One of the hottest trends in New York right now is that of coworking. The movement can be traced back to 2005, when Brad Neuberg, a computer programmer on the West Coast, who wanted to blend the benefits of being independent (no nagging bosses or colleagues) with the structure and tools a steady job offers, especially face-to-face communication, rented out a space to realize this vision. Neuberg organized a coworking site called the "Hat Factory" in San Francisco, a live-work loft that was home to three technology workers, and open to others during the day. Brad was also one of the founders of Citizen Space, the first "Work Only" co-working space, and the space that spawned a global movement. Coworking provides solopreneurs with what they need the most: a place to collaborate and share ideas, not feel the social isolation that working at home can produce, while keeping overhead to a minimum.
James Brown, a labor market analyst at the NYS Department of Labor, said that while there was no data about the actual number of freelancers in New York, evidence suggested an increase in the number of self-employed people. According to the last figures gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-seventh of the 3.9 million employed New York City residents were working part time. Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, people take on consulting jobs or short term projects. But the greatest catalyst for this trend seems to be companies where people can bid on small projects, such as Elance, Odesk, and Sologig.
Coworking might still be considered a fairly young industry, but when DeskMag, the online magazine about co-working, its people and spaces started observing the number of coworking spaces back in 2010, they counted 600 official spaces worldwide. Two years later, the figure stands at 2072 – a growth of 250% – which shows just how fast the sector is advancing. The Coworking Europe Conference is progressing too. Now in its fourth year, the three-day event held in Paris in November, 2012 was the biggest of its kind, attracting almost 300 delegates from more than 30 different countries – a sign of just how much attention the sector is generating.
Coworking spaces operate like startup campuses, providing outlets and Wi-Fi, as well as access to angel investors and VCs, serial entrepreneurs who are mentors, and collaboration between entrepreneurs, designers and developers. And some even offer great coffee and snacks! Those who rent spaces include startup companies, freelance designers, developers, hackers, PR and marketing professionals, writers, students, and lawyers. While most co-working spaces in New York City have wait lists in the hundreds, here are a few that are worth the wait.
1. General Assembly is one of New York City’s most impressive coworking space, located in the Flatiron, at 10 E 21st Street. It was founded by Brad Hargreaves, Jake Schwartz, Matthew Brimer, and Adam Pritzker, recent college graduates, who received a $200,000 grant from the NYC Economic Development Corporation to launch the space as well as financial sponsorship from Skype, Ideo, Silicon Valley Bank and Rackspace.The 20,000-sq ft “campus,” which opened in January 2011, was immediately booked to its 100-seat capacity. The lounge offers sleek communal worktables where members like Etsy founder Chris Maguire, Brainpicker’s Maria Popova and Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook, sit for coffee and ideas.Their mission: to transform thinkers into creators.
They have an event space that holds 200, a classroom that holds 35, a library holds 25, several 15-person seminar rooms, a state-of-the-art media facility, Skype sponsored conference rooms, two work spaces on the north and south wings of the campus, a full kitchen, bar, lockers, mailroom and bike storage area. Is that enough for you? If not, in addition to its shared office spaces, General Assembly has dozens of classes and lectures each week, many open to the public. Nearly every weekend, they host an event such as Photo Hack Day, or Startup Weekend.
Costs: Communal membership $300/month; Dedicated membership $500/month
2.WeWork Labs is a coworking hybrid located in the heart of Soho at 154 Grand Street. Since April, 58 entrepreneurs from over 30 companies have called or currently call WeWork Labs home including startups such as Consmr, CityPockets, Fitocracy, Handshake, Turf and Superpowered. Founded in 2011 by Adam Neumann (Egg-Baby), Jesse Middleton (Guy Haus), and Matt Shampine (Onepager) the growing membership wait list is fast approaching 200 people. WeWork Labs hosts numerous events in the space including demo days, happy hours, WilmerHales’ summer legal series, member run lunch-and-learns and lunches with JWT’s Chief Creative Digital Officer and Director of Trendspotting.The WiFi is excellent, the coffee is hot!
Cost: Sponsor subsidized price is $250/month for a dedicated desk. Includes month to month memberships.
3. Projective Space is also in Soho, located at 447 Broadway. The 5,500 sq ft space was created by three brothers, James, Johnny and Tim Wahba, and is home to 30 hot startups in New York City including Gojee, SinglePlatform, IndieGoGo, Uber, Wanderfly, TrialX and FlyKly, makers of electric bicycles. They host over 70 companies, who range from 2 to 12 person teams. ”It’s a before and after place for startups that go to accelerators” says James Wahba. “We like to see companies that are referred to us by other companies in the space. And we don’t accept non-tech teams or companies that aren’t progressive. We don’t want people making cold calls all day here.”
