Founder and principal of a fledgling sustainable (real estate) development firm creating mashups in the real world with technology, ecology, architecture, finance, art, design, people, etc.
My background is in commercial and mixed-use real estate investment and development, finance, business development and some computer science thrown into the mix.
Hope some of you (under 35ers that is) can make it up to the first Startup Hub meetup. It will be in Back Bay on May 28th @ 8pm. Info @ http://www.meetup.com/startup-hub
Wayne Franklin is a Principal of Urban Sun Investments, Inc., a sustainable real estate and economic development firm. Seed Providence is the firm’s newest initiative to promote collaboration and investment in ideas, ventures, and places that further the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the city of Providence, RI. OfficeLAB is the first seed.
Last week I attended BIF-4, the Business Innovation Factory’s (BIF) latest Collaborative Innovation Summit and thought it was pretty interesting that within our 200+ person bubble of innovation-centric conversation, the topic of the current financial crisis came up very little. The energy at Trinity Rep was devoid of the fear and uncertainty that I’ve been finding in my other daily interactions outside of the Summit. But co-host Bill Taylor brought up a great point - the current financial crisis doesn’t stop the need for innovation. So those in the room obviously had more important things to talk about than crisis.
When I moved to New England from San Diego last July, I was drawn to the historic character, walkable streets, and communal atmosphere of Providence. After I spent a good amount of time in the city, I realized that there is something big and intangible brewing under the surface here. One of BIF-4’s guests, Jason Fried of 37 Signals sent out an interesting Tweet (via Twitter of course) - “Been in Providence, RI twice and I’ve met twice as many interesting people here than in any other city I can remember. 7:55 PM Oct 14th from web”. Providence’s art and design community, thought leaders, growing Infotech & Digital media sector, and educational institutions make for interesting people.
Richard Saul Wurman relayed at the Summit - the world is made up of cities. And as Richard Florida puts it - place is more important than ever as people become increasingly mobile. Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar and GoLoco and guest at last year’s Summit will tell you that we need to change our driving habits to combat the climate crisis. In addition - laptops, IPhones, 3G networks, WIMAX, distributed work, flexible work schedules, work-life balance and the influence of Generation Y are all changing the way in which we live and work. We are starting to realize the importance of promoting our city as a place for innovation and growing the creative economy. Creative Providence and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s Knowledge Economy Roadmap are ways in which we as a city are pushing this forward.
We also know that much of the knowledge economy is mobile - millions of them work out of their homes and coffee houses and coworking is a bubbling trend among techpreneurs and freelancers. RI Nexus recognized this and helped drive the conversation of coworking in Rhode Island. The first post in the RINexus forum was an inquiry by a local programmer about interest in coworking. The RI Nexus community helped turn this thread into a 100+ person event about Next Generation Workplaces.
RI Nexus helped connect some of the dots, which enabled me to put together OfficeLAB, a unique coworking environment for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and mobile workers. We opened up for an open house last week and have generated enormous interest and support from the Rhode Island ITDM community. These are the types of organizations, events and places that bring about those purposeful random collisions that Saul Kaplan promotes.
If we can attract, support, and foster the mobile workers who could choose between working from their laptop in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Atlanta or Providence - then our innovation economy will grow. When people figure out that Providence is an interesting, multi-layered city with much to do at half the price — our city is going to be looked upon as the place for opportunity, entrepreneurship, and community. From this — I foresee much collaboration. And innovation. And an economically sustainable city.
I'm holding an open house all day this Thursday (Oct. 9th) if any user groups or potential coworkers want to see if it's a fit. Just stop into 170 Westminster, 3rd floor... feel free to bring laptop, hang out. Also - would be cool if anyone has books that they don't need and could lend for the community.
Tony - We all Love the razzle dazzle, exclamation marks and "quotation marks"! But not sure that "Providence & RI Design is Just as Good and Better than Some!" is the most inspiring quote for one of the top design communities in the country. I have a "feeling" that it's not how they'd want to be marketed to the rest of the world.
Also - I think the standards are actually very high among the local design community - which is why you may have a tough time doing business with them in this context unless they are proactively engaged and fully understand the value of what you are proposing. ("!")
FYI - if you google : providence design - Tony's forum post and eventual website link are a 4th stop for potential new residents, visitors, investment, etc. interested in the providence design community to see. !!
We now have the beginnings of the calendar on our website:
Anyone can add the following code to their website to display the calendar events for the day:
Questions? <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=elmcity+calendars">Ask</a> and we'll answer.
cool. that will be our next call to action on the http://seedprovidence.uservoice.com thread.
i'm sure some smart person can come up with stripping keywords from event posts to create auto tags. anyone up to the challenge?
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...