Hi all... wanted to see who in the area has an interest in coworking.
The short version: Shared spaces that independent workers (or virtual employees) can rent/use in lieu of getting traditional office space or being stuck at home.
Why am I interested? I work for BatchBlue, a six-person virtual company based in Barrington. I LOVE that we're virtual. I love working from home and meeting at the other team members' houses. But sometimes you need an office space for something—an extended client meeting, a hardcore laser printer, a copy machine (sure not gonna have one of those laying around the house), a conference room table, whiteboards, etc.
A coworking space allows those that pitch in for the space to use it when needed. There are plenty examples on the wiki (linked above) of it successfully working. Is this something that could gain some traction here in RI?
I think a facility like this would work in Providence.
I do think it would be critical that it have some form of inexpensive video conferencing. There are so many ways to share audio and video over the web that this should not be hard. Many of us are stuck in conference calls and I usually think there must be a better way. Even using commercial services for teleconferencing isn’t great and seems to be “so 90’s”. It could also be something which could be carefully rented out to local teams / telecommuters / consultants who are working for / with remote teams / companies and who want to more fully participate in meetings. Of course appearing more professional doesn’t hurt either.
Given the fact that my fax number points to an email service, I can email documents to local print shops to be printed, bound, and shipped, and all-in-one printing/scanning/copying solutions are becoming really cheap I think the real strength of these shared facilities will be their ability to facilitate dynamic human connections (working and personal) and a degree of professionalism not reachable in my living room. Just because I think my cats are really cool doesn’t mean my clients will...
At this time in my life I would not be a big user of a space like this but I wish it existed a few years ago and I will probably want one like it again.
Adam raises an excellent point with respect to co-working. I am not sure if folks heard this recent report on NPR's Morning Edition recently on the subject of co-working/telecommuting in NYC, but it was very interesting--
It raised (among other things)the issue of folks who work out of their apartments in NYC coming together and sharing space during the week.
I for one recently co-located my new work space in the revitalized mill complex known as the Plant located in the Olneyville section of Providence (along with a graphic designer and industrial designer). We built out our space with co-working opportunities in mind. If anyone is interested in speaking about co-working opportunities further I would be more than happy to meet on the subject.
The reality is that there are lots of cool people doing cool things in cool spaces around here and anything that can be done to foster further collaborations (in this case through co-working and office-sharing) is something worth investigating further!
Thanks for bringing this subject up!
There's been some thinkering of some folks in the public sector to attract out of state new media firms. It's done in NYC, but again ,there is the cost issue out there.
What I think it can be done is that folks like us can poll money to purchase essential shared equipment ( even second hand ) and look for someone with the initiative to provide subsidized rent or for a group to fund low cost rent and collect the monies from shared tennants, as a membership type of arrangement.
There is some affordable space on Harris Avenue, Lower Federal Hill, Pawtucket. Ideally, any incubator needs to be close to fiber, so it can create additional revenue by providing quality bandwidth and added revenue on premium content delivery.
I would be daring and say we need to start to think in terms of coop, so we can foster growth initiatives even further in this state.
Batch Blue is a member of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. Why don't you contact them regarding using/renting their meeting space and other office services?
They also probably have a line on local business incubators that may meet your occasional need - for a small fee.
There is a difference between office space and meeting space. Both are needed. Office space is needed not only for the "client" visit but also, for example, at the beginning and ending of projects where immediate group communications is needed. In this later case, the group needs to inhabit this space for days at a time. They can't clear out their stuff at the end of each day because, for one, the day really is 24 hours long.
It would be great to understand the overhead costs of such a space.
There's also the other side of co-working that I didn't really bring up in the original post—the collaboration possibilities. gnatelli, that's why I'm really gauging interest at this point. I'm far more interested in the collaboration possibilities of co-working than the actual office space usage. The space would be handy, both for meetings, using things like copy machines that I don't have in the house, etc. But I'm picturing a place where a bunch people are working on things, asking others for their opinions, perhaps finding ways or partnering, contracting, etc.
Reading Adam's last post bring a number of positive ideas
"Computer lab" (at school)
But also more challenging ideas
I am not sure what all this means except that the space you are envisioning is very complex both socially and legally.
I think we need to open the bandwidth of this discussion at either a coffee shop or pub. How about Brewed Awakenings in South Kingstown sometime this week.
Since Adam (adarowski) is at DEMO this week how about we use Meet-O-Matic to work out a date. If you are interested in talking about co-working (or just want to study people who think way too much about an issue) select a date at http://www.meetomatic.com/resp...
