Staying in the MOWTEL: A retrospective with Ilia Sedelkin.

by Timothy Shipp –

Mowtel Room2

Co-living space, the MOW model of work, and a look-back at SLUSH.

In case you missed it, MOW turned office space into accommodation for SLUSH, Helsinki’s renowned tech & start-up conference.  Rooms were offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and quickly booked by guests from Russia and Lithuania.  I caught up with Ilia Sedelkin, CEO of MIR-VR, who stayed with us in the experimental co-living quarters of our MOWTEL for SLUSH, to talk about the experience.

When I talked to Ilia, I wanted to know how it felt to sleep in a bustling co-working space, where the line between work and other life is blurred more deeply than normal.

In a place like MOW, resource sharing and cooperation define work and entrepreneurship, making access to otherwise costly services and intangibles easier to obtain.  This is one of many good arguments for co-working.  The same is true for co-living, but is blending co-working and co-living space really a good idea?

On a space voyager this is a requirement, so we didn’t have any qualms trying it.  Here on spaceship Earth, though, we often want a bigger than necessary break between our working and our living space.

Of course, if there’s an archetype for the kind of person who wouldn’t think twice about booking a room in the MOWTEL and trying something new or different, it would have to be the travelling start-up entrepreneur.

Ilia is the CEO of MIR-VR, a company that builds virtual reality amusement parks in St. Petersburg.  He co-founded the virtual reality company with his partner almost two years ago, and already owns and operates eight locations there.  

This year was MIR-VR’s second appearance at SLUSH and when I asked Ilia what prompted them to stay at the MOWTEL, he responded:

“The concept intrigued us enough to book it immediately, without thinking about it too much, though we truly had no idea what to expect.”

What follows is an abbreviated version of our conversation.

So, did anything surprise you about the experience?

“To tell the truth, staying at the MOWTEL turned out to be very different from what I was expecting, in all the best ways. The best part of it all, for me, turned out to be the way we were welcomed. On the first evening (Friday) I spent some time with some of the tenants and members of staff, and it instantly made me feel a part of a large community and right at home.”

Is it totally worth it to come all this way for SLUSH?

“Besides networking, I came here to get an idea about what is happening in the tech community and get some inspiration, and the event delivered. Having said that, talking about inspiration for me, as the leader of a team . . . what struck me perhaps the most was the way members of the MOW team are driven.”

Can you tell me more about that?

“There is such a culture of personal involvement in the process of pursuing a common goal [at MOW], that talking with them about their purpose and motivation was one of the strongest impressions of the trip for me.”

How did you feel about mixing habitation with workspace? Like, if the future of work is mobile, is this a good thing for people like yourself?  And do you think it is something for everyone?

“I have read about the concept of co-living, where people get access to better quality facilities (e.g. kitchen, cinema, study) by sharing them with others. In my opinion, adding workspace to the mix makes it great for a productive short- or medium-term stay. And if you are just passing by during the weekend, you are getting so much more than any average hotel or apartment could offer.”

Anything particularly inspiring about it?

“The way people from all over the world positively coexist at MOW was to me a glimpse into where we should be going as a global society.”

Would you do it again? Over, say, a hotel? Why or why not?

“Most definitely, among other reasons just to see how the MOW team is doing.”

Anything you want to add?

“Thanks for the conversation, and keep up the good work!”

Thanks, Ilia!