My name is Craig Baute. I love coworking, studying trends, and understanding other cultures.
I am a proud son of Michigan, America’s high-five, living in Colorado.
One of my favorite internet rabit holes is finding creative coworking space names and visiting their websites. Most spaces have fun or inspiring names that indicate collisions or freedom like IndyHall, The Impact Hub, or Grind. By looking at their colors, copy, and images a fuller brand is developed that represents a culture and idea that is greater than a workspace. Before opening up a coworking space it’s important for new owners to know their vision and develop a brand that represents the idea and community. A coworking brand is powerful tool that helps shape the community and represents the members.
How a brand shapes the community:
A First Impression
A coworking brand is much more than a logo and website but a set of values, a culture, and a mission. Since the coworking space’s brand will be the first impression for most people it’s important to emphasis what matters most to your new coworking space – people. If you are starting a space to be bring people together to support each other then let it shine and don’t hide it behind a checklist of Wifi, coffee, and some amazingly comfortable chairs. Describe your vision, let them know that coworking is not an odd ball thing but changing the way people connect, and don’t be afraid to put people front and center.
At first it can be difficult because a coworking community is abstract and full of intangibles, but coworking shouldn’t be branded like B2B companies and executives suites with a list of just features. Coworking is solving the need for people and relationship’s first, space and amenities second.
IndyHall: They redesigned their website in 2012 to put people front and center – everywhere. The name also points to who they are target – individuals, independent – not companies.
Link: Building a connection between people. Plus, bringing sexy back to workspace.
NextSpace: Moving beyond the traditional options of home offices, coffee shops, and office buildings. Their website has their members faces plastered everywhere with copy and content that gets people excited about this new option.
Building the ‘right’ Community
Branding is a representation of the companies’ product and values. If you look at some of the leading coworking communities throughout the world a similarity is exposed with a people focus and a cause. Their branding causes a self-selection that attracts members that want to be part of their community or build a stronger one. If the coworking space’s branding was generic or marketed as a solution to space then they would attract people desiring that. Overtime this would dilute the community and go against the vision of the coworking founder and what has made coworking so successful across the world – people first, space second.
Creative Density’s brand is about bringing a mix of smart and friendly people together. We don’t care if you are an independent, remote workers for a corporation, or a startup but we do expect members to be social and willing to help each other out. We are the friendlies coworking community in Denver and great for newcomers to the city that don’t know many people. This branding through language, colors, and images attracts people that want that same vibe and encourages others to find a community that better matches what they are looking for even if it’s not our commuinty.
A Community’s Voice
Coworking is a community and communities evolve over time while holding true to a set of core values that rarely change. A coworking’s brand will evolve with them because a coworking brand is more than a space but a community and their voice will have great influence on the brand and it’s image outside the owners control. Embrace it, encourage it, focus on building a strong community, and let the brand go.
“People support what they help to create.” – Jacob at Office Nomads
Most companies that empower their community (Threadless shirts, Starbucks, Toms, Impact Hub) interact with them through public and private outlets regarding both praise and complaints. They even ask the community to be involved in important decisions like material choices for a shirt to space design. These companies are transparent to their communities and want them to be part of the ever ongoing discussion.
Many coworking spaces have embraced their community from the very beginning by interacting with non-members and members online, creating free coworking groups, and holding regular town hall meetings to review policies. They want people involved in their communities and want to have conversations. To many coworking space owners this may just seem natural, but some are afraid because it’s exposing their brands and inviting the community to help build it.
However, the coworking spaces that do welcome conversations and interacting with the brand are stronger because of it by finding out what people like, what needs to be changed by being only one party in conversation and listening. It takes some bravery and vulnerability but it’s a lot easier to build a meaningful brand, business, and community when everyone can be involved.
Coworking is unique in that the founders quickly lose control of their brand as the community takes over. Be ready for it and embrace it. Before starting a coworking community the space owner needs to have a vision and core values because that will set the vibe and messaging that will attract the community. A strong defined coworking brand is one of many ingredients that can be used to create a collaborative community and should be thoroughly thought about beyond a cool name and trendy color pallet. It’s a representation of the people that are already involved and sets a direction to the future.December 4, 2013
Note: This post will continue to change as new data comes in. The original post was written on September 24.