A get-together to discuss co-working possibilities sounds good to me, and meetomatic.com seems like a great tool. I suspect though that we'd draw more interest and a bigger crowd if it was more central than South County. How about Providence? Andrew?
If Providence works for people, I would be happy to host this discussion at my new office space at the Plant (located at 60 Valley Street, Unit 7) in Providence.
Providence is fine with me.
I am very interested in being a part of this conversation. I live in Portland now, but am in Providence bunches, and a flexible workspace could be a great way to stay connected. Especially with the surprising dearth of hot spots in Providence.
And, I've been thinking about the possibility of starting a place like this. Keep me in the loop.
Check out The HUB in London.
I'm in the beginning stages of putting together a tech-centric coworking, and coop living project in a downtown building. I did speak to some people at the last Providence Geeks dinner that were very receptive to the idea and I've started to get a framework together to start pushing this project forward. The idea is for this to be a tech user/community driven project - and my initial vision was for this to be a 24/7 collaborative, socially engaging community... I'd like to start getting some good brainstorming sessions going in person. Send me an email if you are interested in helping me coordinate a meeting.
I've been waiting to chime in on this. Extremely exciting to see the high level of interest from both potential users and providers of co-working space.
In my consulting to the EDC we've been actively looking at how to best help introduce co-working options into the local market. As this thread attests, recently the anecdotal interest level has surged on both the demand and supply sides.
EDC Info-Tech & Digital Media Sector Lead Stuart Freiman and I are going to organize an open conversation between all stakeholders for sometime later this month at the RIEDC.
Please stay tuned for details, and keep the excellent info and insights coming.
My name is Matt, and I'm in the commercial real estate business but have become a Providence Geeks Club enthusiast. I'm focusing my work on helping technology oriented companies find suitable office space (FYI: this is a free service to tenants, give me a call if you're interested in learning more 273-1980).
It just so happens that I'm working with a building owner who has recently purchased the Federal Reserve building located at 170 Westminster Street in downtown Providence, the corner of Westminster and Dorrance street.
We are converting the property into an "iBuilding" and will be incorporating several technology upgrades including free building wi-fi, digital directories, tenant web portals, and bandwidth infrastructure allowing tenants to have plug-and-play data access at up to 100 mega bits per second.
We're currently dealing with several Shared Workplace business's about opening a facility at the "iBuilding". It would be the perfect fit! I would really like to find out how many people you guys/gals think would be interested in this type of facility (30, 70, 200)?? I'm eager to receive your feedback!!
Interested. I did a business plan for just such a thing dubbed the Knowledge Factory ~9 years ago. Spaces for low (student archtects, etc) to high rent (sales professionals). 24-hour access, incentives for business cooperation between tenents, etc.
The list is long, I put some considerable effort into the BP. I envisioned a restored warehouse in Providence, a chunk of the Foundry or some such place.
I just read an article in Network World mag about a coworking location in Cambridge, MA. It made me look again for opportunities here in Prov. I would also like to findout more... Has the RIEDC meeting/discussion happened yet?
In response to Jack & Colleen's posts, we are planning an event here at RIEDC (555 Valley St) for Thursday, Dec 6th, 8:30am to 10:30am. It will probably take the form of panel discussions with both real estate developers and the "user" community as well as participation from the audience. Mark your calendar's and watch for a more formal announcement.
Article from Network World http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/102307-coworking.html
PBN Article by David Ortiz on the planned iBuilding that Matt Fair mentioned above
We have kind of already done this: http://www.thegrantat250.com
There are 16 spaces all together. One of them is a cafe. A few of them are retail. The bulk of them are design-related businesses of one or two people each. There is also a small art gallery. We have been open for a year. There has been some collaboration already, between businesses to work on larger projects. There is a recording studio with a vocal booth that does mainly hip hop artists but that can also record for web voice overs. We have an architect who has hired one of the designers to do a new website. We have designers that use the silkscreen studio's offerings for apparell printing and poster printing. All in all, it's worked pretty well.
We finally have a shared conference room ready to go for people. Internet is included in the rent, and WiFi is available.
I've been to the Grant a number of times - very, very cool.
What I'd like to see though is some "true" co-working space in RI - pay on a monthly basis for use of a shared space. Depending on what you paid you could have a "hot" desk, dedicated desk, or even a small dedicated office.
