Last Wednesday, we held an amazing event with leaders from five of NYC’s best Co-Working Spaces. With the help of Jesse Podell, we were able to get the inside scoop on the recent rise of co-working from the founders and leaders of New York’s hottest co-working spaces: Benjamin from Grind, Marissa from Green Spaces, Jason from Alley, Tony from New Work City and Ted from We Work Labs.
Where were you before this? What made you decide to start/working for a co-working space?
Marissa Feinberg (@marissafeinberg): I was working in social design. The Green Leaders Global group I organized enabled great dialog on sustainable topics. We wanted a place to meet and work alongside one another every day, which led to the development of Green Spaces.
Ted Kramer: I was working at a startup called Efficiency 2.0, and last spring we had our exit. I loved the idea of working with startups and acting as a mentor to them. Being able to share my experiences and expertise was very attractive.
Jason Saltzman (@SaltzmanJason): I have been an entrepreneur my whole life. I worked mostly in different verticals such as real estate and marketing, but hated it. Made a ton of money, but I lacked a real sense of purpose in my life. Through one of the many businesses we created, my business partner Jonathan Ende thought it would be an awesome idea to destroy paperwork. With the financial backing of a commercial real estate attorney, David Galanter, we started Seamlessdocs. When we started pitching the product in NY, we noticed a huge gap in the co-working market in Midtown. The area is prime for taking business meetings, and through validating the market, we knew we could get it done. I jumped on it and started marketing the space. That was one year ago, and now we are completely full and in the process of negotiating for more space.
Benjamin Dyett (@BenjaminDyett): My story is one originally rooted in necessity. Before I started Grind with my partners, I was a real estate investor and lawyer. I was just like any one of our Grindists, working for myself and in need of quality workspace. One day while working out of a windowless, dreadful, office at a business center in Manhattan, I became fed up with the space operator. I marched back to my closet of a workspace and cranked out a business model on Excel for what, a year and a half later, would become our first Grind location.
Who is the typical person that walks into your co-working space?
MF: An entrepreneur with an idea to make our world better.
TK: Someone who has a particular skill set but knows they can’t do it all on their own. WeWork’s goal is to empower entrepreneurs with the tools to succeed. We do that through our facilities, community, events, and diverse group of support staff.
JS: AlleyNYC has an very diverse startup community. When vetting the people that apply to our membership program we do not care about how much money you make, or who your investors are, we care about you. We care about how collaborative you are, and if you’re an awesome person. We hate douchebags; we leave them at the door.
BD: Grind is full of what we like to call ‘free radicals,’ who would rather work in a community than a company. We’re a members-only workspace, but that’s not because we’re elitist. We carefully curate our community in order to create and maintain a collaborative environment, not a competitive one. Our members tend to be slightly more experienced than your average coworker. For example, if they’re working on a startup, it’s not their first but rather their second or third company.
What is it that makes NYC special? Why did co-working explode here, and is it replicable in other cities?
MF: Our city is among the greatest in the world. It’s a city of people who love meeting new people. And people who are from somewhere else. Everyone is looking to make friends. Coworking enhances the incredible connections and serendipities of life.
TK: To me, NYC has the most diverse community of businesses in the world. There is always a group of people working in your industry or specialty. That is what makes it such a special place to work in.
I think co-working has exploded because people have such diverse interests. NYC is known for it’s hustle, and because of that, co-working embraces people who are working on multiple projects, ideas, and companies.
JS: I feel that co-working is very special in NYC. Entrepreneurs are very like-minded here, and I feel there is a new movement in collaboration. We are the smartest, most driven people in the world, and we realize collaboration inspires innovation. We embrace it, and that’s what makes co-working such a huge success in NYC. As far as replicating this, it would be much like replicating a sitcom. There are others, but they simply can not be the same.
BD: NYC is one of the most diverse cities on the planet, making it a natural hotbed for coworking and collaboration. I don’t think you can necessarily replicate the exact energy we have here in New York, but coworking is clearly already a global phenomenon. Aside from the cities themselves, it’s the advancement of technology that has really helped accelerate this movement. Being able to connect to anyone in the world wherever and whenever you want, allows us to work out of spaces like Grind and be our most productive.
Many resources have popped up in the last year for people who may want to transition out of corporate life and into startup life (or individual work), what resources have you seen that are effective, and what is missing?
MF: Skillshare offers incredible classes and training for people to flex the muscles they’d like to use.
Terrific conferences and unconferences exist for people who have a few days to spare and want to become immersed in an industry and get inspired.
Networking events throughout the city are available any night of the week, allowing people to dip their toes in the water.
I would like to see a platform for startups to access courtesy advisor services from people in the corporate sector.
TK: I find that co-working spaces offer the best value because they provide all the overhead that someone who wants to focus on their business requires. The big challenge is having the proper people who can advise you without trying to pull change from your pocket all the time. Having a great community manager and support staff is important for any co-working space.
JS: Any resource that allows an entrepreneur assistance in the growth of their business. Resources that provide affordable solutions, so people can build their business quick, and pivot around what works and what doesn’t. Right now in the startup world, we are very limited to large corporate resources, such as hardware resources, etc. I feel that a large corporate organization has to be very forward-thinking to help startups, since the ROI might not happen until a later time. Large organizations should get more involved and help us grow; if they don’t, we will destroy them through disruption.
BD: There’s a plethora of resources, including collaborative workspaces, that help people transition out of corporate life, but they’re not as important as one particular, intangible necessity. It’s all about the drive of the person who is trying to change his or her career path.No amount of resources can replace an individual’s desire and passion to pursue an idea or start the company of his or her dreams.Without that dedication and commitment, you might as well quit before you even start.