10 reasons why coworking makes sense for startups


Imagine an office with people; only these people aren’t employed by the same company. One is a lawyer, the other, a freelance app developer, and the small team in the corner is building a service aimed at disrupting the mobile payments industry. This is coworking.

Coworking happens when a group of people, working independently of one another, share a workspace, and it’s happening all around the world. By some estimates, there were 1320 coworking spaces worldwide at the beginning of 2012, up 88% from the previous year. Today there are likely over 2000 coworking communities.

Africa has its fair share of coworking spaces. Some of the more well-known ones include Hub in Johannesburg, Kenya’s iHub and mLab, as well as Co-Creation Hub Nigeria.

While some startups readily slot into a coworking space, others consider private environments. We’ll explore the many reasons why individuals or groups might choose coworking over private environments, but one key tenet to keep in mind is community. For example, startups in a coworking environment are bound to run into similar challenges — having a community soundboard or specialist at hand is likely to accelerate problem solving.

Startup incubators regularly employ coworking, not just to keep a close eye on their investments, but to stimulate learning and collaboration among its community of entrepreneurs and mentors. A new coworking business incubator called HarlemGarage, supported by Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC), will utilise shared workspaces in support of entrepreneurship in Harlem.

One of the coworking space providers involved in the project, is MicroOffice. Finding office space in a big city like New York that is priced within reach of small businesses is a tall order. For over ten years, MicroOffice has helped small businesses mitigate the miscellaneous risks and costs associated with leasing office space in New York’s Time Square, Midtown West, Chelsea, Union Square, and Grand Central.

New York is long way away from a city like Nairobi, and there are differences in how coworking spaces around the world are managed and monetised, but they share overlapping traits. David Rotbard, MicroOffice’s cofounder since 2003, took some time to share his thoughts on the benefits of coworking, with Ventureburn.

Economy: Coworking means open desk seating, where companies sit side-by-side, sharing the same space. It’s economical because everyone shares the cost of utilities, receptionists, cleaning, security, and more, which means savings across the board.

Scalability of size: Your office grows [and shrinks] with your company budget. In a coworking space, it’s easier to adjust the number of workspaces you rent without an expensive or time-consuming adjustment.

Flexibility: Flexibility is key in coworking spaces. Whether you need a short-term lease, month-to-month leases, or year leases, the option is there for you. Try getting that from a building landlord.

Collaboration: Need a lawyer? There are five on your floor. Need a new website? The guy four desks down is looking for clients. Everyone knows everyone, and they’ll all be looking to help.

Location: How do you get a real workspace in prime locations for a few hundred a month? Coworking means bigger bang for your buck, and that includes high-profile locations to impress your clients

Resources: Coworking conference rooms are there when you need them, and a great first impression for potential clients. Most coworking spaces come with conference rooms, receptionists, and a/v equipment. Want a professional answering service? Coworking services can have a receptionist answer your calls with your company name-and a smile.

Internal Communication: Want a coworking space just for your company? Try a bullpen. Bullpens come in various sizes and provide a great coworking space with privacy for a company. Where open seating is as important as privacy, try a bullpen.

Educational programming: Many spaces provide classes to help your startup achieve success. The classes can range anywhere from tips on excelling in social media, marketing for small businesses, and even to health care options. In our economy leveraging resources from your coworking space is always helpful to grow business, and going to class with your friends again is the cherry on top.

Networking Events: Ready to meet more people? Coworking spaces have a natural network of businesses. Leveraging that network for helps you to meet potential clients and vendors. Don’t be cooped up in your expensive office, grab a beer and meet people!

Community: The networking helps you grow business, but the community helps you to make friends and help each other out. Who says two competing companies can’t be friends? Having said that, finding the right space that fits your style is crucial to enjoying your workspace and colleagues.

Rotbard tells us that MicroOffice will be branching out to Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and San Francisco soon. May we suggest having a look at Nairobi, Accra and Cape Town?



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