On coworking sustainability, urban workstyles and business model.

I’d like to share these views on coworking, with this presentation to be held in Florence, Italy, on Oct. 15th @Festival della Creatività.

Cowo® is the network of 21 spaces (and counting!) that is spreading around in the country since February 2009.

In particular, what I’d like to discuss is the “business sustainable” model we are trying to leverage, keeping break-even point to zero by exploiting existing spaces.

In other words, we are working on the consideration that opening cw spaces inside existing offices and keeping it very basic is a 100% revenue activity.

Thank you in advance for your attention and comments!

[slideshare id=2197582&doc=cowocarraro-091012081736-phpapp02]

Cowork the Vote: Share Your Election-Day Stories

It’s Election Day in these United States, and our more-than-five-dozen coworking spaces know it. Some have helped prepare, hosting and organizing open-source crowdsource election-monitoring tools. Others are hosting results-watching parties, offering incentives to visitors who have voted, or simply opening for business today.

Launchpad Coworkings mashup of the Obama campaign logo with Coworking
Launchpad Coworking's mashup of the Obama campaign logo with Coworking
  • Williamsburg Coworking, in a Jelly session at the “Change You Want to See” gallery in Brooklyn, New York, hosted a coding party last month, as blogged here, to foster development of the “Vote Report” project mashing up Twitter and Google Maps and creating mobile and web applications to support community-based reporting of election-day problems. They invited other Coworking spaces to be part of a nationwide day of coding parties October 24th.

    fervent coders at Williamsburg Coworking
    fervent coders at Williamsburg Coworking
  • BLANKSPACES in Los Angeles, California is not just hosting a party tonight to watch the returns come in (7-9 PM), it is offering “Free WiFi and a seat at the WorkBar” when you show your “I voted” sticker throughout the day.
  • The People’s Republic of Berkeley Coworking hosted a discussion of the myriad local and state ballot propositions on Sunday.
  • CubeSpace in Portland, Oregon is hosting regular “knitting night” as well as the Ruby Brigade this evening; either could be related to the election or to revolutions in coding, but the connection isn’t obvious.
  • Houston’s Caroline Collective hosted a book-signing Saturday for “One Nation Under Blog,” looking at the intersection of Web 2.0 and politics. The space was slated to host a viewing party for the final Presidential debate, but foul weather intervened.
  • Florida’s second Coworking community, CollabOrlando opened yesterday, in Orlando, Florida.
  • New Work City, which also just opened yesterday, is planning a results-viewing event, although not necessarily in the space (as of last report).
  • Julie Gomoll at Launchpad Coworking in Austin, Texas, while not yet open, has blogged about the connection between the citizen-driven democracy encapsulated in the Obama/Biden campaign and coworking. (she also invited President Obama to come by the space anytime he likes).
  • Seattleites can visit Office Nomads for an election-night viewing party tonight after hours, and bring a cupcake and candle if they like to celebrate the space’s recent first birthday.

As I help get out the vote around Philadelphia today, I’ll be stopping by Independents’ Hall to see if anything democracyesque is happening there. What’s your space doing (other than giving paid staff time off to vote, as required by law)? Are your members engaged in the political process? Please add your stories in the comments. Democracy Begins at Work.

Coworking call for help: Need your programming support on the 24th!

In the past week, I have been working with a group of highly motivated programmers and designers and activists that are looking to solve some of the connecting issues that surround Election Day – to ensure that the Democratic Process is not “overturned”.  But, to make this happen – we need some programming help.  And for that, we have an announcement.

Join web developers, designers, and activists this Friday, October 24th for a nationwide day-long Jam Session to build out a groundbreaking new project called Twitter Vote Report. Inspired by a blog post by techPresident writers Allison Fine and Nancy Scola, volunteers across the country are moving quickly to build a decentralized election monitoring system that will allow voters to use text messages to report incidents of voter suppression, long lines, broken machines, and other disruptions on election day. The Twitter Vote Report site will aggregate the reporting data, represent it in real-time on a dynamic web map, and notify voters, election monitoring groups, and the media, facilitating rapid response by poll workers and activists.


