Register your program!

For the longest time, many of us in the coworking movement have been emphasizing the fact that coworking is about more than renting workspace—but if that’s the care, what is it about?

We believe that, at its core, true coworking is an act of gathering with intention.

People working alongside one another in a shared space, but people who meet specifically to support one another is even better!

To that end, we’re highlighting coworking communities that are offering programs that invite people to gather and support one another.

If you’re running a program in January 2018 that people should know about, add it to our directory using this form.

We’ll publish it in one big digest, so we can raise awareness of all the good things people are organizing out there and, perhaps, start to shift the perception of what membership in a coworking community is really about.

If you’re not currently running a program but would like to, we’ll have free templates for you!

Register here to receive the materials when they’re ready.

 

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats – Regional Coworking Alliances, Collectives and Associations

The definition of an Alliance is a union or association formed for mutual benefit. The definition of a Collective is a cooperative enterprise. And the definition of an Association is a group of people organized for a joint purpose.

Picture this, you are one of the first coworking spaces in your city. You open your doors and people start to visit. They ask “do you have jobs?” thinking that you are a job placement center. They have never heard of coworking, they have no idea what it is. As an owner, operator or community manager, you have many responsibilities and one of those is educating the general public about the coworking concept. In some cities and regions, where coworking is newer or just beginning this can feel like an uphill battle. Of course, it’s gotten easier over the years but there is still work to do to raise awareness.

That’s where coworking collectives come in. Coworking was born from the thought that we all work better together and coworking alliances are no different. There is power in aligning together to spread the good word about what coworking is and how it can benefit more and more people. Multiple voices can amplify the message to more people faster.

There are several great examples of coworking associations across the globe. One of the first being Coworking Toronto. Banding together they were able to form COHIP, the Coworking Health Insurance Plan, a supplemental insurance plan offered to members of coworking spaces across Canada. Then there’s Denver Coworks, the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance, the European Coworking Assembly, the Coworking Alliance of Asia-Pacific and many, many more who are all doing great things in their regions by working together. This year the Kansas City Coworking Alliance even set the Global Coworking Record for the most people coworking in one space at one time. Will your alliance be the one to break the record in 2018?

Alliances use the same five core coworking values: community, openness, collaboration, sustainability and accessibility. With the Kansas City Coworking Alliance, we’ve added a new core value specifically for our Alliance, coop-etition. We have seen first hand that it truly benefits us all if we cooperate rather than directly compete, we’re cooperatively competitive.

The Open Coworking Team would like to compile a list of all of the Global Coworking Alliances / Collectives / Associations so that coworking spaces in each region around the world will know who to connect to if they’d like to join their local alliance. Or if there isn’t one, then maybe they will take the initiative to create one of their own.

If you manage a Regional Coworking Alliance please fill out this form to be added to the Global Coworking Alliance list.

Thank you,

Melissa Saubers

President & Cofounder

Kansas City Coworking Alliance

How to balance building great community with managing the facility

By Tony Bacigalupo of New Work Cities.


What follows is an excerpt of an email conversation I recently had with a coworking space manager who is struggling with an unfortunately common issue in the coworking world:

We are running into a consistent issue where we have all these great ideas but not enough time or resources to really execute them well. (I realize this is everyone’s problem all the time, too)

I and my board are all working on being more strategic about choosing what we do, and who is doing it, but for now, we are still pushing ourselves out of a bit of a rut and I haven’t quite found the traction I need.

Here’s my main difficulties time-wise. Running this place and having a consistent voice on social media (ie: giving our programs the best marketing we can) is a FT effort.

But, getting out into the community to meet people would also be at least a 1/2 time effort, and we also need to look for funding which that in and of itself could easily be a FT job.

I don’t know how to begin to tackle all of our needs, and stay engaged with the coworkers we do currently have.

It’s no surprise that anyone getting into managing a space would come up against these sorts of issues, but it doesn’t make the situation any more acceptable.

So how do you tackle a situation where everything seems important, yet there just aren’t enough resources to go around?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest you look at each component and identify all the ways you can go about it in a more clever way.

After having had some time to reflect on these sorts of challenges, I have developed a few core approaches that I know work. Here are two:
 

Focus on human interactions over social media.

Social media can consume an unlimited amount of time and attention, competing with countless others all over earth in an arms race for who can be noisiest. I’m not a fan.

