Co-working/techhub/start-up centers….

Posted: August 12, 2008 in center, co-working, hub, office


Spurred on by posts on co-working.ie and a recent post on Techcrunch UK I’ve decided to get serious with my plans for a Co-working/techhub/start-up center.
While I have certain ideas on how I would like to setup & run such a center I need the input of potential users. I do not intend to run it for my own benefit so rather than just come up with a list of requirements myself I am looking for input from outside sources. What facilities would you like to see in such a center?
How should it be run/managed?
So there it is, let the discussion begin!
Please post suggestions in the comment section below…

I’ve been asked to provide some more parameters on my plans.
The idea is to have a facility that will provide office and/or work space for technology start-ups (NOT just IT), hot-desking facilities and “day-rental” offices. The building will include shared facilities and services such as central reception, meeting rooms, postal & courier services (delivery as well as collection), fast broadband access (wired & wireless), out-off hours access, security, storage facilities, furnished desks and offices, equipment leasing facilities (audio-visual & IT equipment) etc. etc.
The entry threshold will be relatively low and will be more about what you are doing instead of what you have done and how big your bank balance is.
Tennants/participants will be encouraged to take part in informal but regular brianstorming sessions where experiences can be shared, questions asked and answered and were everyone can share and “cross-polinate”…

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Comments
  1. […] funding angel seed investor profit Last August I blogged about my ideas for a Co-working/techhub/start-up center. Since then I have had lots of discussions on this topic with a wide variety of people. People who […]

  2. Evert,

    There seems to be an awful lot of discussing going on, when I feel that a lot of the discussion could be skipped and inspiration from the states can be taken direct.

    I found the easiest way to set up a coworking space was to ‘just do it’ … these thoughts are from a year of having run a small space in Dublin.

    From your list, I’d say only the following are necessary:
    – post boxes
    – fast broadband (most necessary)
    – out-off hours access (definitely, keys ftw)
    – security, storage facilities (generally a place that is free from potential theft is good)

    This is all that’s really necessary to get going and the administration in providing other add on services would probably be too much. A meeting space would have been really great for us: there were a few other offices in the building that we were able to use on occasion.

    You should take a look at a recent post on the coworking group from Alex Hillman of IndyHall in Philadelphia, they’ve been up and running for a year:
    http://groups.google.com/group/coworking/browse_thread/thread/b161283025df426f

    Peace out, and best of luck,

  3. Brian Quinn says:

    Your facility list seems quite comprehensive and has everything you could want covered. Shared meeting rooms are a must along with at least one good meeting room / boardroom that would allow tenants to use it for sales presentations etc. Maybe a training room that could be used to allow in-house/third parties to run training program would be useful? I guess the co-working facility piece is the easy bit.

    Adding value as a tech centre & supporting start ups is possibly the more challenging part. For start ups there is the option of providing a structured support program which they can pay for or maybe sponsorship could be secured for a number of places annually.

    Additionally, in my opinion, encouraging an open culture of creativity & innovation would be essential. Some quick thoughts on items that may help are – Hosting regular technology updates / information sessions followed by open discussion, attracting OCC or other such groups to use the facility for meetings, facilitated sessions on idea generation & concept development, education & support on how to bring a product to market, inviting “success story” companies to speak on challenges they faced & how they overcame them.

    Hope this helps,
    Brian

  4. Evert Bopp says:

    What would people think of in-house legal counsel & accountancy services?

  5. Bartosz Ptaszynski says:

    I love the idea. I’ll definitely will use it!

  6. @Evert a few things.
    In house Legal and accounting is not a good idea (IMHO) unless the deal is quite unbelievable. Relations with several acccountancy firms would be better for the clients as it creates a competitive environment. (Your clients might not like your choice)

    Location, Location, Location. Where is this going to be?
    Travel connectivity is almost as important as broadband.
    Availability and cost of other office space nearby when clients “graduate”.

    I agree with Paul Campbell about “just doing it” as well.

    One thing. Be careful you’re not replicating centres like the EAC and the Rubicon which have EI support and an EPP program of training and free premises etc. most of which come with CORD funding.

  7. My advice: Respect the community and be fair. Make sure the policy and pricing suits your target community.

    Also, be careful about the name you choose for your co-working location and mind that just because sth is legal, doesn’t make it legitimate in the eyes of the community.

