Living in sunny Miami, enjoying the flexibility of being a self-employed marketer and earning a nice salary may seem like a dream life for many. Not for Jason Saltzman.
Feeling an emptiness inside, 34-year-old Saltzman was looking for an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. Some people may fill the void by turning to charity work, others may turn to social entrepreneurship. Saltzman found it in co-working spaces.
Now the CEO and founder of AlleyNYC, a co-working space located in midtown Manhattan, Saltzman has the opportunity to provide a hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their dream venture.
"It wasn't about the money," says Saltzman. "The prospect of working with brilliant minds and establishing a place where everyone can collaborate with one another to build innovative products really made my heart pump."
Not only does AlleyNYC provide a home for startups, it offers amenities, like yoga and free hosting through cloud company Rackspace. There's also a speaker series and professionals, such as lawyers, eager to provide advice to entrepreneurs. Startups like Skift, a travel and media site that just secured $1.1 million in funding, Consumer Reports' lab division have all landed at AlleyNYC.
We caught up with Saltzman to see what it takes to run a co-working space and tips for young entrepreneurs looking to nab a coveted spot at one. Check out our Q&A below, along with our video where Saltzman offers advice to young entrepreneurs about utilizing co-working spaces.
Q: How did AlleyNYC generate a waiting list of more than 300 people?
A: Starting out, we used a grassroots approach. We never marketed, never put an ad in a magazine, never turned to Craigslist. Instead, we asked members to bring their friends in, which naturally provided a comfortable space with smart, like-minded people.
Q: How is AlleyNYC different from other co-working spaces?
A: I think every co-working space out there is awesome. I think they all contribute to a collaborative environment in one way or another, but I truly feel that the community we've curated here is the best.
We focus on the growth of the businesses that come in here and all of our amenities are focused on that growth. For instance, every Friday, we have a venture capitalist or someone in the entrepreneurial community speak to our members.
Also, there needs to be a special element to grow a community, which I call the sitcom effect. Seinfeld had amazing characters and great chemistry with one another, making the show last for years. I see that in the space naturally, and I don't think you plan a business model around creating that.
Q: What were some of your early challenges?
A: I think the biggest challenge we had in the beginning was being based in midtown Manhattan. Although we saw it as an opportunity for people to grow their business in a centralized location, it was hard to get developers to come anywhere above 18th Street and take notice of the space.
Through time, collaboration and getting the right people involved in the space, we are able to get people that wouldn't normally come to midtown to work in our office.
Q: What is the best part of being the founder of AlleyNYC?
A: The best part for me is to come into this office every day, collaborate with the most brilliant minds in the world and enjoy the time we have together. And I'm not just talking about focusing on our business models, either. Through the different events we have, we're giving people the opportunity to talk not just about what they are working on but the world. It is so inspiring to me to be able to house these amazing people.
Q: What does the future hold for AlleyNYC?
A: I don't see us growing into other spaces or other cities.
Our business model has come to fruition, where we are stabilized and full. The future is to add on more space to the same floor. We plan on upgrading to 35,000 square feet.
We really want to get in an environment where things can be created in a collaborative environment. A place where developers, designers and entrepreneurs want to work on projects that are groundbreaking and could potentially change the world.
Check out the video below for advice from Jason Saltzman on utilizing co-working spaces.