167. Mo Hamzian: Everyone Deserves the Best Workplace

There’s a lot of speculation about the future of work — what form it will take, where it will be done, and who will do it (including the robots versus humans debate). We talk to Mo Hamzian, an entrepreneur who is not only theorizing about the future of work, but building newly imagined workspaces that combine spatial design with technology and custom services, making elite workspaces available to everyone.

Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights

Entrepreneurship is now both an economic and societal trend, opening up business opportunities of its own.

Entrepreneurship is now, as our guest Mo Hamzian styles it, “a thing”. It’s in the forefront of culture, it’s always in the news, it’s a lifestyle choice as well as a business choice, it’s a career, it’s a source of new heroes for our time.

  • Institutions of entrepreneurship are growing: schools are teaching entrepreneurship, media are covering entrepreneurship, technology is supporting entrepreneurship.
  • Standards are emerging: tools like our own value learning process and 4 Vs value generation model, as well as processes like the Business Model Canvas are becoming standards of the entrepreneurial method.
  • The sharing of entrepreneurial knowledge in a community is expanding via mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs.

As a consequence, we see the emergence of new societal norms.

An entrepreneurial society favors self-reliance over dependency, resourcefulness over entitlement, breakout achievement versus structured conformity, and creativity over formula. Entrepreneurship is understood as a journey that is never completed, and may adaptively follow many diversions in pursuit of evolving goals, rather than a predictable climb up the hierarchical ladder of the corporation. Keep thinking rather than keep climbing.

Even inside the corporation, structure is giving way to small self-organizing teams and corporate procedures are being replaced by adaptiveness and agility.

One of the implications of the growth of entrepreneurship is the trend that gets the name “The Future Of Work”.

Entrepreneurship brings many significant social changes, including flexibility of time and place and methods of work. And the government’s pandemic policies of shutting down office and work spaces and encouraging work-from-home accelerated those changes. Now it is clear, more than ever, that, in the digital age, there is no need whatsoever to commute through grey suburbs on jammed roads or overcrowded trains to get to a dull and depressing cubicle farm just so that you can be in the same building with the other sad souls who are your colleagues.

Cities will empty out, commercial office markets will enter a period of secular decline, and individuals will feel liberated and empowered to do their best work in the physical location and surroundings of their choice.

One way to seize the opportunity represented by the future of work is via real estate itself — repurposed and re-imagined.

Mo Hamzian is an entrepreneur who sees the opportunity in real estate for work where many might see only decline. He looks at it through a different lens, as entrepreneurs do. Can real estate provide the multi-purpose flexibility and adaptiveness required for today’s and tomorrow’s work patterns? It can if looked at creatively.

The creative lens is the customer-first lens: everyone deserves the best workplace.

Business thinking that prioritizes customer sovereignty can often solve the most challenging problems. Mo Hamzian translates the unmet needs of today’s distributed workforce as seeking the best space from which to work — comfortable, well-equipped, good acoustics and conferencing technology, a place that “recognizes you” and your needs.

He developed his ideas, in part, by studying the workspaces of the business elites — the top bankers, tech executives and corporate CEO’s. These are immersive, high tech, high comfort, high style ecosystems you never want to leave. They’re available to a very few. What if they were made available to a much wider audience? This is the way many markets evolve — first, affordable at great expense only for a few, then quickly expanded to a mass audience.

This is the idea behind VEL — Mo Hamzian’s startup to bring elite workspaces to a wide audience of users on demand.

  • Do your best work: the VEL concept is aimed at personal productivity, encouraging the individual to achieve high quality output in a temporary workspace. This implies, of course, some responsibility and commitment on the part of the user.
  • Achieve flow: the ultimate level of individual work is characterized by the feeling of flow — the fulfilment of experiencing how good you are and how much you are improving while doing your work. VEL’s workspace and technology are designed to support flow.
  • Elite environment for everyone: Mo Hamzian’s study of immersive elite workplaces enables designs that bring the same experience to a temporary workspace.
  • Technology: From wi-fi telecommunications and conferencing to (in the future) A.I. and VR and holography, there’s a lot that technology can do to support high quality and high productivity work, and VEL can provide it on demand at variable cost and affordable pricing.
  • Flexible access: customers can rent VEL space and technology by the hour or by the day, in whatever configuration they prefer.
  • Democratization and decentralization: VEL workspaces are available to all, with an aim to distribute them across the country for wide availability, whether urban, suburban, or rural, wherever work can be done.
  • Customization and recognition: Ultimately, the high-tech VEL workspace will recognize the individual when they walk in and configure to their customized set of needs.