Coworking has been nearly doubling every year throughout the world, but not evenly throughout the US. I wanted to take a closer look and see which of the 40 most populated US cities were really exploding with coworking, and eventually check to see if there a tipping point to where coworking becomes part of the DNA.There is no good official list of coworking spaces because common directories include lots of noise with random executive suites or closed spaces from 5 years ago so I had to come up with my own rough formula to estimate the number of spaces. I only looked at the number of spaces versus size of the spaces for ease of quick research.
After looking at the data the city of San Francisco continues to be the overall leader with 40,641 people per coworking space. Austin, another early leader in the coworking movement, was third with 74,601 citizens per space and unexpectedly was beaten by Atlanta for the second spot. All of the top ten spots are filled with cities with less than 1 million people and this could be because each additional coworking spaces has a larger effect on the ratio. Chicago is 12th on the list and the top city with over 1 million people in the city limits.
My rough formula: I basically did a combination of a Google searches and checked to see if they were still open and a true coworking spaces, and then I compared my number with DeskWanted (since shut down when I did the search 3 months ago) and Desktime. My general results were that the directories over estimated the number of true coworking spaces, as expected, but did provide a bell weather of the number of coworking spaces in a city.
My theory is that once cities have a coworking spaces open up then two or three open up in the next 18 months as people are exposed to the idea and see it’s benefits. When Creative Density opened up in Denver there was one other space and two years later Denver has eight of them. I have seen this happen in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Chicago. As brave entrepreneurs open up more coworking spaces throughout America then others will follow in the same cities creating a momentum of more openings but also, and more importantly, greater awareness of coworking.
I’ll follow up with additional blog posts that look further into this rough data and try to identify trends.
Note: The data is an evolving spreadsheet and I welcome any corrections.September 24, 2013
I am excited to announce that I am working on a new project to help mobile freelancers and larger companies discover the benefits of coworking. The project is about developing a state-wide membership that will allow individuals to work at coworking spaces in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, and other cities with ease, not having to worry about payment, and having a true mobile workstyle. This program will open coworking up to individuals that are constantly on the road and are unable to commitment to join a single coworking space because of the constant travel but want to be have a comfortable alternative place to work that is not a coffee shop or hotel lobby. The idea is that most of the memberships will be using the same spaces regularly (once a week or so) and be integrated into the coworking community at each location versus being a one-off outsider.
My Approach this project:
Identifying the Need:
- Location Independence Mobile workers on the road are afraid to commit to a single coworking space. THis is particularly true for freelancers that are moving around the state for skiing locations throughout the winter.
- Easy Management for Membership. Individuals don’t want to purcahse several individual coworking membership so they don’t purchase any. Companies that want to offer coworkers to remote workers don’t want to hassel with several different memberships and bills on their books.
- Community. People are important and why most people choose coworking as their workspace option.
- Easy Access to Team Space. Traveling freelancers and remote workers need team space to get together or meet with clients.
Evaluate current options:
- Liquid Space
- Targeting large corporations, Well organized, All Shared Spaces are included, Lacks Community (one-offs)
- Coworking Visa
- Informal, Complicated, Not well known, Strong Community, Free for most coworkers
- Agreements between Spaces
- Informal, Not well known, Strong Community, Free for members
- Location Independence: Create a simple agreement and process to onboard members to participating spaces. Have enough spaces participate to cover all major cities.
- Easy Manage Membership: Have a central organization that handles memberships, payments, and communication to members and spaces.
- Community: Only coworking spaces are allowed to join in order to provide community focused spaces. Most likely the company coworkers will choose the location that works best for them based on desire community and location, and traveling coworkers will frequent a space enough to be integrated into the community.
- Team Space: Members will be able to meet in the same coworking environments, but conference room agreements will need to clarified as the passport evolves.
- Get 8 spaces to participate with key cities being: Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Durango, Grand Junction (no space exists out there)
- Get participating spaces to create profiles and understand the overall membership process
- Create a website
- Get communication collateral in line to help passport members understand the process
- Starts selling and growing the coworking community.
The market for a product like this could be into the thousands of memberships with dozens with of companies with thousands of employees located along the Front Range that have employees working in multiple cities at home. The price for a membership could be profitable for the spaces and support this program at $350 per person. This will not only provide the flexibility of allow workers and teams to work at a place of their choose but also be 30% savings compared to the average $500/month it costs for each work station at a company headquarters.
If the program grows it will also provide a reliable revenue stream for existing and new spaces help sustain the coworking movement. A program thatSeptember 18, 2013