We're here in the newly converted Greenwich Mills (listed on the National Historic Registerd) located at the end of division street in East Greenwich (go down division street to the water!) 3rd floor. They just converted the second floor space also, I would love to have more people in the Info-Tech/ Digital Media industry join us here! Could be a great solution! Space is available to build out to suit!
I'm a big fan of a walkable lifestyle, something that is very difficult to attain in Providence at the moment. I believe small, ultra-local, co-working spaces/communities have great potential to improve the walk-ability of Providence for independent freelancers and other entrepreneurs in the digital media and info-tech space and would love to hear from anyone who would have an interest in working from such a space on the West Side.
owen, you bring up a good point. maybe the coworking space for our design|geek community isn't one place, but a fabric of coworking locations that shares common threads and interconnections. i know there's a bunch of folks in the Summit area of the East Side that work from home and would benefit from a local coworking spot. Accordingly, it would be hard to convince them to make the hike downtown for the same spot regularly. Unbelievable, but perhaps true.
Not unbelievable at all. My main criteria for a recent office search was that it was a maximum of 15 minutes walking distance from my home! Downtown is a 30 minute hike!
In case any of you didn't see the announcement, the Dec. 6th panel event that this thread inspired has been announced.
Here's an interesting piece from Business Week from Feb 07 about co-working. I'm really looking forward to the event and to seeing how this idea is coming to life in Providence.
I was inspired by what I had heard earlier today at the RI NEXUS/RIEDC event. Would anyone like to meet offline to discuss how we can experiment more with these ideas?
Lisa Carnevale (firstname.lastname@example.org)
First, congrats to Jack on the great panel and subsequent discussion on co-working. Whenever there is a need there is an opportunity.
Full disclosure, I'm only a semi-geek and have a general question for any advice I can get. This may be more for Brian as he is in an 'other than an urban' area. Is there a need for home office/co-working people in suburban settings?
The reason I ask is that I serve on the Smithfield Economic Development Commission and we are in the process of setting up 'fast tracking' for businesses and companies. We need to constantly present ideas and opportunities for small to mid-size companies looking to relocate. The larger companies are never a problem as they attract incentives by their nature.
Maybe Brian, Jack or anyone else would like to attend one of our meetings to reinforce how this may dovetail with our proposed Smithfield 'Villages Project'. Please contact me and I'll arrange for some time on the agenda.
Again, great meeting, thanks,
J. Jack Andrade
hey lisa, maybe we can merge the conversation with a techpreneurs coffee (see this thread), which I think I volunteered to set up. Let me see whether I can get something goin' for next week, before the holiday break.
I manage the IT/Digital Media sector for Rhode Island Economic Development. I'd be happy to speak with you about your proposed project(s) and see if we can help you with some information and ideas. Feel free to call me at 401-278-9168 or send email to email@example.com.
i think it would be interesting to gather definitions of co-working from everyone participating in the discussion to see where the common touch points are and as a way to gauge needs/wants in a space...Here is mine, a professional space to work/socialize with the ability to network/leverage the resources of those around you; a housing for shared ideas and creativity while allowing the individual/team to come together in one place to execute on a plan. To borrow from business week where the coffee shop meets the cubicle...
There's total rationale for co-working in the 'burbs, especially in this new villages concept. (Big ups to Fred Presley.) I refer to the eco-demographic of the Corporate Diaspora - people who got downsized or M&A'd from a big company and never went back. There are probably 10,000 or more 1-3 person businesses in RI, and a lot in the suburbs. For many of these, escape from the home-office would be a big plus, but the costs can be out of hand. A co-working space in a village adjacent to other services, like hot spot cafes, would certainly find its market.
And be sure check out that link for The Grant. Come on down to Kafe Lila and get yer grub on!
aktear - sure let's merge the conversations. it seems natural if we have some interested folks willing to explore the ideas fully. i want to put out there as well - i manage the Conley's Wharf building at 200 Allens Avenue and have a space on the 2nd floor that I have been visioning as a shared work/co-work space for some time. i'm interested in the conversation in terms of what interests people most in the utilization of this type of space. it's likely i will be making the space a reality in the beginning of the year. would be great to talk with people who want to check it out. also happy to host at the building. we have a baker on the 1st floor that always has great sweets and coffee brewing...
For any developers, here is a piece of property which could be turned into a co-work space. Located in South County it is easily accesible from both Exits 2 & 3 on I95. It also sits right across the street from a Verizon substation so running networking/fiber should be straight forward/cheap. And the area is well populated with URI professors and services, like libraries, which serve that demographic.