The VEL concept removes frictions and barriers that might otherwise stand in the way of the future of work and the future of distributed entrepreneurship.

As we advance towards a more entrepreneurial future across the entire business landscape, from big corporations operated by flexible, agile teams to individual practitioners, gig workers and small, highly specialized and highly networked companies, concepts like VEL will be an important part of the enabling infrastructure.

Additional Resources

Mo’s LinkedIn page:

Mentioned by Mo as a worthwhile mentoring site:

VEL website:

The Future Of Work? Individuals Mimicking Firms, With Appropriate Access To Capital, Technology And Favored Contractual Relationships.

There’s been a lot of discussion about “The Future Of Work” that worries about technology replacing workers and leaving them beached – unable to earn a wage or a salary because their job has been automated or replaced.

That’s very old-fashioned and out-of-date thinking. It’s so old, it’s what economists call neo-classical. It portrays the firm as a production function that assembles capital goods (technology) and labor and combines them to produce an output. In this equation, labor (jobs) can be substituted by technology.

But today, the neo-classical production function does not exist in many industries, where there are hybrids of digital and physical assets or fully digital industries that exist purely via the exchange and manipulation of data and information flows (think AirBnB and Uber).

Old fashioned economic thinking extends to what the neo-classicists call “the theory of the firm” – what is a firm and why does it exist. This thinking sees the firm as an actor in a market where it operates to maximize profits.

In reality, the firm itself is a market, a tangle of contracts with owners of labor, who might be employees or contractors or suppliers or even customers. The firm can also contract for technology – owning it, renting it, or consuming it in the form of services (utilizing the cloud technology of AWS, for example, or the services of a trucking company for delivery).

Why assume that the AI and bots and productive technologies of the future are a resource only for firms? Inside the firm or outside the firm, technology resources could be owned or controlled by individuals. In fact, it is often the case today that workers in firms own their own technologies in the form of smartphones and tablets. Why couldn’t they own a bot and bring it to work?

There is a tendency – left over from neo-classical times and neo-classical thinking – to privilege the firm as the owner of capital. But there is no need to maintain that privilege today. The boundary between firms as capital owners and workers as capital users is dissolving.

Professor Irene Ng points to the new pathway as workers mimicking firms. They might be set up as an owner-operated contractor, or an independent consulting firm or a start-up, often using digital platforms and benefitting from the lower co-ordination costs they bring.

Mimicking a firm gives a worker new privileges:

the ability to solicit capital, acquire technology and contract further labor or assistance – all resources that are set within a legal framework and an institutional structure that accord a multitude of benefits, but also encompass risks.

Mimicking Firms: Future Of Work And Theory Of The Firm In A Digital Age; Irene Ng; Journal Of Creating Value.

Workers can be entrepreneurs and contractors, with business contracts as well as contracts in wages, and should be able to choose the contract that best suits their preferences. They should be able to acquire capital, debt and technology as they improve and enhance their human capital and social capital. This “hybrid actor”, as Professor Ng terms it, can be both firm-like and labor-like, especially in acquiring the resources generated by technology. Corporations can contract with both the individuals and their technology.

Call it the gig economy, or call it new entrepreneurialism; in any case it is the opening for individuals to acquire the resources necessary to position themselves to benefit from technology, rather than be displaced by it in the pessimistic fear mongering of the neo-classical interpreters of the future of work.

The future focus is more on the ownership structure of the firm and the nested relationships of internal and external markets for labor and technology. The innovative thinking will emanate from individuals – the workers who transform themselves into technology owners and capitalists-for-hire – and not from economists.