Don’t play a game you can’t win. Change the game. The beauty of coworking resides in the fact that it happens in real life, face-to-face.

So take a social media holiday for a day, or two days, or a week, and instead dedicate that time to just talking to real humans in your space or in other communities.

I remember distinctly one day I was mucking around for hours with MailChimp for a newsletter that was several days overdue, lamenting to myself, “how do I connect with the members and get them to actually show up and care?”… and as I was doing this, I was repelling members who wanted to come up and have a conversation with me. Because I was too busy trying to figure out how to connect with the members. DUH!

So I started practicing getting away from the screen and hanging out in the kitchen. Almost immediately I ended up having conversations with people, learning more about them, and doing a lot of good. One member wanted to organize a new group and had no idea she was empowered to do so within our space. That group was an awesome part of our community for a long time, but it only happened because I talked to her.

Integrate participation into the onboarding process.

When people join the space simply to rent workspace, you immediately have an uphill battle trying to get past their “I’m too busy” wall. Instead, shift the reason someone joins away from space and towards a more transformative program.

Talk to your members. Identify their interests and look for opportunities to encourage and empower them wherever possible. When those members start organizing activities in the space, do whatever you can to invite potential new members to participate.

When people start developing a relationship with your community first through a shared activity, like a happy hour, show and tell, work sprint, arts and crafts session, hackathon, or any of a number of other things, they’ll understand right from the onset that what you’re managing is something more than just a workspace.

Set aside time for admin things.

Everyone needs focus time to do the non-social things that make a business run. Wherever possible, set aside blocks of time to work on these sorts of things, and communicate that to your team and members, so they know to leave you alone during those times.

For an added bonus, invite others to join you! You can do group sessions where everyone who participates resolves to use the same block of time for focus work. This helps keep everyone in line and makes it easier to block out distractions.

If you have a team, you can rotate who’s on Focus Time so others can cover any questions or issues that come up.

Balancing community building against operations is a constant effort, but with some basic healthy best practices, you should be able to make it work!

A new design for the Coworking Blog, and plans to overhaul the wiki!

We’re proud to announce a new, fresh design for the Coworking Blog!

After many years of faithful service, the Woothemes Mainstream theme was thrown a respectful retirement party. Colleagues gathered around and shared stories of their fond memories of the old theme, and just how darn yellow it really used to be.

Now, as the old theme takes its cheap gold watch and rides off into the digital sunset, we make way for the new. This theme, based on the Twenty Sixteen WordPress theme, is designed to be super clean and leave lots of room to feature the content without the clutter.

In pursuit of the ultimate coworking resource

The redesign comes as an early step in a larger effort to make the Coworking Blog a more robust resource for all things coworking.

We’re now testing just how far we can go to use the blog platform as a way of tackling one of our biggest challenges: figuring out what to do with the blog’s sister site, the Coworking Wiki.

Could the Blog replace the wiki? I believe it can. WordPress is a far more powerful, easy to use, and better supported platform than the PBWorks platform the Wiki is based on.

The biggest challenge, of course, is in porting over the data. To address this, We’re looking at a phased approach that allows passionate organizers claim access to their region’a new page, hosted on the Coworking Blog, and seeing where people’s interest takes us from there.

Let us help you build better portals for your city and region!

Head over to the Coworking Wiki directory, find the corresponding wiki pages for your area, and see how accurate what you find turns out to be. If you find it to be mess or out-of-date and are interested in helping with a upgrade and an update, let us know! Email us at info [at] opencoworking.org.

With your help, we can re-create these pages in cleaner, easier to maintain formats. See the example page I created here.

Support us! It would really mean a lot.

A lot of you on this list are already supporters (Thank you! You rock!), but for those of you who aren’t, we just opened up a new supporter level at $9/mo. Every single person who supports us makes a huge difference in helping us dedicate the resources we need to be able to make this movement work. Learn more or register now!

Cheers,
Tony Bacigalupo and the Open Coworking team

5 Reasons You Should Start Coworking Online

Post Author: Wendy Chen.

For small businesses, joining a coworking space can bring some game-changing benefits. Working in the same environment as like minded businesses and ambitious entrepreneurs, networking, finding potential clients and partners could be just what your small business needs. While coworking spaces are an exciting development in the business world, we can’t forget that the world as a whole is rapidly going digital and work 2.0 is taking over the coworking market.