Full disclosure I have no relationship with either the current owner or ReMax realtors. I basically saw the building was up for sale thought that it would make a nice office or co-work location. And if I were a developer I would turn it into a nice office building myself.
I just posted the inaugural Open Coffee for this Wed 8AM at 729 Hope Cafe in Providence. Seems like a good chance to talk further about Coworking...hope to see you there.
I'll be moving to the Providence area in the next month or so, so I've been stumbling around looking for other freelancers, office sharers, etc. Short of attending a meeting in person, which I wont be able to do immediately, is this discussion taking place anywhere else?
I notice most of the discussion on this topic has died down (as the next to the last post was in January), but I'm hoping that that's because there's more activity going on behind the scenes that I am just not aware of. It would be great to hear from those people who had some definite plans for opening up their spaces and see what progress has been made. Specifically, I'd like to hear from wfranklin and Matt Fair as to how their projects are coming along.
It seems like we have several spaces outside of Providence - East Greenwich and Pawtucket already having several facilities, according to the discussion - but I like aktear's suggestion that we form a network among the various spaces. That way people who don't care to walk every day to the downtown office can use a local space that's more convenient and walkable, but then when they do need the downtown space that's available as well, all by paying a single fee. I'm curious to see what people think would be the best organizational fit for that sort of a network - a single LLC, a coop, etc.
Co-Working at the "iBuilding"
Plans have moved forward with the co-working space in the "iBuilding" at 170 Westminster Street in Downtown Providence. We are in talks with a party to launch the space, and are working through design, branding, and infrastructure issues at the moment. There are still opportunities for others to get involved with the project in a leadership capacity...in fact we ENCOURAGE it.
The owners of the "iBuilding" are committed to the project and are offering to provide the space to the selected party with no monetary commitment. The space will be updated by the Landlord and leased on a cash-flow basis...meaning the Landlord only makes money when the co-working facility makes money. This is a VERY RARE opportunity for folks who are interested in building a business. We would like to speak to anyone interested in being apart of building the operation from a grassroots level.
Enormous UPSIDE available for all you business minded entreprenuers out there. To discuss further please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Very interested in helping out with the iBuilding - would like to see if we can cooperate to get a program going with Johnson & Wales placing student interns in the space, working alongside the professionals and gaining skills and experience.
Hi all, My name is Lindsay Cunningham and I am currently a junior at Brown University. This past semester myself and three of my friends enrolled in a class entitled EN101 The Entrepreneurial Process. The main assignment in this course was to find/create a viable business that we could hypothetically open and present if a business opportunity exists or not. After much research, we decided that our pretend business would be a co-working space located on the East Side of Providence. In order to prove that this is a viable business opportunity, we are expected to get primary research from potential customers and other existing co-working businesses. Through our research, we have discovered that Rhode Island's IT and Digital Media sector would be a good place to start asking questions of potential customers. We were wondering if anyone would be willing to answer a few questions for our team and/or direct us to some people who may also want to help. These questions will be short and they will mainly ask about if you think there is a need for this kind of space in Providence. Please email me at your earliest convenience. My email address is email@example.com. Thank you in advance for your time and effort.Lindsay
So.. to continue this conversation in "meatspace" and with the help of a number of this topic's online participants... we are slated to open up OfficeLAB downtown at the federal reserve building in the first week of September 2008.
Thanks to Adam for starting the conversation online - and to bring things full circle, we are actually using Batchbook as our CRM..
Our web presence is still a bit rough - but we wanted to get up and running quickly. Please do sign up through the site if you are interested in membership. Or send me an email through RINEXUS. We'll have some mingling events downtown leading up to the opening for those interested in seeing what we're all about.
Hopefully this is only one of many alternative workplaces to bubble up in Rhode Island.. let's keep talking about this...
Saw the new digs last week. Looks like it is going to be a great addition to the Providence space inventory. We're pulling for you and the idea!
Might be interesting to follow this "coworking pattern language" at http://wiki.coworking.info/Patterns. Seems to have a growing number of solid best practices for coworking.
Adam raises an brilliant dot with respect to co-working.
I am in doubt if folks heard this current description on NPR's Morning Edition freshly on the issue of co-working/telecommuting in NYC, but after all it was really interesting.
Thought we could dip our toes into the coworking waters with Jelly @ McFaddens.. (would that make it toe jam?).
Jelly in Providence is starting off easy with a 2-4pm late lunch and coworking session every Wednesday @ McFadden's (starting 8/13) in our own private room. We could probably get away with working through and starting a happy hour at 5. Wifi, electrical outlets, $6 fixed-price food menu (burgers/wraps/wings/etc), beer, about 30 seats.
