Should a startup choose a coworking space?

Should a startup choose a coworking space?

As an entrepreneur- you are your own boss.

That’s great! However, with freedom, also comes responsibility. Working on your own terms is not as easy as you may perceive it to be. Across the globe, early stage startups are usually a one man/woman army and they begin with working from home.

Work from home, at the same time, has never been everybody’s cup of tea. It is easy to fall in the trap of waking up at 9 am, getting your first coffee at 10 am and switching on the laptop by noon to reply to your first email. Not to forget, the numerous door bells for couriers, unexpected household chores and the list of things that can break your workflow is endless. Lack of social contact and having a non-motivational environment can also not work for a few entrepreneurs. With this, one can safely assume that coworking spaces are a boon for startups. We will not convince you to definitely opt for one, because we did encounter a few entrepreneurs who felt that they work better alone, without any company- ‘to each her/his own’. This article will broadly talk about what a coworking space can offer and where you need to be careful while choosing one.

Market Dynamics

Growing popularity of coworking spaces is an evidence that entrepreneurs love working with other startups. According to a recent survey by Deskmag, over 10,000 coworking spaces are expected to open across the globe by the end of the year 2016. Coworking spaces not only cater to startups, but also facilitate space for freelancers, traditional SMEs, not-for-profit organizations and other companies. Startups, however, are the claim to fame for many coworking spaces.

Pranay Gupta, Founder 91 Springboard, one of the leading coworking spaces in India tells us that 40 to 50 percent of the people working with him are startups.

In fact, startups are the reason that some coworking spaces came into origin. Samridh Sharma, Founder, Hatch 101, who started his coworking space in August 2014 realised back then that there were a fair number of startups in India who wanted to work at places with no fixed cost. “Business centers were the only option for startups at that time, but they mostly are best suited for big multinationals or high profile consultants,” he recalls.

Startups are also a driver why coworking spaces are expanding across the globe and overseas. David Galsworthy, CEO and cofounder of Techspace, a London based coworking company which recently invested in Berlin (Germany) as its first overseas expansion said in an official statement, “Coworking has already grown exponentially over the past few years. There’s been a huge, global shift towards flexible, collaborative workspaces, particularly in technology. We empower our community to focus solely on growth and innovation, leaving workspace considerations to us. This investment will enable us to continue supporting tech companies in their growth beyond being startups, develop our offerings in London and also expand to Berlin – a destination that makes perfect sense given the city’s established reputation as a hub for technology innovation.”

Why chose a coworking space?

The clear and straight advantage of a coworking space is the economical edge with direct cash benefits.  It might not sound very logical to you that how giving rent for a coworking space is more economical than working from home. But there is more to it. “As an entrepreneur, you are just paying the variable and not the fixed cost at a coworking. If startups begin to deal with daily operations of running a work place, when will they concentrate on their idea and business plan?” asks Pranay Gupta from 91 Springboard. The smaller the teams, the more economical a coworking space is because charges are usually per person. As the team expands, the cost also goes higher.

Harald Amelung, who runs Coworking 0711 in Germany also counts  the economic benefits,

“Many coworking spaces are well equipped with desks, chairs, Wifi, meeting rooms, leisure areas, kitchen, coffee, drinks which is much better than your small desk in your sleeping room.”

 Another distinct advantage of a coworking space is that one gets the opportunity to choose a location, work in areas that can attract better talent and clients. For instance, you could opt for a central location in your city which has an easy commute for employees and clients. An office address rather than a residential address also shows that you are a serious company.

Apart from economic benefits, startups can gain a lot more from these places.

Samridh and Samvid, founders of Hatch 101 were very clear that they wanted to establish a setup in which different startups could benefit from the ecosystem. They brought in VC funds like Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital who visited Hatch101 to talk to startups and give them advice on how to grow their business. Regular workshops for startups on different aspects such as mentoring were organized too.

 Sourabh, founder of an Indian startup Advantage Club encountered many benefits of working at his coworking space, Hatch 101. He clearly remembers his teething problems as an early stage startup, “When we started, we needed a place where we could call clients, interview candidates for our company and have meetings.” He feels that many startups end up being each other’s “first client” when they work so closely in a space.

“Your coworkers are the first people you test your product on, they are the first ones to give you feedback and the many of us opened doors for each other as clients. We also met each other’s angel investors and exchanged notes.”

The emotional and motivational benefits of working with other entrepreneurs are immeasurable to an extent. One tends to learn from each other’s experiences and mistakes. It is perceived that entrepreneurs often make similar mistakes and when one is in company of people doing similar business, it becomes easy to cope with challenges and take first hand advice.

Harald from Coworking0711 gives an example of a startup who worked with him, “We had a startup company called Autonetzer in our coworking community. The founder  joined Coworking0711 alone, but he actively connected to the other people in the space and asked for help and advice. He built the first prototype of his platform together with other users of our Coworking Space. Also we’ve been first movers in using the platform (which was about private Carsharing). His company grew up to 10 people, then he had to leave our space, because we couldn’t provide more room.”

Ensure that you chose a space which has like-minded startups as colleagues and the owners of the place are open to your flexibility. The model of coworking spaces is definitely worth a try for each startup.

Diksha Dutta is an Indian columnist and media professional. She has a wide experience of writing on startups/VCs/PE during her six-year long stint as a full-time business journalist. At present, she is also working on a book on Indian businesses with Bloomsbury India. Diksha works at Ashoka University, a pioneer in liberal arts education in India. She is based in New Delhi, India.

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