It’s a buzzword so omnipresent that it barely even buzzes anymore: startup. What began as a small movement of home-grown, self-started, desks-in-a-garage businesses hoping to make it big is now a full-fledged industry.
Everyone knows someone who's working around the clock huddled over a laptop, nursing a cup of coffee for hours for the free wi-fi, or turning their living room into business headquarters once their roommates leave for the day. They’re coding in the middle of the night, racing around town to meet with investors, or (fingers crossed) in talks with the likes of Google for a make-it-big acquisition.
For a struggling entrepreneur, the work-from-home life can be convenient, but there’s no doubt that it can be isolating. With no leadership team or human resources department, options are slim when it comes to seeking professional guidance. Guaranteed, Employee #1 spent hours scouring the internet for tips on all things from raising capital and developing an effective business plan to shipping packages and posting requests for interns on Craigslist.
With office rentals in start-up friendly cities such as San Francisco, Palo Alto and NYC topping around $5 per square foot per month, a need for a smarter solution arose…and the coworking space was born. Sharing economy to the rescue!
What’s a coworking space? Let’s back up. In 2005, a new office opened in San Francisco. No, not Twitter. It was called San Francisco Coworking Space and promised to be a place for startups to work and collaborate (and avoid the hassle of asking someone to watch your laptop while you use the coffee shop restroom). From there, the idea took off. Today, there are thousands of coworking spaces across the world. They typically offer a fully-furnished setup of desks, couches, and conference rooms, plus a receptionist, mailing address, copy room, and high-speed internet, topped with goodies like free coffee and beer.
WeWork opened its first coworking venue in Boston in 2010. Their mission: “To create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.” That’s a lot more idealism than you hear at the typical office water cooler.
With 14 locations, from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, WeWork has both nurtured the success of small businesses like Seattle’s Pronto! Cycle Share and hosted remote employees of large corporations like Reddit and Charity: Water. From $45/month for basic access—and upwards from $350/month for a dedicated desk—members access fully-equipped conference rooms and a network of over 20,000 entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners. Plus, to mirror the employee benefit model usually seen at big corporations, members score discounts to a long list of partners, including fancy gym Equinox, The Sill, and ahem, Zipcar.
How does it work? Just ask Angela McCrory, WeWork member and cofounder of Rukkus, a site that offers cheap tickets to millions of events from Taylor Swift concerts to Yankees games. Starting with one desk and three employees, Angela and her team grew to 20 people and graduated to multiple offices in WeWork.
“We were able to stop working in apartments, and it was like night and day,” Angela told us by phone from NYC. “The conference rooms are kept really nicely, there’s internet—you don’t have to worry about anything.”
SEAT ‘N’ GREET
Coworking naysayers assume that one open-space layout with a wide spectrum of activity going on would be distracting. According to Deskmag, which distributes the largest annual coworking survey, 62% of respondents actually reported an improved standard of work since joining, and 68% said they were able to focus better.
Angela agrees, showing that the close proximity is for the better: “You’re sitting right next to someone else and inevitably end up helping each other out.” By hearing the battle stories of more seasoned leaders and sharing advice about scaling up, she was able to take her business to the next level.
SHARING AND CARING
Want an environment where everyone has a shared mission? Head for a venue like Green Spaces, Denver’s socially conscious coworking space. Just across the South Platte river from trendy LoHi, the solar-powered building hosts a variety of companies that are all Certified-Green-eligible. By incorporating the eco state of mind into the building, these small businesses might get access to a more sustainable infrastructure than they could otherwise afford on their own. (Solar panels don’t come cheap.)
For the family-friendly, Durham’s nido offers an on-site Montessori school. With a mission that “adults and children alike thrive when we are engaged in meaningful work,” parents can pair a hectic startup schedule with a (similarly hectic) childcare schedule. Need a break from the chaos? Get some zen at one of the weekly yoga classes or get creative in the craft room.
WORK YOUR LIFE BALANCE
Those deeper in the trenches of starting a business may hope for something closer to home. Move in with Krash, a Cambridge, MA-based co-living network. For a monthly rate of around $2,000, you will score a shared room, stocked kitchen, and included amenities like toiletries and linens in startup-focused housing. Beyond that, Krash arranges for guest speakers, community dinners, and weekend trips. While some of us are working on a better work-life balance—AKA actually going home at night—for these ultra-dedicated visionaries, the co-living trend is taking off. Krash now has eight locations on the East Coast.
HAVING IT ALL
Is the traditional office becoming obsolete? “You get a lot more in a coworking space, as a startup,” says Angela. “When there are only a handful of people, that can still feel incredibly isolated, and that’s what it is to work out of an apartment.” When asked about missing out on conference room birthday celebrations or Office-Space-style humor, she says she feels confident that WeWork has allowed for that, and more.
“It’s been popular with every new person we’ve brought onto the team. It’s been a really positive experience for us.”
Now, Milton, really: Give me back my stapler.