    See the following posts and comments to get an idea of how it should NOT be done:

    http://www.numlock.ch/news/it/citizen-space-zurich-for-digital-nomads-soon-to-arrive/
    http://www.numlock.ch/news/it/citizen-space-zurich-home-page-up-and-more-details/

  8. Hi Evert,

    Keeping the bureaucracy to minimum is important. Some centres just provide the office space and central reception but leave the individuals to organise their own phone line etc. Some points that spring to mind:

    – Good phone system: Don’t make people organise their own phone lines. If you can fund it then get a good PBX system that allows then to have individual billing. People should be able to transfer calls to other offices and make free internal calls. A more advanced system will allow them to have big company features without the overhead.

    – Central Website: Give people a few pages on a central website while they are getting their own one sorted out.

    – Don’t forget parking. It often ends up causing problems later – especially if customers/visitors can’t find a space.

    – Coffee. Very important – or at least suitably maintained kitchen facilities.

    Keith

  9. Evert Bopp says:

    I wasn’t aware that Rubicon & the EAC provided free premises. AFAIK they charge low rents…

  10. Evert Bopp says:

    Keith,

    I absolutely agree.
    One of my reasons for doing this is that getting space in any off the other centers around the country entails too much bureaucracy.
    It is my plan to offer turn-key facilities that can be utilised from day 1 and to take away all infra-structural “worries” from tenants. They should be able to move in and concentrate on their product or service.

  11. @Evert They do if you’re on an EPP scheme like LEAP/Genesis (at least they do in Limerick as I was on the LEAP program).
    They also give access to CORD funding without having to jump through too many hoops. (Up to 38k based on 50% previous salary)
    They also offer general business training as part of the program and will bring in and make connections to accountants and other professionals for expertise in those areas.

    Otherwise they are pretty good (not unbelievable though) for rents. And will have a lot of other startups on the premises to share experiences with.

    I ain’t saying it’s perfect as it doesn’t suit a lot of people. And there is an application/acceptance part which is icky. You ought to be aware what’s already there though , so giving you the lowdown to better tailor your offering.

    But again, where are you going to do this? (As in I might be a potential client depending on where it is, how far to an airport, links to trains and main motorways)

    Is there a lot of bureaucracy getting into the other centres around the country? I didn’t know that, what’s the problem in being a tennant?

  12. Evert Bopp says:

    Thanks for the very constructive feedback everybody! It confirms that I am on the right track.
    I am talking to some other parties that might want to become involved next week so keep the suggestions/comments/ideas coming!

  13. Evert Bopp says:

    @Anton I am looking at a few, new but vacant office buildings in the Nenagh area next week. The N7 is only minutes away and you know how far Shannon Airport is…

  14. Debbie says:

    Hi Evert,

    I think this is all very interesting. I broadly agree with Paul’s comment above, and tend to think that simpler is better, or you run the risk of taking on something that’s more akin to serviced offices.

    The first thing to decide is who exactly is it for? Is it a drop-in centre for anyone, or is it purely for IT/tech people? I would imagine somewhere where anyone can go to socialise/work/network with like-minded people and do business.

    I was initially thinking of something more like Jelly http://wiki.workatjelly.com/ Howt…owtoStartaJelly than Citizen Space, but something between the two might be interesting.

    Personally I would look for fast broadband, phone (maybe, given that we have mobiles), tea/coffee-making facilities – or good takeaway coffee locally – tables at a good height for writing at, ditto for laptop, good lighting, (generally good ergonomics). Not much beyond that I think.

    Sorry if this isn’t very specific but I hope it adds to the mix.

    Cheers,
    Debbie

  15. I’m still browned off by the southeast Enterprise Ireland panel who refused CORD funding to me when I told them I did not want to incubate in the WIT-controlled office space.

  16. Evert Bopp says:

    I feel your pain
    That’s exactly why I want to keep this an entrepreneurial venture only with nil bureaucratic involvement…

  17. Karina Heavey says:

    Hi Evert,

    I took a look at your blog and I’d like to share my thoughts with you. I was at the IMI conference in April this year and an ex-Dragon Rachel Elnaugh was one of the presenters. ( http://www.rachelelnaugh.com/biography/ )

    Rachel said something that I found interesting. She told the audience that has a lot of people working for her/around her but she doesn’t have an office, she doesn’t think they need one. These days she works with small businesses and they meet in WIFI enabled cafes, hotels, etc My point is, I don’t Rachel is alone in her approach and I believe that this new breed of “cafe workers” is on the rise.

