Co-working spaces have become popular worldwide, affording startups instant networking opportunities and camaraderie, as well as the intangible benefit of what I call "assisted serendipity:" a multitude of unexpected encounters that are difficult to recreate in traditional office settings and provide nearly immeasurable amounts of value for new businesses.
A great co-working space is a collection of minds inspired by the brand that brought them together. As a member, you benefit from the brand that creates the space, the ethos it aspires to, and the people it attracts. Not only can a great space provide great ideas, but the association could also lend credibility to your otherwise unknown startup.
Amenities available at different co-working spaces range from free Wi-Fi and coffee to weekly seminars with high-profile guest speakers and shared staff members, such as receptionists. But the unstructured exchanges that take place at the coffee machine are the real amenities. The knowledge and experience of your peers and small, informal interactions around the printer can spark new ideas.
Want to hire a designer? Need a new way to do payroll? Seeking advice on an employee contract? Valuable expertise is just a few seats away, saving you hours of frustration spent researching and reinventing the best solution.
If your company is too large to work out of your home, finding your own space can be time consuming, expensive and unaccommodating when your company has the potential to double in size within a month.
An investor might offer space in his office or with another company in his investment portfolio, but that brings its own challenges. These environments provide a level of oversight that can be stifling and isn't conducive to your creative process. You may feel pressure to always be "on task" and work diligently, instead of allowing time to occasionally goof off or pivot to address new ideas without looking over your shoulder and wondering whether your investor approves of your choices.
Flexibility is also important as you grow your business. Co-working spaces can accommodate changes to the size of your team and don't require a firm commitment to a yearlong lease like most commercial spaces. Co-working spaces offer memberships ranging from a daily drop-in pass to a monthly or yearly membership to make changes in the size of your team -- or even a change in location -- painless.
Co-working spaces are also a great place to get hired if you want to work at a startup. A handful of our summer interns found full-time jobs with startups within our co-working space, having met the companies' leaders while interviewing them for our company blog. Then, just the other week while immersed in a game of ping pong, I met a visitor who had come in to eat lunch with a client. We were introduced and started talking, and now we've hired him to lead our business development team.
Co-working spaces can ease some of the stress of starting a new business and provide valuable resources and connections you won't find anywhere else. They're popular for the flexibility they offer new businesses, but the real value is in their assisted serendipity: the informal conversations and the expert advice members are happy to offer one another.