The Seattle startup scene is continuing to heat up,as co-working companies such as WeWork are becoming hubs of startup activity. Tracy Aiken, the General Manager at Galvanize Seattle sat down with me to discuss collaboration, innovation, and how co-working spaces can help and sometimes hurt start-ups seeking out a boost in their innovative practices. (Disclaimer: My company is currently located at Galvanize)

The Benefits

The big benefits, as Aiken discussed, largely stem from being in close proximity to other like minded people. People working in co-working spaces are often empathetic to what you're dealing with and approachable to network and speak with. Whether it's planned events that occur frequently in co-working spaces, or being in close proximity to resources like lawyers and investors. It's much easier to gather the help you need, if you're huddled together in a space engineered and designed for creativity, collaboration, and productivity.

Take Away

Consider the areas of your business most critical to its success, along with future needs your company will have. If you're a direct-to-consumer company with a brick and mortar location, customer traffic is of course the most important thing. However, if you're a tech company, recruits and administrative services may be more important than proximity to customer hubs. "You want to be a part of a learning community where you can continue to level up your own skills/experiences and grow companies together," Aiken says. 

The Downsides

Although setting up shop in a more collaborative environment can be beneficial, it also has its downsides, specifically if you're in close proximity to potential competitors, or you find it easier to focus in a more quiet environment. "We are a community, so we connect often and socialize. Each startup has to prioritize their time to minimize the distractions," Aiken says. 

Take Away

Consider your working style, and find an environment that's going to support the way in which you work vs trying to force yourself and your team into a space you feel is best for the company.

Try Co-locating With Students

Unlike some co-working spaces that focus just on work spaces, Galvanize has focused on incorporating education problems into their business model to encourage co-habitation between students and companies. By doing this, recruiting has been a major bonus for companies while students get firsthand experience being in the same physical space.

Take Away

Focusing on working spaces near universities, or even spending time on a college campus can offer similar benefits, as the focus for any founder needs to be on both upcoming talent and keeping a pulse on what's current.

Best Practices for Staying Creative In a Co-working Space

Even if you love the collaborative environment that co-working spaces offer, from time to time you are going to hit a creative wall or feel drained. It's important to get fresh air, walk around, or mix up where you work every week.

You should also a"Venn diagram" of your skills and the skills on your team shows where there are complementary skills and abilities, but also gaps where you could use help. If you find yourself in a jam, consult your "Venn diagram" and see what complementary skills or abilities the people around you have..

"Create a diverse team with different experiences. Difference experience and skills will broaden the team's perspective"

Take Away

Diversity on your team isn't just good from a social good standpoint, but can add experiences and perspectives that can help you solve most any problem. Encourage discussion, and differing perspectives can help you detect blind spots in your own thinking but can also help the team see truths in perspectives that would otherwise get missed.

In Summary

Co-working spaces can be great environments for collaboration, recruiting, and different perspectives on innovation or creativity challenges. However, there are drawbacks to consider as well. Start by thinking about what would help your business thrive, based on the needs of the company, then make a decision from there.

Regardless of your decision, creativity and innovation are essential for any start-up. Because of that, incorporating diversity of thinking on your teams is essential. Along with that, providing resources to collaborate with people outside your company is equally important to building a healthy company for the long term.