    I remember reading an article in the Sunday Times a couple of months ago about this topic of co-working/hot desking. I believe there is a need for this type of facility, a low-cost option for people who like the buzz of working in the office, but prefer to work as self-employed consultants/contractors and therefore have no “office” to work in.

    Hotels are too expensive for people to rent out meetings room and cafes are too noisy – especially if you are trying to conference call the States! It would be great if you could set up a “google/fun style office” that had all printers/scanners/shredders/admin that people need and locate it near the Luas, Dart, Train station, airport, etc – somewhere people could go before and after their meetings – without having to go miles out of their way. I think the market would be consultants and contractors who can write the cost of the service off against tax / expense it. Maybe you could find somewhere in the city near a large creche – aim it at the working women’s market?

    I worked in a Regus office for over a year in my last job and I can say that Regus charge an absolute fortune! (no joke!) However, the offices were “slick” – clean – shiny – flatscreen TVs with Sky news, fresh tea and coffee – friendly secretary’s etc.

    If you are going to (or already offer) hotdesking/co-working facility, my advice would be three things. 1 – location 2. low cost 3. the “customer experience”. People always say “its the little things in life that make the difference” and it’s true. Having an actual water cooler instead of just a tap, a proper coffee/tea machine, a stapler, a posting service, a colour printer and binder for proposals, a “networking breakfast/lunch” where you give all your clients croissants, muffins, juice and biscuits etc would be part of the “experience”.

    One small comment about the photo you use on your blog. My first impression was that you sold computer monitors. From the number of computer monitors on the desk, it seems that you are aiming your services at “stockbrokers” i.e, someone who would need to look at multiple screens at the same time to monitor prices going up and down. My advice is to use a photo with people in it – the photo should reflect a professional but fun environment. Think BA business lounge – less all the food and drink.

  18. Dawn Baird says:

    The usual staffed admin facilities. Someone to fax/copy etc.

    Keep the place clean and warm. Good quality furniture and chairs.

    Coffee-‘facilities’ not just a sink and kettle! Either a decent machine and plenty of muffins/scones or a wee high-quality franchise/cart in the hall would do.

    Shared meeting room/training room?

    Do research on your pricing. Ask entrepreneurs what they’d pay for such a service and how they’d want to pay. That is on demand, or per month.

    I’d definately have used this service in the early days. Rented office space (£600-1200 per month at the last look)is way too expensive for entrepreneurs starting off, even in a joint business centre.

  19. Dave says:

    Hi Evert

    I’m getting good ideas from this page and the Linkedin Group so thanks. I may steal the lot of them 🙂

    I live an a very small community away from any urban centres but facing many of the same challenges and then some. The idea that is forming in my head is a micro hub. Many of the comments above have listed various requirements and several people have said why the same things are NOT necessary. So where do that leave us?

    I think it leaves a micro hub, really just an rallying point and a focus. The point where the these great ideas and information connect with the real world.

    I am looking at a very small space in the centre of our community that will be a ‘shopfront’ for the community’s innovation web site.

    The main point of shop buildings and especially say banks is that they project an image to the world (in the case of banks of security, stability and trust. It is pretty obvious that banks don’t actually need a high street presence, cash can be distributed in ATMs and even before that the facade of the bank building was largely just there to project these attributes).

    I am wandering into abstract territory here but my plan is for a very small hub, a contact point. As suggested in comments above, space for b2b, staff & client meetings can be rented by the hour or borrowed. Coffee, creche and office services can be supplied commercially – people have their own phones now…

    It will just be about ideas, connecting and getting things moving. The more I can avoid scary words like ‘business’, ‘start-up’ and ‘dragons’. Existing businesses seem to feel the need to ring fence their own territory with talk of business plans and details of the pitfalls. What people need to hear is that great ideas and connecting with people is what it is about. Solicitors, accountants and business plans can come later.

    Entrepreneurs are the creative and brave thought leaders. Often the disruptive mavericks. They may dress up in suits in the end to give their ideas credibility but often they are unconventional thinkers who formulate new solutions.

    Our education systems (worldwide) does their best to stunt creativity so we need to create micro cultures where innovation is applauded and nurtured.

    Thanks for the posting, the site and the stimulating comments.

    Dave

  20. […] then reality set in. I have been preaching this for over two years myself. See here & here. And I am certainly not the only one. With the Greenhouse I have set out to create an environment […]

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