In this post, I look at five important features of virtual coworkingtake a look at an introduction to virtual coworking here! i.e. coworking in an online environment, that can make your business even more successful.

It allows you to work from anywhere, anytime

If you’re the kind of person that likes working at times that are convenient to you, virtual coworking is definitely up your street. Be a part of the most recent developments in your company, your clients’ businesses and partner enterprises from the comfort of your own home, your favorite coffee house or even your parents’ country home. Staying connected and keeping on top of developments is a key factor for sustainable growth, and virtual coworking is an excellent tool to achieve just that. Just connect and join the show. It has never been easier.

It expands your talent pool and network

The biggest advantage of virtual communication is the ability to work from home. The broad spectrum of online communication platforms that are now available mean you no longer need to have all of your employees in house, as they can report to you online. However, that is not always efficient. The choice of channels through which employees work from home is so large that it’s often hard to track all actions and developments and that could potentially discourage you as an entrepreneur from hiring people who can’t be in the office every day. This is where you stand to gain a huge advantage from virtual coworking. There is now a universal tool for literally all communication between you and your employees.

Not only that, they will have a complete and transparent overview of all developments in other departments and will be in close contact with their coworkers, clients, and partners. Your talent pool will be extended far beyond the city in which your business is located – and we all know that a business is only as strong as its staff. For employees, this also opens up a much broader and more efficient employment network. Yet another win for virtual coworking!

 

It’s in the cloud

Digital times are upon us, that is no secret. So don’t hesitate to use digital developments to your advantage when running a business. Having all of your company’s documents, notes, tasks, schedules, deadlines, and even conversations online and in one place will save you valuable time and the trouble of browsing through stacks of paper. Keeping your files online also means you no longer have to worry about losing or breaking your laptop. What used to be stored in the hardware can now be stored in the cloud. You can access these files from anywhere and at any time. This really is a no-brainer.

It comes at no extra cost

Cost-effectiveness is crucial for a small business. Let’s not ignore the fact that more often than not, capital is what dictates what you can and cannot achieve, and sometimes this can be a question of life or death for a business. So while you can manage your affairs from your office or coworking space, there is also a strong need to be able to continue working on the same things, with the same benefits but for no extra cost . Here is the kicker: virtual coworking will cost you less than you spend on toothpaste. If you are a risk-averse business person, this provides a very low-risk, high-reward opportunity that is not to be missed out on.

It promotes transparency in your business

Working with your team is important. What is even more important is working efficiently. There is nothing more frustrating than writing a blog post and finding out afterwards that your colleague is working on the same idea. You know it can happen: emails get lost or overseen all the time. With virtual coworking, you will be able to track all relevant tasks, deadlines, and ideas that your coworkers are working on. Not only that, you can post new ideas in a note for the rest of the team to see. Virtual coworking will enable you to manage your business more efficiently than ever before, and sometimes that is really what a business lacks to make that big leap.

Although I could go on all day about how beneficial virtual coworking could be for your small business, the gist of it is that virtual coworking spaces are amazingly efficient. In a tough business world, small businesses must catch every break possible, and virtual coworking can be a HUGE break.

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation for you to enjoy! Milano, november 2015: Coworking becoming a company platform, by Ivan Botta of Coworking Cowo Milano/Login. . Related content: Ivan Botta’s interview (in Italian). Coworking becoming a company platform

L’articolo Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation sembra essere il primo su Coworking Project by Cowo®.

Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation for you to enjoy!

Milano, november 2015:Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login Presentation
Coworking becoming a company platform, by Ivan Botta
of Coworking Cowo Milano/Login.

.
Related content:

Ivan Botta’s interview (in Italian).

L’articolo Coworking Europe 2015 Cowo Milano Login presentation sembra essere il primo su Coworking Project by Cowo®.

The Big Coworking Question – Why Do Spaces Develop Regionally?

Post Author: Connor Provines.

coworking space

Over the past year I’ve gone from an outsider, to someone who is well versed in the world of coworking and some of its finer inner workings. It’s a large part of my job; however the more I study certain elements of the movement the more questions arise. Recently, I was having a conversation with some of my European coworkers about the status of coworking abroad, namely in France. They explained to me that the movement was still growing, coworking spaces were somewhat evenly distributed across the regions of the country.

