019: Nik Caner-Medley: Improving How We Work and Play – Mindfully

Podcast Replay

What do International Pro Basketball and Community Business Building have in common?  Nik Caner-Medley.

You may know Nik Caner-Medley as a former star basketball player at Deering High School or the University of Maryland. Most recently, he has signed a 2-year contract with Movistar Estudiantes in Madrid Spain. What you may not know, is that Nik is a business and community-builder in Portland, Maine.

We recorded this show in the Boardroom at Cloudport Coworking Multi-space, while Nik is here for the summer. He is the owner and developer.

Co-working and multi-space environments have captured my attention as a business owner in recent years. The opportunities for greater collaboration in the community and improved blending of work and life are tremendous and inspiring.  

In more than 20 years of office-working, this has been the most supportive and motivating environment I have experienced. There are better ways of working and I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Learn more at Cloudport.

(Edited Transcript)ERH:

ERH:  We recorded today’s show in the boardroom at Cloudport Co-working Multi-space in Portland, Maine while Nick is here for the summer. Co-working and multi-space environments have captured my attention as a business owner. The opportunities for greater collaboration in the community and improved blending of work and life are tremendous and inspiring. I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Some of you may recognize Nik as a star basketball player at Deering High, or from the University of Maryland. He has been a pro basketball player abroad for several years and recently signed a two-year contract to play at Movistar Estudiantes in Madrid, Spain. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.

Today, we are focused on Nik’s other passion: building community and better places to work. Welcome!

Nik Caner-Medley:  Thank you very much for having me. Yes, I’m very passionate about Cloudport. As my career as a basketball player has gone on, I am starting to prepare myself for life after basketball, and more than anything find things that I’m passionate about outside basketball. It’s been something that has occupied my time since I was five or six years old.

ERH:  Basketball?

Nik Caner-Medley:  Yes, basketball. You know, traveling, playing A.U. and then high school and college and as a pro all over the world. I started four or five years ago to do some things in real estate, real estate development ventures. And then, through my travels, came across co-working and shared office workspaces. I found it very interesting and very useful for me also when I was traveling; having a place to work and network and meet people from all over the world, and English-speaking people, when I’m not in a country that speaks English predominantly. For example, when I was in Kazakhstan.

 [Through that experience] I became interested in the model of shared workspace, the collaboration, and the ability to network. There are a lot of parallels to my career [when you compare] a start-up player, you know, a rookie, which is similar to businesses; start-ups, rookies. And having mentors and experienced professionals that were older than me, showing me the ropes; they showed me the way that they found success as an athlete. And I’ve found those parallels with workplaces because there are different business ventures throughout a place like Cloudport. There are parallels of people starting businesses and trying to find success and working through the logistics of building a business. And it’s similar [to how you grow] as an athlete, you find the little things that you can do to improve not only your business but yourself as a leader or as a co-worker, or just your mind and your body as a person throughout that process.

There are many parts of the [co-working] model I have found myself becoming passionate about. Being able to have Cloudport be a platform of that here in the community I grew up in, and bringing a form of this model to Portland, is something I’m really excited about. It’s exciting to find a passion outside of basketball. 

ERH: And what about that experience in Kazakhstan? Tell me what it was like when you walked into that space.

Nik Caner-Medley:  It was really surprising, first and foremost, because Kazakhstan has the infrastructure of a city in Astana, it was built in the late ’90s, so it’s a very new looking city, picture Vegas-, Dubai-looking place built in the middle of the desert. Getting there and seeing that was very surprising in and of itself.

I went to a mall and I had already started to form this model a little bit because I’d seen other spaces throughout Spain and other parts of Europe, and in the States.  My mom and fiancée said, “Nik, there’s a coworking place.” I wasn’t too excited about it initially and figured it would be relatively basic in terms of what I’d already seen. [Then,] I went to this space, walked in, and was awe-struck by how big it was; it was over 30,000 square feet…

ERH:  Wow.

Nik Caner-Medley:  On one floor. And the variety of things that were going on, the shared work kind of floating memberships, the offices, the meeting rooms, a party room, a theater, a bar, and restaurant. Just so many different elements of a business workplace that kind of was a light bulb to me.  A multi-space model that not only [addresses] the business elements of your day as a businessperson, but also the social elements and things that can improve your lifestyle: yoga, mindfulness, things like taking a break. Just little things that people can learn as business people to improve.

 It was very surprising and inspirational.  It was part of the many pieces that I’ve taken from experiences that I’ve had in other places and tried to slowly implement into Cloudport.

ERH: [There’s something special about the community here and the incubator that you talked about.] How did you come about creating partnerships with Venture Hall, who runs Maine Startup and Create Week, and the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, as you were building this model? As a business owner, I find those to be incredible resources [right in this space every day].

Nik Caner-Medley:  Absolutely. I wanted to reach out in the demographic to major players involved with building business and creating opportunity and resources for startups, to set the tone for exactly what Cloudport is going to be about. I wanted to build partnerships and create an environment with companies like Venture Hall and MCED that give people resources like you said. I wanted to set an interactive tone here.

ERH:  That’s excellent. Now, what about bringing the community in?

Nik Caner-Medley:  Very important for me personally, because I’m from Portland and it’s home for me. I love the community; it’s a community that helped raise me and was a huge part of my identity, and still is. It’s such a cool, vibrant community of startups and artists, and the food culture here is great.  I see Portland growing and flourishing in a lot of ways economically …

We’ve just scratched the surface. [We want to} be a hub as we grow, and to really have a community inside of a bigger community here.  We build outreach and affect the community. These models are all over the country have helped the economic landscape of other cities. They’re building and growing and helping the economy.  Across the board, whether it’s fin-tech, energy tech, or all sorts of different, dynamic businesses; ultimately, they add to a dynamic community in Portland.