We’re partnering with the Election Protection Coalition, Rock the Vote, League of Young Voters, NPR, and a host of other groups to make this happen. You can help!  Here’s how: 1. Host or attend a jam session on Friday – be sure to list it on the VoteReport wiki, or 2. Join us from the comfort of your home via IRC freenode channel #VoteReport, or 3. If you’re in NY, stop by The Change You Want To See Gallery from 11am to 6pm on Friday to work with the lead development team.

More info below!

Vote Report Project Uses Twitter to Monitor US Elections

Programmers, Designers, and Activists Team Up at Nationwide Parties Friday to Build System for Real-Time Reporting of Voter Suppression Incidents

WHAT: Volunteer programmers, designers and activists across the country will coordinate in online chat rooms and at real-world coding parties on Friday to build Twitter Vote Report, a groundbreaking web election monitoring system to fight voter suppression and disruption efforts. Anyone with a Twitter.com account will be able to use their cell phones or computers to send a message notifying voters, election monitors, and the media of problems around the country. A web map will display incidents in real-time. There are three ways to participate on Friday: 1. Join us at the coding jam session headquarters at The Change You Want To See Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, 2. Host your own coding jam session, 3. Join us in IRC freenode channel #VoteReport.

WHEN: Friday, November 24th, 11am – 6pm EST.

WHERE: Headquartered at “Brooklyn Coworking” in The Change You Want To See Gallery, 84 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn NY 11211. Additional locations across the country listed here: http://wiki.votereport.us/Votereport%20Jam%20Session

BACKGROUND INFO: On election day millions of Americans will go to over 200,000 distinct voting locations and using different systems and machinery to vote. Some voters will have a terrific experiences, and others will experience the same problems we have been hearing about for years – long lines, broken machines, inaccurate voting rolls, and some that we haven’t heard about before. Using Twitter.com and 1-866-Our-Vote Hotline, voters will have a new way to share these experiences with one another and ensure that the media and watchdog groups are aware of any problems.

From questions like “where do I vote” or “how do I make sure that my rights are being upheld,” Twitter Voter Report augments these efforts by providing a new way for voters to send text messages (aka tweets) via cellphones or computers which will be aggregated and mapped so that everyone can see the Nation’s voting problems in real-time.

A Nationwide web map will display pins identifying every zip code where Americans are waiting over 30 minutes to vote or indicating those election districts where the voting machines are not working. Collectively we will inform each other when the lines are too long and ensure that media and watchdog groups know when and where problems exist.

For more information:

Twitter Vote Report Wiki – http://wiki.votereport.us

Friday Jam Session info – http://wiki.votereport.us/Votereport%20Jam%20Session

866-OUR-VOTE (The Election Protection Coalition)
Common Cause
Credo Mobile
League of Young Voters
National Public Radio
Network Redux
Not An Alternative
Open Resource Group
Rock the Vote
techPresident/Personal Democracy Forum
Voter Suppression Wiki
Women Donors Network


Quick update from Cowo Milano, Italy.

Hi everybody! As summer steps in, coworkers seem to step out, here in Milano…

In fact, even if we are full booked at the moment (5 desks), we haven’t had much attendance in the office these past weeks, and I wonder if the season has something to do with it.

Furthermore, August is a month rather “slow” here in Italy (most companies/offices/stores close at least two weeks), so these days we are checking who’ll be around and who won’t for the rest of the summer.

To our pleasure, we have received a one-day visit from a blog-friend and are expecting someone from the US too (are you anywhere near here, Susan?).

Besides attendance and visits, we have improved the cowo site (blog, that is) with a list of coworking spaces in Europe and the rest of the world – thanks also to the excellent list provided in the cw wiki – along with few more “coworking resources” such as links to cw videos from Youtube and the wiki, cw photos from Flickr, cw blogs from Technorati… we are open to suggestions and of course ready to include your site, if you like. (Just leave a comment or write to me- max(at)monkeybusinessmilano.it).

Last but not least, we are doing a networking effort with a linkedin group we called “friends of cowo-coworking” which counts, at the moment, 43 members from many countries.

The feeling we have is that coworking is taking its course, and we try to go along with it – developing it but also understanding it… it’s good to see people settling down in your place and feeling good about it, we consider ourselves lucky to have such little community, what we mean to do right now is to keep providing such a service and aventually find ways of imrpoving it, but without any rush.

I’d like to get into deeper considerations about cw, but I don’t feel ready yet, cowo is only 3 mos. old…

So, thank you for reading this, and ciao from Milano!

