Posted by: BayAreaComRE | February 8, 2011

The Emergence of Coworking: Startups share offices before they scale (My first post on SFNewTech!)

I am excited to contribute to the SF New Tech community. My first blog post went up today, and I look forward to many more to come. Coworking is a very pertinent topic, as this community is a lean startup community, and coworking has been instrumental in fostering growth, collaboration and innovation.

Here is the post on the SF New Tech website, and I also re-posted it here. Please feel free to comment on my blog or visit Myles and the team at sfnewtech.com.

If the Bay Area economy was akin to a baseball game, the technology and startup entrepreneurs are wearing their rally caps and driving in the jobs. As the startup industry grows, led by founders and powered by angel and venture funding, community has become the glue to hold it all together.

Whether it’s a high-profile departure from Facebook or a graduate from MIT, there is a lot on the line in starting a company, and there is tremendous value in surrounding yourself with others who have the same passion and work ethic.

Founders are joining coworking spaces and venture-backed incubators, sharing offices with larger companies, or leasing office space. There are myriad ways to establish your company’s headquarters, but the common denominator to opening an office is community.

At the GigaOM Net:Work Conference in Mission Bay, we held a coworking workshop in which leaders in coworking discussed the new phenomenon. Julian Nachtigal, the mind behind pariSoma which quintupled in size in San Francisco’s SoMa district, and Jeremy Neuner, CEO of Nextspace with two locations in SF and Santa Cruz.

The message was clear: co-working thrives around community, where entrepreneurs can share best practices, network with various industry professionals and rent a desk to plug a computer in and get to work. If you don’t know what a co-working space is, read this Quora thread.

Coworking @ Parisoma

“Coworking got a jumpstart during the economic crisis and crisis equals opportunity. Lean startups of 2-6 people with early stage seed funding can’t afford to have their own office, and we offer them a solution,” says Julian.

Coworking spaces in SF are growing at rapid paces, with The Hub at the San Francisco Chronicle Building expanding (See San Francisco Chronicle story), SOMA Central taking more space at 153 Townsend, and Rocket Space opened a large 50,000 square feet in SoMa to fit 500 people geared to later stage startups. See my blog post on the launch of RocketSpace.

“Community is the biggest part. People by nature are social. At coworking, entrepreneurs prove their product, raise funding, then choose when to scale and branch out to larger office space. But the community that was started at places like pariSoma lives on,” Julian explains.

Entrepreneurs may leave the co-working, but the coworking certainly doesn’t leave the entrepreneur.

Coworking works in tandem with the office market. “My dream would be to have every person working at NextSpace start an office of their own and grow to be the next Facebook.” Says Jeremy Neuner.

“The trend bodes well for the city because small businesses are expected to contribute significant numbers of jobs in the current economic recovery.” See the full SF Business Times article on coworking, “Tech startups dare to share”.

RocketSpace

Owen Thomas, Editor of VentureBeat, tweeted to me the other day, “Silicon Valley used to be about cheap office parks. Now it’s about gathering brains, shortening commutes, and providing for play.” Entrepreneurs are seeking out community in an office space just as they do at a coworking space.

Community is the main reason South of Market and Palo Alto have become the epicenter for startups. The vacancy in Palo Alto hovers around 5%. Similarly, vacancy in South of Market shrinks every quarter and rates have grown to $40 per RSF at the high end. In my article on VentureBeat, I show the tremendous activity going on in SoMa and Palo Alto despite the rising rates.

Companies like Twilio have opened their own office, but did not isolate themselves in the process. They shared the office with another startup in the beginning, and they have used their office to give back to the community. Take a look at the pictures from the SF New Tech Holiday Party, hosted by none other than Jeff Lawson and the whole Twilio gang at their headquarters on Folsom street.

My client, Thumbtack, a leading marketplace for local services, opened a beautiful office this month in South of Market and wants to encourage groups to work from their space. They have a full kitchen, open layout, loft space and a cook that visits their office two times a day to cook them meals. They certainly will have a great community within their own office! Check out their ad!

2011 is ripe for another tech boom, and the lean startup method with smaller starting offices and coworking spaces will make it sustainable. The Bay Area is on the verge of an exciting year, and more lights will be burning late in coworking spaces and startup offices alike.

We are having a Coworking Unconference event to start SXSW in Austin Texas as well! So if you are planning on going to SXSW, sign up and join the conversation and the movement!

Justin Bedecarré is a real estate advisor for technology and media companies at Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm covering the Bay Area. He has represented firms from Fortune 100 to startups in media and technology, including Broadcom, Thomson Reuters, AKQA, and Hearst Corporation, to name a few. He writes a blog on the intersection of technology and commercial real estate at http://www.BayAreaComRE.com. He can be reached via email at justin.bedecarre@cushwake.com or at About.me, @jtbed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora

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Responses

  1. collaboration is so vital in our corporate society now. People work at their fullest potential when given the chance to contribute their areas of core strengths and insight.


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