In that moment, it occurred to me – this is almost the opposite of the current U.S reality; as it stands, coworking centers are incredibly dense, regional, and seemingly randomly distributed. Why is this? Can we figure anything deeper out about these problems on closer examination?

Identifying the variables that distinguish regional coworking – coworking by State

One of the first areas I was interested in looking into is coworking within a singular state across multiple cities – namely a city within a state where coworking has flourished, compared to a similar city where coworking is vastly different.

Granted, it is difficult to get a truly scientific breakdown when comparing cities – as no two are the same, however for the purposes of exploring the cause of regional coworking, it is certainly worth looking into.

San Francisco (The Greater Bay Area) v. Los Angeles

coworking space

While not the most direct of comparison’s (I’ve lived in both) it is prudent to compare these two large cities and how / why the coworking scene has developed so differently between the two centers. Both cities are very unique, however for comparison sake, I’m going to address the fact that they’re both Californian, highly developed cities, that cater heavily to small businesses and startups – each with dense city centers focused on the promotion of work.

Los Angeles, as well, is a geographically larger region, with a much higher population, a greater reliance on public transportation, with a incredibly dense center.

These two areas share a lot, yet San Francisco has nearly Four Times as many coworking spaces as the greater Los Angeles area, with spaces on average being larger, and with more spaces opening annually. That isn’t to say coworking in Los Angeles isn’t amazing (BlankSpacesHUB LABizHaus etc you know who you are) it’s that there is a stark difference in the acceptance and application of wide-spread coworking in the region. What’s even more interesting (Or perhaps to undermine a potentially good argument) is the part of the Bay Area that is considered the heart of the Silicon Valley – the Palo Alto area, has next to zero coworking spaces. It is clear to an observer that it is something more than the presence of business and a high population that generates the desire for coworking spaces. To bring the point home, let’s look at another similar situation.

Austin v. Houston

I’ve outlined the basics of the conversation previously, so we’re going to dive right into this one. Austin and Houston provide two stark contrasts to the state of coworking within a given region. Both are highly populated, rapidly growing cities dedicated to technology and new industry. The two cities are located roughly 160 miles apart (Under a 3 hour drive) and share a similar culture and atmosphere. Why then, are there nearly Five Times (and rising) more coworking spaces in the city of Austin, when compared to Houston. What’s even more surprising is the fact that Houston has over two times the population of Austin. While no two cities are identical, it is interesting when we notice trends like this; closely located cities, with similar cultures; however the presence of coworking is drastically different.

Interstate Coworking – differences between regional cities (With similar cultures), separated by state lines

coworking space

Portland Oregon v. Seattle Washington

The reason I’ve picked this example instead of comparing another set of two cities within a given state is because of the uniqueness of the region and the shared culture between the two cities. Whereas with the Californian and Texas examples, we largely looked at variables such as population, job diversity, and proximity; the cities of Portland and Seattle offer another interesting factor – culture.

Like Houston and Austin, Seattle and Portland are roughly 170 miles apart. The two cities, while drastically different in size, share a strong North Western culture unique to the region. Speaking as someone who has lived in both these cities for extended periods of time (I’m a bit of a West Coast traveler), it is easy to argue that many ideals are commonly shared between these two cities that are important for the development of coworking spaces – the desire for efficiency, sustainability, community, and collaboration. To add to this, sometimes to a fault, Portland is one of the most progressive leaning cities in the United States, and yet the city of Seattle has nearly Four Times (perhaps more) as many coworking spaces as the City of Portland. Why is this relevant? The City of Portland proper is a young, enterprising, densely located city center, with one of the best public transportation systems in the country – yet coworking is almost non-existent. What is it that causes coworking to be so popular among one city, but not another, where both share so many similar factors?

Questions of Culture, Industry, Price, and Proximity

coworking culture

This brings us to the inevitable end of our question, what is it then that causes coworking to take root in one city, but not another? I believe it to be a factor of four central things, Culture, Industry, Economy, and Proximity.

Unfortunately, this is the juncture where our question goes from a data driven approach, to one of speculation. A city has too many variables to quantify and eliminate one by one, so at a point individual thought and speculation have to play a role. It is my belief that coworking develops regionally due to unique cultural aspects of a city. The population, density, type of labor, and economy of said city are all relevant aspects that go into creating the proper culture for coworking. It makes sense to an extent, why a crowded city filled with startups would be more inclined to adopt coworking than say, a largely industrial city – but that isn’t to say that forms of coworking still wouldn’t have their place.

