Startup founders that overlook co-working spaces that aren’t ‘geographically desirable’ might miss out on the ideal work environment, according to Liz Elam, the founder of Link Coworking in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Brad Krauskopf, CEO and Founder of Hub Australia, believes regional and suburban co-working spaces will eventually become the norm.
The two co-working providers spoke to Dynamic Business ahead of their appearances at this week’s Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) in Melbourne, which Elam is the executive producer of. The two-day event includes tours of co-working spaces across Melbourne on Thursday, 25 August, plus a program of speakers at Hub Southern Cross, 696 Bourke Street, Melbourne, on Friday, 25 August. Topics being covered by the lineup of local and international speakers include the future of work, next level community building; co-working trends, how to create “serendipitous encounters” in the workplace and new revenue streams.
According to Krauskopf, an obvious benefit of co-working spaces is that startup founders can “remove the logistics of real estate from the equation” and thus focus on what is important for their business; however, the ‘real value’ of operating out of these environments is generated by being part of a community and forging strategic relationships with other businesses: “Clustering together enables startups to ‘punch above their weight’, not just locally but on a global scale.”
Elam added, “People in co-working spaces are happier, better networked and more productive and, while we don’t have the data on it, I would submit that businesses that work out of co-working spaces are more likely to thrive. We know their people do!”
Krauskopf advised budding startup founders to “stop working from the kitchen table as soon as resources allow” and bring their business into an environment that cultivates business growth, “like a co-working space”. To help founders select – and get the most out of – a co-working space, Krauskopf offered the following pointers:
- Choose a co-working space that…
- reflects the culture you want to foster in your business
- affords the people who work for you flexibility, with a view to attracting and retaining the brightest staff.
- offers value beyond the desk such as events programming as well as learning and social opportunities
- Play an active role in your co-working community – “At Hub Australia, half of our members collaborate and work with their fellow members, in some cases the entire business’ client base is other Hub Australia members. Being involved in the co-working community can bring business opportunities, collaboration and drive creativity.”
- Understand that different co-working spaces may be needed at different stages of your business journey – “You might need to code hard right now, which means you pick one co-working space over another. Or, you might actually need to do solid meetings and try to attract new clients, which means you choose a completely different co-working space.”
Building on Krauskopf’s advice, Elam recommended people “tour all the spaces that are geographically desirable PLUS a few that aren’t”. She explained, “they might be worth the commute but you won’t know unless you explore. There are lots of flavours of co-working – try a bunch and see what resonates with you”.
She added that most co-working spaces offer a dedicated desk or office space, meaning startup founders – in seeking to determine what is best for their business – should consider finer details such as access hours, parking, mail delivery, physical and online security, and especially the local community and member events programming: “businesses are realising the importance of a connected community where serendipitous encounters can lead to business opportunities”.
Asked whether co-working spaces can continue to be advantageous for businesses once they’ve out-grown the startup phase, Krauskopf said ‘yes’, explaining: “co-working has begun to be viewed as a long-term option, rather than a stepping stone”. He added, “One of the key trends I’ve seen is bigger spaces that can cater to companies at any stage of their growth. There’s a real opportunity in co-working – Australia and globally – for businesses with teams sized between 10 – 100”.
Elam agreed, noting co-working spaces aren’t just the domains of startups: “We are seeing the demand for team rooms and corporations coming into co-working, which is also currently a key trend in Australia”.
As the co-working sector becomes more crowded, Elam said providers will need to continue diversifying their services to remain competitive. Meanwhile, Krauskopf speculated that more regional and suburban co-working spaces would become a norm in the future: “This might be a slow burn, but it will happen”.