It happens in Milano.

44 days afrter opening, Cowo Milano sees some interesting facts happening.

1- Mostly small groups seem to be interested in our coworking initiative. First a group of architects, then a group of 4 designers, then again 3 professionals… it made us think. Having 5 desks to offer, would we rather go for a rather nice monthly income, settled for a long time (all of them needed a place for the long run) and practically abandon the coworking idea, or refuse these offers to stick to a more open way, allowing only single or mini-teams of professionals, and leaving the coworking door open? Well, we chose the latter, both because we want to give a try to coworking (otherwise we wouldn’t be here) and also because we don’t feel like hosting groups that are larger than ours (we are 3).

2 – Coworking is raising interest in the italian media. On radio and national press (D di Repubblica recently published an article about cw, I’m trying to find it to post it). A couple of journalist have called to get info and get in touch for future interviews.

3 – Coworkers are finding us. Actually we have two regulars (a yacht designer and a new media consultant) and a third one should arrive in the next few days. All of them are interested in staying for a medium-range period and maybe longer.

4 – I really wanted a video to show what the Cowo is like, so ? pikced up the videocamera and did it. Here it is. Ciao from the Cowo!


Introducing Cowo Milano (Italy).

Hi everybody, just wanted to introduce our brand new little coworking project, here in Milano: [email protected] monkeybusiness.

First of all I’d like to say that the work thas been done and shared on this blog and related wiki has been fundamental for us, so… thanks guys!

We’ve been officially opened for 10 days now, and we have no coworkers in house yet. This may sound like bad news but actually we’ve started completely out of the blue, so it’s kind of expected to have a warm-up period, I guess.

Our space is a 140 sqm loft on two levels (pictures here) located in the eastern part of the city, towards Linate airport.

The neighborhood is being totally gentrified, being – in the past 20 years – an industrial district. Used to be blue collar environment, now it’s becoming student-artistic-media kind of thing. But still, for now at least, we enjoy the good sides of city borders, i. e. parking with no charge, not-as-much traffic congestions and… my house is at walking distance!

In these first days of Cowo, my wife + partner Laura and myself are mostly concerned with understanding the market need of a coworking place in Milano (as far as we know, we’re the only ones – speaking of cw, desks to rent you can find many), something that we’ll discover in the near future.

The people who showed interest, up to now, have been very different, ranging from the freelance art director to the sailing boat designer, from a group of architects to pr professionals and code writers.

They all seemed fine people and we enjoyed meeting them.

We did notice that our place seem to rise interest in small groups, which brings up the price issue.

Of course a three-people group have a different evaluation of the single desk price, and that’s something we didn’t think of. We are also considering offering a free drop-in 1 day option, which I feel is a nice approach that we already practice with the people we know (so why not extend it as a standard Cowo feature? Thanks Riccardo for your suggestion!)

What else? Oh, what we do for a living! We’re a creative consultancy for advertising, called Monkey Business, the three of us include a copywriting dude (me) with two supertalented art directors, that make look great whatever crap comes out from my mac. Check out our smiling logo and you’ll see what I mean!

Last but not least, we have enjoyed a good blogosphere attention thanks to the announcements made by the Italian Art Directors Club blog and the much-followed creative free-lance blog, BolleBlu.

So, next time you’re in town, please come and visit us: cowo @monkeybusiness via ventura 3 milano 20134 [email protected]… we’ll share pizza e birra to begin with!

Face Time: Building the coworking community

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Alex Hillman of Phildelphia coworking space, IndyHall, about finding your niche as an owner of coworking space and than reaching that niche. Coworking spaces vary greatly in their audience. While coworking is about openness and community, each space has its own character and appeals to different groups. Alex wisely pointed out that each space has to build its community in order to be successful.

The face time is absolutely key to the success of any coworking community. There have been several posts recently on the google group about advertising, running events and building membership. To create the community that gets people in the door, you absolutely must put in the faceup. Alex tells a great tale about all the meetups he went to for a month or two before he even signed a lease. In his words, he was looking for “cool, interesting people who might also work from home.” He spread the coworking idea, got interested members, and then signed the lease and got up and running. Of course, we all want successes like Alex.

