#2 - Our first days in New York City (2/3)
Co-Working Spaces - the youth hostels of the office space.
If you work in New York in 2018, you can't get past Co-Working Spaces. They offer flexibility instead of fancy door plate, fruit induced water instead of Jura coffee machine. And above all: Community instead of Corner Office. We visited three Co-Working Spaces in New York and have been an active part of the Sharing Economy in the Big Apple for a short period of time. Read more about our experience in the second part of the series Our first days in New York City.
What is a Co-Working Space?
The term can be understood in a broad sense. Especially in New York you can find a lot of different kinds of Co-Working Spaces: the very social and community oriented spaces, the anonymous workspaces or the spaces that pursue a mission that goes beyond pure co-working.
But first the similarities: With every Co-Working Space, you rent an infrastructure in which you can work. Desks, office chairs, fast Wi-Fi, coffee and water all you can drink are typical features that every space offers. Depending on your membership, you either rent a workstation that is permanently assigned, a so-called dedicated desk, or a hot seat, i.e. a seat in the shared desk area, also known as the communal area. These areas are freely accessible for everyone and offer desks and sofa corners. Besides a hot desk or dedicated desk membership, you can also rent your own office. Many Co-Working Spaces now offer both types.
The meeting and conference rooms are also accessible to everyone, but in most cases they have to be rented hourly. All Co-Working Spaces offer 'phone booths', where you can withdraw to make sensitive phone calls - or Skype or Whatsapp or facetime, you know?
But why should I go there?
The advantages of Co-Working Spaces are obvious: you rent an already made nest. It is flexible and often comes with many new contacts and a broad network. A WeWork member made a strong comparison: "If you go on vacation somewhere, you don't rent a full apartment and buy the furniture to stay there, you book a pre-furnished and ready to move in Hotel room. We don't know how long we'll work together on a project and where we might work in the future, that's why we need flexibility ...". Makes sense!
To understand it fully, you have to consider the mindset of many young start-up founders and employees: "Trial and Error ... until you succeed". The trial part of the equation means: If you have an idea, find followers and try it out. If it doesn't work, move on, find a new idea or other teams with cool ideas. The flexibility Co-Working Spaces offer make concepts like 'failing forward' possible in the first place.
Our first stop: Galvanize
Following their motto Learn-Work-Grow, Galvanize primarily offers classes and entire courses of study for entrepreneurs and founders. The focus is always on the tech scene: web development and data science are subjects that can be chosen. But you can also join the community as an already founded start-up in order to meet mentors and develop further. A by-product is the actual Co-Working Space, which can also be rented without attending a class.
The working areas look like a mixture of a 20-something apartment with roommates and a university campus: cosy looking seating areas, an open canteen with a shared fridge, an 'Alumni Wall' with startup logos of Galvanize graduates. The Mentor Wall resembles a classic photo wall with teachers on a black board. "They are all open to be approached when they are here," we were assured. Free business advice with the office rent - sounds awesome! For a complete access to the Mentorship Program with the experts you have to pay extra of course.
The concept seems to work: Galvanize currently has more than 2,000 graduates and more than 3,000 members at eight locations. Many members at the New York site are young start-ups that are part of the Techstars Accelerator program. "We learn something new every day," one participant told us. You can see many smaller groups in the seating areas having lively discussions or staring at screens together - a classic school group work situation.
Galvanize keeps what it promises: Learn-Work-Grow seems to be omnipresent here.
Our second stop: The Farm Soho
The name says it all: a complete floor in farm style through and through - all the way to the sanitary facilities. This is what distinguishes The Farm: "A FARM IN SOHO? Indeed! In the farmlands of southern Missouri, we came upon an age-weathered barn seeking a new lease on life. With great care, we transported that barn to New York City piece by piece." As simple as it is original!
The Farm is one of the cheaper Co-Working Spaces we could spot. And that's also how they advertise: Affordable 24/7 Coworking Starting at $179 a Month.
If you enter The Farm Location in SoHo, you directly enter a large hall with desks, chairs and many, many sockets - the 'communal desk area'. About 2-3 tables seemed to be permanently occupied. In contrast to the other Co-Working Spaces, The Farm seems more anonymous. Most of my table neighbours worked for hours focussing on their laptops without making a sound. It reminds of workstations in a library - rather focused on the Working than Co part of the concept.
Otherwise there is not much to say about The Farm. Simple and Affordable. If you are on location and are looking for a workspace for the day without a lot of frills, it is exactly the right place to go. As one of the few Co-Working Spaces you can get a Day Pass for only $27 without any subscription. Not Bad.
Our third stop: WeWork
When talking about Co-Working Spaces, WeWork should definitely not be left out. It's popular, well-known and there are ever more spaces all over New York: 57 locations in total. All the popular sites of the city are represented: Penn Station, Union Square, Lexington and Wall Street. If you look at the mass of locations, it's almost reminiscent of the New York subway network (more on this in our last blog post).
Seats - especially the hot desks seats - are popular. During our visit to the WeWork location at the newly opened Lexington Street we were advised to quickly book one, as only one hot desk seat was left. Three days later it was gone, too. Hmm.
If you enter a WeWork location, you can quickly see why the spaces are so popular. According to the motto 'Offices can use the comforts of home' the interior is cosy and hip. It’s easy to get in contact with the other members. The atmosphere is relaxed. If Galvanize is a campus and The Farm a library, WeWork can be compared to a cafeteria. You're here to work, which many in the rented offices do diligently, but the focus is on the community. The core is the community area with open beer and fruit infused water. This is the place to hang out - at any time of the day - the place to be!
For me, WeWork represents the core of the start-up movement of the last decade. Not only because many start-ups who "think highly of themselves" call WeWork their home, but also because WeWork itself is one of THE start-ups of recent years. In 2015, the WeWork founders were voted number 3 in the Silicon Alleys 100 most inspiring and influential people in New York tech.
According to their own statements, many corporate giants, such as American Express, are now moving into WeWork offices to benefit from the flexibility and low prices - not because of the community.
However, most of the members we met at the Lexington location were start-up founders with a big dream and a hot desk seat to take them there. A member of a somewhat 'established' company reported a small culture clash: When CEOs of large corporations visit for meetings, it might be a bit uncomfortable if said start-up founders chill in the seating corners dreaming of venture capital while recovering from the last community gathering. Awkward!
We haven't seen the whole range of Co-Working Spaces in New York by far, but it already become clear that there is a Co-Working Space for every occasion and work style.
Galvanize: Learn-Work-Grow is omnipresent here. The concept of study courses and co-working seems to work.
The Farm: Simple and Affordable - also usable for one day.
WeWork: cult and community. The place to be!
Our journey through the Co-Working Spaces of New York has just begun. We'll keep you up to date on our insights and discoveries in the future!