This week, ProJo featured a nationally syndicated article about coworking.
Next up: Working alone, together
It's great to see OfficeLAB getting off the ground. Does anyone else have any coworking stories to share since we started the local conversation last year?
Starting this Friday - having "Friday Face-to-Face" at OfficeLAB from 10am-4pm. A way for non-members to get some work done here, drink some coffee and meet some interesting people. Is also a good chance for some startups to actually see each other's faces while they work (interesting concept)...
Hope to see some RIRUG peeps there... Please RSVP by Thursday night to info <at> officelab.us . $5 for non-members, Free for members and all those who attended the first RIRUG event (I remember who was there).
I've been getting a lot of questions about how things are going at OfficeLAB.. so figured I'd give an update here.
In March we changed our pricing model to an annual fee of $300 rather than the monthly fee for full-timers/part-timers/etc. This was based on many encounters and much feedback from potential members that a monthly rate didn't make sense for them in this economy when they already have a home office or "real" office. Our rate is going to $350 per year starting April 1st - due to the great response I am getting to the new model.
This annual fee is all-inclusive -> allowing members to come into OfficeLAB anytime during the 9-4:30 weekday business hours. Reserve the conference room for meetings/presentations. Drink unlimited coffee/tea/hot cocoa. Print/Copy/Fax. WIFI or Plug-in. Workspace. Comfy loungespace. And yes - be surrounded by cool artwork and people while you work. And we have been holding some pretty well-attended events for our small space.
This change in price also meant - less complicated membership application, reduced hours, no key, no leaving your stuff behind, and a full-time "concierge/executive assistant/event planner/connector".
Our membership is very diverse - and not at all what I originally expected. A very eclectic group - including mobile and overflow employees of some very exciting "larger" local companies. Some tech, renewable energy, marketing, music, math, gaming, education, nonprofit, green building, stock trading... you name it, they are coming out of the woodwork.
We are adding an East Side location on May 1st - which will allow members access to both places. We have found short-term downtown parking to be a big deterrent for members -- so we think the east side location with plenty of parking will be a good thing for membership. The more quality, diverse members - the more we'll all get out of it.
We have also joined a coworking visa program -- a very loosely affiliated group of coworking locations - (any coworking space can join as long as they commit to allowing other members of the program a couple days for free). This allows our members to go to about 25 other locations around the country for free atleast a couple times.
Business model? you ask? Yes - it has changed. Rather than a few people committed to a monthly rate.. I need to get a bunch of new people each month -- to throw down a little bit more than an IPhone (without the 2-year commitment and monthly fees). Yes we are for-profit and independent of grants or gov't support and are confident that it is the best model for OfficeLAB. This keeps us nimble to experiment and adjust our business model -- and allows us the freedom to expand outside of RI...
Pros of starting/running a coworking space
*We have met tons of cool people and companies, learned about their businesses and helped them connect with others.
*On-the-job training of "community building"
*I have so much more appreciation for working in an "art gallery" as a motivator and brain-wave jumpstarter.
*Although I don't spend all my time at OfficeLAB - I am so much more productive here than at my home office - (when I hear my kids laughing, playing or crying - I am just compelled to join in )
*I have built some great friendships and business relationships with members...
Cons of starting/running a coworking space
*This is much more of a "job" than ever imagined. It is not a hobby.
*Too much caffeine.. must pretend coffee is not free.
*Before I brought someone on full time - I didn't get much work done when I was at the LAB. Most of it was spent meeting with prospective members and dealing with the daily office needs.
Go watch our new "music video" at http://www.officelab.us if you are interested in what OfficeLAB is all about...
Anything happening in the Providence area since OfficeLab shut down?
BatchHaus is nice, but only Thursdays :-)
Moving to the area next week and I'd love to hear more about Providence-area coworking options.
There are currently a few Jelly-like coworking meetups going on, but no permanent co-working facility has as yet arisen. Still waiting for the entrepreneur that wants to make this their "thing"!
Providence is fine with me, let's keep talking about this..
Wow! This discussion has been going on for nearly five years, OfficeLab and RI-CIE have both come and gone, and here we are, in July of 2012, and Providence STILL doesn't have a Coworking space. Boston currently has 20+, so how come we don't have such a community here? Any thoughts?
We have a coworking group in South County where we meet up once a week at a local coffee shop. It's harder to get a space, so that's why we stick to the coffee shops.