Five great co-working spaces you may not have heard of: Start-up Smart Business Planning Feature By Oliver Milman
Five rising stars of the start-up co-working scene
By Oliver Milman
The idea behind co-working is simple – rather than base your small-scale operation from home (with the occasional escape to a café), why not pay a weekly or monthly fee for a desk in a communal office with other like-minded start-ups?
At their best, co-working spaces can foster innovation, provide essential expertise to solo operators and lead to game-changing business partnerships.
There are some potential downsides, such as concerns over sharing intellectual property in large, open-plan workspaces, but we think that co-working hubs are officially A Good Thing.
However, with so many collaborative spaces launching in the last year or so, it can be hard keeping up with what’s available out there.
To help you get a better grasp of this rapidly expanding market, we’ve picked out five co-working spaces from across Australia that you may not have heard of.
1. House of Commons
Launched earlier this year by Marc Katsambis, founder of Koodoz Design, House of Commons is a rather cosy, DIY affair. The space has capacity for 20 people, who are required to bring their own hardware and chairs.
Nevertheless, House of Commons, located in the arty Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford, has a meeting area, a TV for demonstrations, a fully-functioning kitchen, a Playstation and a table tennis table.
A notable resident is tech start-up BugHerd, which raised $500,000 in funding from Starfish Ventures in January.
“The best thing is being able to share information about how to run a business – how to do things effectively and get a lot of inspiration and ideas about the latest trends,” Katsambis told StartupSmart in April.
“It’s hard for one person to retain all that information. If there are 10 or 20 like-minded people, it opens up a whole other world.”
2. The Thought Fort
If you like the idea of taking your business out of your home, but not lose the casual, all-hours approach of working in your spare bedroom, Brisbane’s The Thought Fort could be for you.
Billing itself as “Brisbane’s dedicated 24/7 shared office and co-working space”, the Fortitude Valley-based hub never closes its doors on its eclectic mix of designers, techies, freelancers and consultants that call it a home away from home.
Launched on Valentine’s Day last year, The Thought Fort is aimed at businesses of three people or less. Facilities include printing, desks and chairs, table football, an “awesome” fish tank, a balcony for pondering and, of course, unlimited wireless internet.
Thought Fort organiser Adam Corney told The Brisbane Times earlier this year: "Part of it is [also] if you are sitting at home all you've really got is the internet and you kind of get this stir crazy mode where the minute your partner walks home you start begging your partner about their day.”
"Whereas here you've got that social interaction and you can ask questions of people and you can just go out for a coffee if you need to come out into the sunshine.”
"You don't have to come in every day, but if you do want to come in, the space is ready for you."
Which is true – The Thought Fort currently has 10 spaces up for grabs.
Creative consultant Lucy Chen spent several years freelancing. She spent a lot of this time working from home or in cafes, but never found the perfect spot.
She remedied this by creating WhatSpace, a “collaborative creative working” facility in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville.
“I was on the lookout for a space and I found this big warehouse. No one lives near there so it’s great for late-night events and parties… I loved it straight away,” Chen told StartupSmart in February, a month after WhatSpace’s launch.
“Luckily, the estate agent was quite convinced by my proposal. I had to put down a huge amount of money in order to get this – six months’ rent in advance – so all my life savings are gone.”
The space isn’t huge – a maximum of 20 people can be squeezed in, but Chen feels 10 to 15 is the ideal number.
Along with an environment to build your business, WhatSpace also uses its space creatively by hosting movie screenings, exhibitions and other events.
4. Roslin Business Community
The Roslin Business Community has two interesting differentiators to other co-working hubs – it is based in the growth area of west Melbourne rather than the CBD and it focuses on enterprises with a social mission.
Run by Ergo Consulting, the terraced house, split over two levels, accommodates around a dozen people.
Open 24 hours a day, the facility has a meeting and presentations room, library and kitchen. Members just have to supply their own computer.
Start-up tenants include those working on communication training, project management for Indigenous people and accountancy.
“We’re one of the smaller spaces, so everyone tends to know the other members… [which] makes it easy for people to collaborate,” Derek Winter, a director of Ergo Consulting, told us in May.
5. Huddle Spaces
Huddle Spaces is a unique co-working space that is based around the premise ‘Products are tested before they go to market. Why not services?’
Founded by design agency Huddle, the facility allows businesses to test out their service offering in a way that others would brainstorm products.
Located in Sydney’s Pitt Street, Huddle Spaces opened its doors to the agency’s clients in April but is set to expand this to any start-up keen on getting collaborative with their offering via techniques such as customer service role playing.
A ‘free for now’ launch phase is coming to end, to be replaced by a 20% discounted period that will last until October, when a full rate will be charged.
Huddle Spaces features co-working areas, as well as meeting rooms and a lounge. Huddle says that it is keen to bring all kinds of creatives to the space, such as actors and illustrators.
“There are a few converging trends we’ve noticed,” says Nathan Welch, who will head up Huddle Spaces.
“People are re-thinking creativity when it comes to services, and designing solutions to problems needs space and prototypes.”
“Also, space is at a premium for businesses and this offers the ideal setting to test ideas. Service businesses need to lower their costs while enhancing the customer experience, which means that they need to test their offering before they go to market.”