Ultimately, I don’t have an answer to why coworking develops regionally; however the point of this wasn’t so much to answer that question, but to propose it to the community and develop a conversation. For those of us involved with coworking, who are interested in seeing it grow and develop, figuring out how and why it is so prevalent in some areas but not others will be crucial in the growth and development of the movement.

Of course, if you have some insight to this question, don’t be afraid to share it with us! Tweet us @shareyouroffice, or send us an email, expect a part 2 to this in the future!

Written By Connor Provines of www.shareyouroffice.com



Yay: #CoworkingMonday is here!

coworkingmonday-yay

This post is by Doris Schuppe of Rayaworx Coworking.

At the Coworking Europe Conference in Milan, Rainer from Rayaworx introduced the idea of CoworkingMonday in his session. The feedback was very positive. So we would like to spread the word and invite every coworking space out there to combine our forces to get more visibility for coworking.

One thing all of us learned in Milan: knowledge about coworking did not spread that fast and consistently one might think. There is a huge potential of freelancers, knowledge workers, commuters, etc. lacking any experience or familiarity with the new work’s concept.

Seeing is believing: We need to attract people to our spaces, and let them feel our community spirits as openness, collaboration, networking, cooperation, knowledge-sharing.

The #CoworkingMonday vision

Every coworking space around the world uses CoworkingMonday events to promote coworking and to let people experience how coworking is more than just a space to work.

The CoworkingMonday is an informal, community-driven event that aims to connect people who are shaping the future of work.

Anyone involved in coworking or neighboring fields who is interested in learning and sharing with others is most welcome to join. Whether you are a thinker, builder, designer, trainer, founder or funder – CoworkingMonday is your platform to share your knowledge, to help others with business-relevant advice, or to share your next big idea to a growing audience of coworking aficionados.

The CoworkingMonday is organized by coworkers and coworking hosts with speakers / sessions / workshops / networking / … about everything that is related to coworking and the future of work.

The CoworkingMonday takes place in a coworking space once a month on a Monday. In a bigger city with lots of coworking spaces it might be a good idea to have a monthly CoworkingMonday each in another of the town’s spaces.

In a region like e.g. Southern Bavaria or Mallorca the hosts may think of an additional CoworkingMonday regional event: 6 or 4 times a year the coworking spaces coordinate a CoworkingMonday visiting each other.

The organizers feel free to choose the timeframe for their CoworkingMonday: the event might be a breakfast, a morning workshop, a lunch break event (like a lunch & learn meeting or open salad networking), an afternoon session or an evening function – it’s up to you!

Some buzzwords may help to find relevant topics and speaker/s for your next CoworkingMonday: Blogs, Collaboration, Collaboration Tools, Coworking, Creativity, Design, Financing, Future of Work, Photography, Gadgets for Work, Get Things Done GTD, Knowledge-Sharing, Marketing, Mobile Apps for Work, Nerd Culture, Networking, Online Design, Online Relations, PR, Security, Social Media, Social Networks, Startups, Sustainability, Usability, Voice over IP, Webdesign, Workspace Design…

A global directory will list all CoworkingMonday activities worldwide.

The global hashtag #CoworkingMonday combines all activities and will provide visibility to our efforts.

Does it work? Some background from WebMontag

In Germany we have a long-standing tradition of “WebMontag” (WebMonday) since 2005. Whenever it was possible, I attended those events in Munich, where I lived before moving to Mallorca. Maybe you went to a WebMonday in your city, too. If this is not the case, please read their explanation:

Web Monday is an informal, non-commercial, and completely community-driven event that aims to connect the people who are shaping the future of the internet. Inspired by the culture of Silicon Valley, it started out in Cologne, Germany in late 2005 in an effort to help spread those sunny California vibes.

Since its inception, Web Monday has spread fast: meetings are now being held on a regular basis in 40+ cities all across Germany, Austria, in Switzerland, Sweden as well as in the Silicon Valley. Nurturing the local web 2.0 and internet startup scenes, Web Monday’s 100+ meetings have attracted 1,000+ repeat participants so far, and good things have come out of it.

