When you think coworking spaces, you're probably thinking city hubs, ping pong tables, 24 hour pitch sessions - rows and rows of workstations, break out rooms and funky furniture. According to Coworkingmap.org there are 985 coworking spaces in 587 cities across 87 countries with 46,777 chairs available.
At 365cups, almost everyday we had people walking in wanting to tell us about their "App" ideas. It was obvious that our office was a place where people could share ideas, but how could we help them turn those ideas into reality? Instead of fumbling their way through like we did we realized we could now point these people to services that could guide them in taking the next steps and we could be cheering and supporting them along the way.
Before I knew it, my coworking space Working Spaces HQ in Wagga Wagga, Australia was full; populated mostly by people outside my existing network, I soon discovered that people came for the space but found that the real value was in the people within the space. The people who populate the coworking space are the IP - a collective of ideas that inspire and drive innovation and give life to the network effect. When people have ideas and see other people in action with their "ideas" it demystifies the entrepreneur/startup journey - anyone can be an entrepreneur and anyone with an idea can "startup" .
Here are a few things to consider when designing a people centric co-working space:
1. The landlord. A coworking space isn't a traditional 9-5, Monday to Friday, bricks and mortar space. If your landlord is engaged with your vision, especially if you are converting an old unused space, that support will go a long way. A real estate agent may struggle to understand the vision but if the landlord is on board, the real estate has no say.
2. The people. Do you want anyone in the space or just tech startups? The vision of the space will determine that you attract and get the right people in the space. This is really important to consider in making the space viable; if you just want creatives or tech startups yet your location isn't bustling with that crowd, it will be hard to fill the space.
3. The location. Most coworking spaces are positioned in unique locations and not always in central business districts or even in metro/city areas. This is because the opportunity in an unused building can encourage the blank canvas approach which suits a co-working space. No fancy makeover needed, just powers, desks, internet and GO!
4. The architect. An hour consultation with an architect is the best money I have ever spent. Understanding the dynamics of people's work space, people's personal space, the flow of building, acoustics and colour schemes will allow you to design a space where people not only want to work from, but come back to again and again.
5. The coffee. Don't just get a pod machine, go to your local roaster and book a cupping session and design your own blend. A signature blend of coffee in your coffee machine will help on those long days and early starts and is the perfect swag to give away in goodie bags.
The benefits of starting a coworking space are numerous but the people you will meet are priceless. Most coworking spaces have open days and after hour functions which allow you to see the space and its potential before you sign up as a member. The best thing about coworking spaces is the agility and flexibility to use what you need and pay for what you use. If you have your eye on some space that would be the perfect coworking space, reach out to the landlord and run the concept past them. All you need is people, power and internet to make it work - start with what you have and build it up.
Simone Eyles is the founder and director of Working Spaces HQ and 365cups. She is passionate about boosting regional Australia through disruptive technology and supporting other start-ups. Working Spaces HQ is an environment that fosters entrepreneurship and economic development in the Wagga Wagga region by providing a co-working space and professional development programs and work opportunities to ensure members get the leg-up they need. Simone is on a mission to see 100 startups by 2020 supported by Working Spaces HQ.