Co-working Spaces: An Entrepreneur's Oasis
There was a time when some of the greatest and most successful entrepreneurs started their journey in inconspicuous places like garages, basements, attics or even terraces. They toiled for days, weeks and even months, within the confines of their space, braving odds such as poor infrastructure, limited resources and even social isolation, to develop their dream product or service offering. Today, however, as an entrepreneur, you have a far more conducive ecosystem to give wings your idea(s). Probably the single most important facilitator of this ecosystem is a Collaborative Working space better known as Co-working space. With some level of diligence using an online aggregator/marketplace, your choice of co-working space can prove to be an invaluable ally during the various stages of your journey. Let’s take a closer look at how Co-working spaces can enhance the experience of becoming an entrepreneur.
Early or ideation stage entrepreneurial journeys tend to be lonely with seemingly endless challenging days. During this phase, you need to focus all your attention towards creating a proof of concept or a workable prototype. By opting to work at a Co-working space, you can rest assured that your basic requirements such as reliable internet access, comfortable seating and refreshments, are well taken care of. But that’s not all! Co-working spaces offer tremendous opportunities to network with other early stage entrepreneurs and explore possible synergies. Perhaps what is even more important for you, as an early stage start-up, is idea validation. People working alongside you can prove to be a source of great feedback thereby significantly reducing the steepness of your learning curve. The Co-working spaces of today seek to establish close-knit communities rather than just providing infrastructure. Through workshops and master-classes you can learn about the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship through someone else’s experience.
As your start-up grows, you will need to hire people. With minimal contractual obligations, a co-working space offers tremendous flexibility by allowing you to take up the exact number of seats that you require at a particular point in time. Given how dynamic and uncertain the start-up environment tends to be, such flexibility can prove vital in order to manage your cash outflow effectively. Once you’ve hired people, team-building and goal-setting become important. Co-working spaces offer private workspaces that facilitate bonding between team members. As a founder, it works to your advantage as you are still very much within the collaborative ecosystem yet have your own ‘space’. In addition, there are usually a good number of meeting rooms and team rooms equipped with projectors, video and audio conferencing facilities that allow for active interaction and healthy exchange of thoughts.
Depending on your product idea, you will, sooner or later, need to scale up. This is when things get pretty interesting. Building a business isn’t only about your core competencies. There are several other aspects such as compliance, audits, accounting, marketing etc that warrant due attention. Need a digital marketing expert? Or a compliance officer? All you need to do is reach out to your Community Manager and he or she will direct you to professionals who have solutions for everything that isn’t core to your business. When it comes to growing your own teams, these spaces can accommodate such requirements quite effectively; however, this is where you need to be prudent. Beyond a certain point, any form of serviced offices (co-working spaces or otherwise) can prove to be quite expensive. In order to decide if a co-working space is still optimal, here are some probing questions that need to be answered:
- What is your current team size?
- What are your headcount projections over the next 24-36 months?
- What are your infrastructure requirements? Do you require a dedicated server room? Or a dedicated leased internet line?
- If you are serving a particular client, does that client have privacy-related or data theft concerns?
- Are you sufficiently funded to set-up your own office in a leased premises?
- Are you prepared to incur capital expenditure to run your own office?
Bear in mind, that while you remain located within a co-working space, a lot of the above questions will keep popping up every now and then. This isn’t to suggest that co-working spaces are not suitable beyond a particular stage of growth, but it is to suggest that you will eventually outgrow the pressing need to remain within one. Until that point in time, co-working spaces will prove to be your versatile, dynamic, and utilitarian ally.