It has been important to use programming at Cloudport to set the tone with the community-building, finding different ways to bring in people that are part of community development, like Venture Hall, and try to have the programming show the way for exactly what we want to do here.

ERH:  Yes, people are working differently today than they ever have in the past, right? With the global economy, and with the ability to work in different locations. What have you seen in that realm? How are people working differently, in your experience?

Nik Caner-Medley:  I think being able to work remotely and connect with people all over the world is something that’s become prevalent. For me, starting Cloudport, I ironically worked remotely doing that. I was in Monaco playing my season as Cloudport opened. I was here for the [build out] and then as soon as the grand opening was here I had to go to training camp.

Working remotely and having the ability to connect with somebody remotely is one of the reasons why these models are growing. Companies are spreading their wings and their roots throughout the country without having to have a corporate office and without the overhead. They can place their employees in a place like Cloudport, and then the business can grow with small teams, and even outgrow spaces like this at some point.  It is an amazing thing when companies can do that.

One of the things that make Portland a hot spot for this type of growth is the overhead, the cost. If you’re starting a business and you have to get locked into a one-year lease, sometimes that’s tough and scary for people. To be able to have the flexibility and the ability to come and go, and the ability to grow at the speed that’s comfortable for you and your budget ultimately is something that I think makes these spaces attractive.

Remote working and being able to move and travel have been a real backbone of my career as an athlete; traveling and being able to use different resources in different communities, that opens doors for networking as well.

ERH: Yes, I’ve found it to be a wonderful way of meeting other people who are doing similar work, or working in a similar manner. I went to an event last year here in Portland that tried to pull together remote workers in the greater Portland community to connect with each other. I was amazed. There were hundreds of people attending the event who all worked from home. You don’t realize how many people are in this situation, so providing a community place for people to work is a gift to them too, right? If they’re able. Your price-point allows people to be in a professional environment even when you’re not really in a place where you can invest in their own office.

Nik Caner-Medley:  Right, absolutely.

ERH: I was also thinking about companies that [could benefit from working in this environment] who may already have an office. For instance, a business banker who mostly works from their own office when they could benefit from being in a community of This is a way of being in your community more intimately; different than attending an event. It doesn’t have to be a month at a time; it can be a day at a time, to actually see what’s going on in your community.

Nik Caner-Medley: Absolutely.

ERH: Is that worth exploring?

Nik Caner-Medley: Yes.  One of the great things about spaces like this is that you’re immediately immersed in a culture and community of like-minded professionals. People that are here for similar reasons, maybe not the same business, but they’re growth-oriented. They’re trying to improve their business, or maybe they are just here to improve their relationships.

This is a place you can go as a business person and meet people that are at least in the same arena of what you have going on in your life. With other options in your local community, that may not be the case.

ERH: In the past, I’ve noticed that a lot of us were working at coffee shops, and that’s another place where organically a lot of relationships were happening and still happen today.

Nik Caner-Medley:  Absolutely.

ERH: I think coffee shops will always be an important, vibrant part of our community. The difference that I see in this model is that you are building community and providing these businesses with other important resources, like concierge services.

Nik Caner-Medley:  Absolutely.

ERH:  Nik, if you look forward five years, where do you see yourself? What would this model, or where we work, look like?

Nik Caner-Medley:  Well, with this model, I use the word “hub” as a place where we have a number of different things going on in a campus environment. It would include programming like our partnership with Venture Hall. We want to have more space for their accelerator programs. We want to start partnerships with local universities and businesses, for some of their people to work remotely, and for universities to be able to offer their programming here.

I see us, five years from now, with multiple locations, a hub environment, that’s grown and expanded off this location in Portland. Whether it’s a block from here, whether it’s exactly right here, where we allow our membership base to grow and have more space. The programming has grown, as well as some of our partnerships in the community. Really just grow the multi-space element of the model with different types of revenue streams.

ERH:  I love the idea of partnering with the university. We happen to have a local university here in Portland. In the last couple of years, they have added a community liaison team. Connecting these businesses to education models and to the resources that are coming through the University, I love that thinking.

Nik Caner-Medley: Thank you.

ERH: Before we leave, Nik, tell me something you’re looking forward to this summer.

Nik Caner-Medley:  We talked about how this is home for me. Another thing that I’m very passionate about is a nonprofit that I’ve started called TRU. And it’s an acronym for “Together Reaching Unity” and we do sports, and with basketball specifically right now.  We started the nonprofit to bring the community together, different parts and different classes in the community to play ball. We have an event that we throw each summer called “Summer Slam,” and it’s a free basketball event for kids of all ages. And we offer a classroom-type drill model in the morning, and then we have an all-star game with local players in the afternoon.

ERH: Oh, that’s great.

Nik Caner-Medley: It’s a really, really fun thing that we do and that will be happening the first weekend of August on Saturday.

ERH: I love that. Nik, I am thrilled that Portland is your community, and thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Nik Caner-Medley:  Thank you very much, I appreciate the opportunity.

ERH: You can learn more about Cloudport at cloudportme.com. I hope you learned even one thing to make your workday better. Or something to inspire you to help your team or employees.  BreakTogether.net

If you are interested in introductory mindfulness programs, I have developed a method of introducing these concepts and practices in the workplace called The Power of Two to 10: two minutes to unplug and recharge between tasks, and five to 10 minutes to start your one-on-one meetings or team meetings with higher engagement and better connection.

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