of each place.
You are part of the coworking community of OurPlace, what did you like in their concept?
They have a slightly more Swiss approach to coworking. I am lucky to be able to visit a lot of coworking spaces in the world, many of them are used by freelancers, nomads – people who do not really have a place of attachment.
OurPlace has really understood the Swiss ideology and bring to the market a place that is more in like a cocoon. We, Swiss, prefer to have our office to work and then have places to share or we can meet other people.
What does OurPlace bring to Alaïa according to you?
Flexibility. Our business philosophy is dynamic. Our team is super independent and can work from anywhere. We focus on the result / objective to be accomplished.
It’s being part of a family.
As Cran Montana is not far away, my team ski in the morning and use OurPlace in the afternoon with the option of staying late at night. Having OurPlace close, allows us to change atmosphere easily and to meet new people and to take inspiration.
And what does Alaïa bring to the OurPlace community?
The sportier side and the rider community. We have a truly non-traditional approach to a workspace. We bring our freshness. A real asset for OurPlace to combine people from the world of sports with startups – two very different worlds.
Our offices also have a mini coworking, which means that the OurPlace community can also organize retreats in the mountains, ski in the morning, work in the afternoon for example. We also develop housing offers to offer OurPlace members the opportunity to come as a team on our site.
Complete the sentence … Being part of the OurPlace community is …