(quoted from Web Montag)

So I thought, we should learn form the WebMontag’s tradition by adopting it with relevant topics of our coworking community. I think at least sometimes a CoworkingMonday may cooperate with a local WebMonday initiative.*

CoworkingMonday – when do you start?

Are you in? Give us a shoutout via comment or even better by sharing this blog post with the hashtag #CoworkingMonday. Or plan the first CoworkingMonday event in your space? Let us know!

The Best Coworking Space For You!

Post Author: Wendy Chen.

Let’s say you decided to try coworking. Now it’s the right time to choose a shared office and jump straight into business. Yet, there are different types of coworking spaces, so how do you know that you’ve chosen the one that fits you (and your business) best?

Modern cities provide vast opportunities for coworking. The more coworking offices that are out there, the harder it is to choose a place that suits you. The first thing to consider would inevitably be the subscription costs. Skipping the money talks, we give you an overview of shared office specifications like design, location and other perks that might influence your decision.

 

Comfort.

You are looking for a substitute to your home office, so the new location has to be at least just as much comfortable for business as your cabinet. Assess the size of rooms, the degree of privacy and noisiness, quality of furniture and kitchen facilities, and bathroom cleanliness. 

Be picky: if anything bothers you now, then it will distract you even more when working on projects.

Tip: Don’t forget to check lighting and ventilation. Everybody has their own preferences, so maybe you will have to bring an extra desk lamp.

Design.

While you must like the place and feel comfortable to be productive, also consider whether the coworking office has an interior that serves your business needs. 

In case your job involves a lot of meetings and you need to invite clients, we suggest a high-end office. This kind of office design will impress the visitor and  you will appear professional. Take note that usually this type of offices are open at normal business hours and are occupied with freelancers and entrepreneurs in their 30’s. 

On the other hand, if your tasks and responsibilities don’t require meetings, an artistic or comfortable environment would suit you best. People working in such relaxed offices are notably younger and are occupied in creative industries and IT. The communication between members is more casual and it resembles a shared home-office.

Tip:  To get the feel of the place, book a visit for several coworking spaces in your town. Approach its people and consider whether this environment appeals to your personality and business.

Location.

Research says that people with shorter commuting time to work are the happiest. Nevertheless, don’t get carried away and choose solely by the distance from home. It is also useful to consider whether your location will be convenient for the clients. Proximity to certain amenities like day care or fitness centres, shops and restaurants should also be considered.

Tip: You might want to avoid the coworking space next door. It’s hard to switch to and from the office mood in just a couple of minutes and it might be tempting to leave for home sooner.

Community

Apart from the age of the general crowd in your future coworking space, you should check the culture of the place. It is important that you feel confident and trust the people you will be sharing the office with. Investigate whether the shared offices have a community manager who facilitates the socializing. 

The coming together and collaborating is one of the main reasons to get out of the home office, so don’t miss the opportunity!

Tip: In case you are short in time and cannot visit all the offices of your choice, check their pages on social media. Instagram and Facebook often give a great insight into events of the place and introduce some members.

Special facilities.

Make a list of office supplies and facilities you need and try to go beyond “printer, coffee machine, wifi”. In case you need to call your clients quite often, seek for a shared office with special call-zones or separate meeting rooms. There are also shared offices with resting areas or terraces equipped with table games and yoga rooms.

Tip: Make sure you come to the office not only to have a good time, but also to get things done. And don’t forget that perks might come with extra costs.

Choosing a coworking space is a time-consuming activity, but it is worth investing your time. Carefully chosen, a shared office might become a new home for your business while not burdening you financially and mentally.  Keep our advice in mind, yet follow your heart when subscribing for a shared office!

Is Bigger Better in the New York Coworking Scene?

Post Author: Michael Gasiorek.

As a startup business owner, have you ever asked yourself how your company can overcome a much larger funded competitor? You may be imagining your competitors using all their capital to hire developers, an aggressive sales team, building out a savvy Mad Men-level marketing department, and getting involved in the next three largest global markets. Can you go up against this Goliath? Yes – and more ably than you’d expect. Our big tip here: using the community and personal attention found at coworking spaces, you can compete with larger businesses by using resources available on-demand at arm’s length from your hot desk.

