What's next after Coworking?
Local innovation The Kollective has an answer.
Coworking is a global phenomena that is growing in maturity as an industry like never before. In most major towns and cities across Australia coworking spaces are opening up in multiples to service the demands of people starting new businesses. Personally I am thrilled to see more coworking spaces appearing locally owing to what I call the "Coffee Shop Theory": if you're the only coffee shop in town, that may look great on your balance sheet for a short period but ultimately it's unsustainable. People eventually demand more than a single shop can offer. A number of coffee shops as a 'collective' does much better at collectively attracting more people for coffee. As they cluster, you diversify with wider offerings such as adding great food. A sign of healthy local economy growth, these clusters interact and 'ecosystems' take hold: food producers produce more, more people are employed, more establishments open, word spreads, more people, and so on... in short, local economies become self-sustaining.
Thriving ecosystems thus impact local economies and intersect on many levels. Since opening it's doors in 2014 StartInno has always invested in the idea of building a thriving ecosystem locally. This isn't measured by the number of coffee shops/coworking spaces, but how systemically we incubate innovative ideas. At the StartInno Hub, the founders of the award winning affordable housing developer, Koho created, designed and launched their latest project 'The Kollective', Byron Bay's first 'Live and Work' affordable housing development - more are in the pipeline. As community managers, we understand the challenge for any startup after 'setting up shop' is to grow their business. We love to see our coworkers thrive from the founder-stage through to building a team and launching and are consequently thrilled when startups impact our own ecosystem.
Close to home, Byron Creative or the Queensland Startup Precinct in Brisbane are great examples of next-step options after coworking. What's different about The Kollective is their combination with affordable housing. "Our recently completed building is specifically designed with a live/work loft that has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, modern kitchen, private balcony, combined lounge/dining, home office and home studio/workshop". Duncan Band, co-founder of Koho explains, "The work/live layout of The Kollective is ideal for an expanding small business looking for Byron Bay (Ewingsdale Road) exposure". Coworking spaces are great for founders to #juststart, establish their businesses (typically through formal Incubator Programs), mentors and when/if appropriate investors. However businesses often need to scale well beyond what a shared space can offer.
On the Startup Leaders Mission to the US earlier this year I was lucky to visit some of the world's leading Incubators, accelerators and coworking hubs both in Silicon Valley and around North America. In Boulder they are a regional community of 100,000 people (tiny by US standards) but have over a 30% participation rate in startups. After meeting community leaders like Dave Cohen Founder of the incredible Boulder-based Accelerator Techstars, we identified many gaps in our ecosystem like how we need to better invest in our investors (watch for StartupAcademy.org for how we're tackling this). Nonetheless in both San Francisco and Boulder they have an affordable housing crisis that is endemic and in fact slowing growth of their local economies. Not just replicating 'Silicon Valley' and not being the only coffee shop in town makes me proud to be part of our own thriving ecosystem, but much work is still to do.
The Kollective is seeking twelve small business owners to occupy Byron Bay's first 'Live & Work' lofts as well as food truck/coffee cart operators. To find out more please visit www.thekollectivelife.com.
- Dan Swan @drdanswan