Finding that niche that is the right audience for your group requires more than just connecting through blogs, online groups, and cyberspace, you need to talk to the people you think will use your space. And you may discover that you don’t always know who will use your space. I was confident our primary members of Cubes&Crayons would be entrepreneurs. As of today, our membership, with the exception of myself, completely lacks entrepreneurs. We have freelance workers in all walks of life from medical translators to biotech researchers to recruiters to professors. It had been a pleasant surprise to find that the common thread comes from the atmosphere we have created more than their careers. We provide a professional and inspirational coworking space. We have new members come in because they are impressed with how much they get done and how much they enjoy working at Cubes & Crayons. And of course, one of my personal favorites is the praise for the free gourmet chocolates available in our kitchen.

In building our community, although word of mouth has been tremendous and we have had some good press (more to come…look for it this weekend), the best marketing has involved simply a conversation. Whether I am talking about coworking to fellow volunteers at a board meeting or hosting a meetup or event at Cubes & Crayons, or going out to meetups and organization’s events, the best marketing is when I tell people about our site, my story, and/or our clients. People are interested in people. Forget that you are “selling” your service. It is about getting people connected to other people in a great community that somewhere has a common thread. We are hosting a blogging day on April 11th to encourage bloggers to come and blog in our space as well as share blogging stories and ideas with each other. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Umbrella Offices in South Brooklyn, it’s kinda like coworking

without using the word “coworking,” umbrella office‘s founder David Krieger states his goal is “to bring people together, host meaningful seminars, speakers, dinner parties and put some art on the walls.”

if you click on the Christopher Batchelder‘s profile you’ll see his goal to be “to create an innovative office-share that fosters committed, diligent and excellent work. It’s hard to stay at the top of your game as a small office and/or freelancer. We want the intensity of the communal environment to help take people to the next level!”

now doesn’t that sound familiar?

so if you’re in the south brooklyn / gowanus area, shoot either one of these two guys an email and see if they start interjecting our most favorite hyphenated/non-hypenated word.

Back in July, I received a ping from Patrick Tanguay from Station-C coworking in Montreal suggesting that we should band together and submit a panel for SXSW Interactive 08 (the conference at which we had met, in fact).


Over the course of the next week, we shared ideas and, with input from Chris and Tara of Citizen Space, about how we might approach this topic to be a bit more general to appeal to the entire audience. We came up with a title and synopsis!

Coworking and the evolution of the independent worker:
A few years ago everyone wanted to work from home. Now we realize, working alone sucks. What new resources and communities, both online and off, are enabling workers to really step up their game. Coworking spaces are opening everywhere and playing a central part in this new way of doing business.

After submitting the panel and having it voted on, weeks passed. Months passed. Panels began being picked and posted for the conference. Our expectations were set appropriately (we’d be first time SXSWi presenters), and we weren’t shocked to not hear back.

As the last few weeks have been filled with lots of twitter-chatter and question-asking about our SXSW plans, I decided to email the event director, Hugh Forrest, to see if he had any news since we never really got an official “no” on our panel.

As it turns out…we weren’t out of the running! I found out this morning that we’ve been slated to join the list of Core Conversations, a new format to SXSW that reads a bit more like an unconference (see BlogPhiladelphia). This format, rather than a panel, is more of an opportunity to converse and share experiences and knowledge about our journeys in the “indy” workforce.

I’m SUPER excited about this, as it will give us a platform to unite the coworking community as it converges on the city of Austin from all over the world. Last year we had a really fun coworking meetup at Barcamp Austin, this year, we get an official session and location, as well as a spot in the program, to hold it!

I’d like to work with a handful of key people to help make sure that the 1 hour session we have is loaded with interesting and valuable information, so for those of you attending who have something in particular you want to share, drop us a line.

I’ll be posting more as I hear more about the time and date. We’ll also have to organize a coworking lunch or brunch or something like that. I know there are currently ~8 people from IndyHall who will be attending the conference, and many more from Philadelphia I’m sure. If you’re going to be attending and interested in coworking (or Philadelphia and our social/creative scene on any level), drop a line in the comments and we’ll be sure to look you up once we’re in Austin!

Jelly Austin, TX and Jelly Atlanta Coming Up!

Jelly2.gifTwo new Jellies go live in the next few weeks — tell your friends in Austin and Atlanta to sign up!

Coincidentally, the next Jelly NYC is next Friday, October 12th.

As always, all events are free to attend, and everyone is welcome. Help spread the word!