Aiming to work at the level of a large funded startup? Take advantage of the new corporate office rental model: coworking spaces. Heating up in New York City, the Bay Area, and even in Shanghai, Budapest, and around the world, coworking space allows multiple companies and agencies to share a fully outfitted office. Currently, the largest companies in this space are Wework, a startup with a $5 billion valuation, and Regus, the biggest public competitor.

While there are several competitors in the space, there are only a few with multiple locations. A new privately funded firm is carving out its market share in the rapidly growing business of providing shared office space to startups, entrepreneurs and creative companies in New York City. Coworkrs, a much smaller shared office space community, has locations in Gowanus, Brooklyn, the Flatiron District, and they just recently signed a 13 year 30,000 square foot lease in NYC’s Financial District (Fidi) at 55 Broadway.

As a startup cofounder myself, I was curious about the best coworking spaces from which to work. I got a chance to try a community membership in Wework’s Fulton Center location, and then I tried a community membership at Coworkrs’ Flatiron space.  Here is what I learned from the experiences.

What was the Same

Both of these coworking spaces offer more than just space, with options of shared desks or private offices. Expect networking event mixers, arcade video games, high speed internet, free micro-brew beer on tap. The perks and people form a cohesive community that makes these environments more than just workspaces. When you compare either of these companies to the boring corporate office space provider Regus, they are both building and providing an atmosphere that merges work and life. Their cultures are ones that celebrate who we are as people and attracts those who seek to find a sense of purpose in their work. They are bringing several dozen professionals together to build a community where you belong and contribute.

The largest social shifts can happen when an infectious new kind of culture is developed and adopted, where a new set of values change and advance society in a more positive way. By removing the whole corporate office cubicle structure and building a true, interwoven community, I believe they are heading towards a better and more collaborative way to work and live.

What was Different

When I worked at either of the two different Wework locations I felt lost inside their sprawling campus. The community managers did not go out of their way to find out my name, and people were more focused on their work or on interactions with those they already knew. In meeting the Ben Kessler, Wework’s Director of Marketing, I learned about their marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Their employees “sell the why,” targeting mostly startup companies. Despite the fact that they are scaling so quickly, they feel the need to tell their employees to be humble so they can continue to empathize with the small startup customer instead of appearing to be a mega corporation. Wework’s founder Adam Neuberg has publicly said “We are not competing with other co-working spaces.”

When I visited Coworkrs’ flagship Flatiron location, I immediately felt that people were really friendly, especially the community managers. I was greeted by Eric Steiner, the COO, who showed me around and even introduced me to a number of the other members – by name, no less. As I rode the elevator into the space during my trial month, a member invited me to stay for an “Internet of Things” happy hour meetup. Despite being a much smaller coworking space, I got a sense of a family-like community environment. I asked Eric about their marketing strategies. Differing from Wework, Coworks’ staff is vigilant about shared office space competitors like the Grind, Impact Hub, AlleyNYC, The Yard, and others. They admitted to having done intense market research, even speaking with a number of Wework’s former community managers to crystallize strategies to differentiate the space and make it an attractive place to get work done. They even discovered an opportunity in Wework’s Boston location, where the member tenant turnover rate is quite high there because people from Boston have a sense of pride and like to support smaller local coworking spaces over non-local corporate expansions. Coworkrs currently has 4 NYC office locations and they have not taken any outside venture capital investment – all of the funding has come from the cofounders and their immediate networks.     

Conclusion    

Bigger may not always appeal to your customer base. Does the company that raises the most money or has the largest valuation mean they are the best?  Every startup wants to grow, gain more customers and eventually increase revenue, but if you are growing so fast that you are losing sight of the customer experience, this may not be the best strategy for your business. If your business is in an industry that has much larger competitors – which is true in almost every vertical – focus on what makes your company unique and different, focus on your niche product or experience, and your company will compete just fine. Listen to your users and customers and stay authentic to what your brand stands for, and your people will be loyal to you.

 

This piece was originally published on Startup Grind, the global entrepreneurship community, by AndrewBroadbent.

Andrew covers topics like entrepreneurship, conversion optimization, digital marketing and strategies for the startup and investor community. He co-founded Vab Media, a digital marketing startup agency in New York, with a specialty in the latest SEO tactics. A known growth specialist, he aids companies with branding, visibility, and customer experiences online through a variety of strategies. He builds and optimizes profitable websites, some of which hold first page rankings for major keywords in Google.