A Coworking Update

Ok, so, it’s been months, probably since July that I haven’t given a proper Coworking update. A small disclaimer before I do, the following events and explanations could seem like excuses, they are not. I’m aware that lack of time and my general prudence in setting projects up are to blame for the slow advance, not what I’m about to list but still, it’s worth showing some of the process so people interested in the space know what’s going on.

Last “official” updates were about the small business plan/ mission statement I was writing to present to investors. I did write it, sent it to a few investors (where “investors” are not banks or huge outfits but rather people who want the project to exist and happen to have a bit of money) and awaited feedback. Let me note here that yes, we could simply have decided to just go with a bootstrap project, like most coworking projects but we had/have a vision of what it should look and feel like an for that we need a bit more money.

Everyone was in agreement but the various possible government financings were brought back to the table and although we largely want to stay away from temporary grants and such to instead have a sustainable setup from the start, we did look around a bit and started talking with the CDEC. They already have the Lab Créatif up and running and it’s a similar project set in fashion instead of “knowledge work” so it was an easy decision to see them and they were very excited about our plans, having already had some demand for such a place.

Followed a couple of meetings, visiting of spaces they knew about but most importantly of a space part of a large floor they use in a former textile industry building. Pricing for the space, possible aid in a couple of areas and suggestions on services were discussed.

Let me stop here to go back to a parallel thread; previously and as we were initially talking to them, we were still juggling with a few possible setups, some including a cafe, some including a large kitchen to be used as a cafe for events, some with an open space for events, some without. In this juggling we visited, talked and thought about various spaces.

All of that meeting with CDEC and parallel brainstorming and visiting took some weeks and we’re already in August by that time.

The main thing we were aiming for with CDEC was a cheaper lease which would let us have the event space and a sustainable business model. To get that, we needed a real business plan and financial plan so I set to writing this, amongst work and busier than usual off work hours, this again took a few weeks. Add to that vacations and other projects for CDEC resources and a full slate for myself and we’re now in early September.

By then the plan is set, both in the scope and the actual numbers. The space would have 20 seats, 10 for permanent “anchor” members, 10 for “flex” plans, a kitchen setup to serve also as bar and cafe, a lounge (read a space with sofas and bean bags) and an open space to hold small events. We just needed final answers to a few things and we were ready to assemble the “money people”, setup the company and start things up.

We detailed these questions and put them to the right people, I put my coworking partner Dan in contact with everyone so nothing would slow down because of my absence and I left for Europe. 10 days after my return, we still didn’t have answers to those questions. We’re now 3 weeks into September.

Let me stop again for another parallel thread; from about mid summer no less than 3 people contacted me because they also had ideas about coworking spaces and wanted to discuss what we were trying to do, who could do what, if we should band together, if we would end up competing, etc. I wont go into details here, I’ll just say that the thread I’m “leading” is still the most advanced (such as it is) and that this too took some time and stretched some delays again.

Back to late September and I finally get some news from CDEC. They are taking care of multiple projects, some of them based in the same building we were looking at and before going forward—which they still very much want to do—they need to re-asses what they will use, how to setup AC, heat, electricity, who goes where, where walls are built, lease durations, etc. The big thing in this, other than the delay, is that we’re expecting the price to go up. Since that’s the biggest reason for all this time planning with them and how we manage the larger version of the project, we’re worried our plan won’t work anymore with a higher price.

On that side that’s where we’re at, waiting for those new plans to be ready and to know how that affects what we want to do. In this waiting we also have to keep in mind that this brings us to, at the very least, a mid December launch and, more likely, January or February. We—nor anyone I’ve spoken to—don’t think it’s a good idea to start this up in the dead of winter so that would potentially mean a wait until early spring.

Again, in parallel, a number of our potential anchors have kept working and are now setting up startups, getting money and their own offices. I don’t believe it will be a problem replacing them but it does change the mix that everyone had in mind all along. It also highlights the time already spent researching and exploring opportunities (perceived or otherwise) for the coworking, how much time would be required to run the dream version and where else it could have—could be—spent on. Articles like this one and discussions with other coworking “principals” also have me thinking.

“Ok ok, finish this up already!” Alllll of this to say that we are waiting on the new numbers to see if the version planned with the CDEC is still possible while also checking out a few smaller spaces to possibly fall back to a smaller version. Something like 10-12 seats, 6 anchors and no event space. The direction to take involves other people too and I go back and forth a bit on what I think is best but right this moment the possible outcomes in terms of likeliness would be:

  1. Smaller coworking, along the lines of Citizen Space and Indy Hall.
  2. The larger model with the open/event space.
  1. Nothing from me/us, let someone else give it a go.

    (Those are on an almost exponential like curve so number one is wayyy more likely than number 3 ;) )

    Last thing for the very few who might still be reading; a number of people have told me to “just do it”. I don’t want to do it half-assed and to do it properly (even the small one) there’s money, time and lease commitments that are required, making it a lot harder to give it a try and “just move” later on so we’ve refrained from the simple “jumping in and see where it goes” and spent time on the thing. Probably too much time but there you go, that’s what went on.

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