Projective Space seems to be quite the hot bed for success: 2 companies have sold in the past 6 months, several have been accepted into All-Star accelerator programs and not one has fizzled out. Watch out for their new campus, the 7,200 sq ft space in the Lower East Side on Grand and Allen, which will cater towards events, meetups and demo days and partner with local accelerators like Tech Stars and The Founder’s Institute.
Costs: $325/month per seat.
4. Although New Work City was founded over 4 years ago, co-founder Tony Bacigalupo recently raised $18,000 on Kickstarter for its brand new, dedicated open co-working space and community center, located at 412 Broadway in Little Italy. The exposed-brick den has an expandable classroom designed to facilitate community-powered education through a platform that is designed to connect people who want to teach with people who want to learn. They expect to have that up and running this year. To that end, New Work City is one of the most open co-working spaces in Manhattan, and there’s no application process. The facility is open 9 a.m until...., Mon.-Fri. and includes a maximum of 80 workers in the space, otherwise it would get pretty tight. They urge you to stop talking to your cat, put on some pants, and come work with them!
New Work City was built as a community first and a business second. It is the collective result of the participation of countless people who believe in its mission and subscribe to its values.
Tony describes the mission of this space: “New Work City is a co-working space and community center for independents. We emerged from the original co-working communities in 2008, when a group of people came together to build a place to share. Now we occupy a lovely 4,700 square foot Soho loft space that we use as our workspace, event space, and general clubhouse. We're part of a growing movement that's transforming our relationship with work. As people shift increasingly from traditional full-time employment to self-directed independent careers, we have an opportunity to think of work less as a necessary drudgery and more as an opportunity to pursue greater personal fulfillment.”
Cost: $30/day for drop-in. $100/month to work in the space up to four times per month, and book conference rooms in advance. $300/month for a Citizen Membership to work in the space as often as you like during regular operating hours. You’ll also get a locker and the ability to use NWC as your business’s mailing address.
5. Dogpatch Labs is in Union Square at 36 E 12th St. They have offices in Cambridge and San Francisco as well, all provided by Polaris Ventures to “connect entrepreneurs and help founders conceive and launch startups”. Dogpatch describes its accelerator hybrid as a “frathouse for geeks”, which provides decent exposure to mentors, but most importantly- it lets companies move in for 6 months without paying rent or giving up equity. They have a waiting list of about 250 to 275 companies for about eight to 10 desks. Companies currently inhabiting its New York City space include Assured Labor, OneClipBoard, Artsicle, Fast Society, tutorspree, Proper Cloth and Zozi. The WiFi is excellent, outlets abound and the kitchen is always stocked with drinks and snacks.
They offer desk space, bandwidth, coffee and snacks to aspiring entrepreneurs. But they feel they are much more than a physical space — they see themselves as a community of like minded entrepreneurs who share a spirit of “open source entrepreneurship,” the idea that, particularly at the very earliest of stages, all will benefit by fostering connection points between and amongst entrepreneurs and startups. Whether it is sharing space, sharing ideas, sharing referrals, networking, or just hanging out, everybody thrives on the flow of ideas, people and relationships. The lab frequently also used as a meeting place — for dinner events, brown bag lunch talks, workshops, conferences, symposia and good ole’ pizza and beer nights.
Brooklyn is often overlooked as the forgotten borough. But I am not neglecting it here. For those of you who want to remain on that side of the bridge, check out The Yard.
6. The Yard is a co-working and private office space at 33 Nassau Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a Lower East Side location opening soon. With over 200 members working in tech and creative fields, The Yard offers month-to-month memberships with 24/7 access to allow individuals and startups to grow and cultivate their business. From web development to graphic design, music management to cartography, the companies that call The Yard home are innovative, enterprising businesses that together make for a creative and sustainable community. To that end they also host weekly events like art exhibitions, meet and mingle happy hours, workshops, and networking events.
The Yard's amenities extend beyond the customary wi-fi and coffee. It hosts over 95 companies and has a continually growing list. “We really want to cultivate a culture here that is cutting edge and innovative and collaborative,” says Andy Smith, The Yard’s PR and curriculum coordinator. He states that “The Yard differentiates itself from other co-working spaces by offering over 90 private suites for rent. In addition, they are currently hosting a 6 week course on How to Open a Restaurant, as well as an upcoming Wine Taste and Talk. Their full calender of events can be seen on their website, The Yard.
So, if you are tired of virtual interaction on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and are seeking human interaction; if you are tired of talking to the cat; if you are looking to share ideas, co-working might be just the thing for you. Keep in mind that each co-working space has a different purpose. Whereas one may attract designers and programmers, another attracts companies of all types in the early stages, while another works with companies in the later stages, or another is more of an incubator, connecting startups with angel investors. Carefully consider where you are in your business and what you actually need from a workspace, and then check out these great companies.
Follow me on Twitter @Grandmasecrets and on Facebook/GrandmasSecrets. And be sure to visit me at www.Grandmasecrets.com.