Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle)
by Peter Chee Guest Columnist:

Double-digit unemployment, challenging economic times and other reasons for career reinvention have created a community of independent business professionals seeking places to do business beyond the local coffee shop.

Read on to consider options to serve members of what best-selling author Daniel Pink describes as “Free Agent Nation.”

Many independent professionals have experienced the isolation and absence of creative inspiration that comes with working from a home office. Coworking is one of today’s emerging trends that can ease these pains.

The concept is that professionals work better together than they do alone. Securing coworking space is among the most cost-effective options for those who have escaped Cubicle Nation to launch businesses of their own.

I attended Town Hall Seattle tonight to listen to Dan Pink talk about “What really motivates us”. Dan’s the author a bunch of books, his latest called “Drive”. Dan focused in on three things during his presentation: 1) Autonony, 2) Mastery, and 3) Purpose. I could go into details, but, I wanted to focus in on one word that Dan mentioned during his presentation, “coworking”.

After the presentation, I went to get my book signed and had a quick conversation with Dan.  I brought up the topic “coworking” with him again and…

Dan: “Coworking is totally cool and it’s definitely on to something. It’s a great time to be doing it. Does it (coworking) answer the question about people looking for affinity?”

Peter: “yes, it’s all about the natural affinity for passion and inspiration that brings entrepreneurs together. We all feed off the energy of each other which is why so many people that had home-based businesses become thinkspace members.”

Dan: “It’s more than simply real estate, interesting!”

Peter: “Yes, I don’t even talk about the four walls, because, it’s about the community of the space.”

For me that was an amazing connection! I wish I would have had more time to ask him his perspective about what makes people motivated to be a part of coworking community.

danpink-pcheeHere’s my take on why people are motivated to be a part of this community. Solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, startups, small businesses, home-based businesses many if not most have complete autonomy to define the vision and path that business will go. Entrepreneurs don’t lack motivation, it’s just a matter of being able to sustain it. I definitely don’t lack motivation, but, sustaining it year after year inside my house was impossible. This is one of the reasons why I feel thinkspace exists, so there could be place where entrepreneurs could feed off the crazy energy created by everyone else who is inspired to build a successful business. Another reason is the collaboration aspects, being able to bounce ideas off of others — sharing those idea gives me the feedback to create a better product and provide better services as well as come up with new ideas. So here’s my shout out to Dan, what do you think?

The fact that people are most productive when around others has been proven in more conventional ways. But, we are going to mix it up a bit and bring it right back to 1999 and the release of the movie Office Space.  If you haven’t yet seen this epic comedy, please stop reading here and pay a visit to your local video store.  Believe it or not, Office Space can actually teach us some core lessons about the benefits of working with others.

If you are trying to start a business, attempting to finish a project or anything in between, a little time working right from home can be a good (and sometimes necessary) thing. But what happens when you get writer’s block? Or when you need a professional reference that really knows your business? Or, what if you just can’t muster up the strength to pull yourself off the couch in the middle of “Family Guy” and get to work? The answer lies between the lines of Office Space: surround yourself with like-minded professionals to reach your true potential.

Lesson 1: Collaborate

Remember the scene in which Peter Gibbons has just informed his two friends of their unexpected termination from Initech (your typical late 90’s software company)? After tons of thought (and a couple drinks) they come up with their brilliant plan for making millions. (For now will ignore the fact that it almost lands them in jail.) Without their collaboration they might not have found a solution; Samir Na..Naga…whatever and Michael Bolton (no, not the singer) would have been left without a job.

Lesson 2: Coworkers Count

Milton (the squirrely one with fishbowl glasses who mumbles a lot) teaches us yet another lesson when he is repeatedly asked to move his desk multiple times further and further away from his coworkers. When Milton ends up in the basement, with only storage boxes and rats to keep him company, he claims (again) that this is “the last straw.” The lack of human presence in that basement was quite eerie and I hate to say it, but some homes resemble just this during the day. No matter who you are, at some point, you are going to crave human contact and this contact could give you a step up over your competitors.

Lesson 3: Camaraderie

Peter, Samir, Michael Bolton and Milton also teach us how vital it can be to have friends in the work place to share a few laughs with. Get into an office and send along your favorite joke from the weekend or forward on those silly cartoons (not on company time, of course). Having professional friendships can only be beneficial. Along with the business referrals received the connections you make in a workplace can have a lasting impact on your professional career.

Who would have thought you could learn that much from a couple of Initech employees in Office Space, huh?

Check out www.thinkspace.com for all of our coworking and shared office programs.

Last week we had record heat and we also had a bunch of people come to use thinkspace for the first time due to my “beat the heat” tweet.  People came as far as Everett, Seattle, Bellevue, and Sammamish to get out of the heat and try out our coworking space.  We also got a nice plug from Seattle Times Reporter Lindsay Toller who saw the Twitter tweets and re-tweets.  Seattle Times article titled: “Talk of triple-digit temps creates tweet wave on Twitter“.

I really enjoyed the interaction that occured between complete strangers.  It’s sweet how things like extreme heat can bring people together that would have never have otherwise met.  Throughout the week we had ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, creamsicles, watermelon, and lemonade.  Here are a few photos and a videos from the week:

Top row: Sign says temp is 119; Kate Walling, Tom MusicDave Manningsmith
Middle row: Dustin Johnson, Sean O’Driscol, Kory Gill, Loan Gordon, Jason Preston
Bottom row: Steve Doherty, Carrie, Dawn Mertens (behind Marius), Marius Nita, Steve Broback, Phuong Plagge

While some of the discussions were about business models, one conversation was about when was your last date.  Here’s a little 30 second random video featuring Kate Walling, Jason Preston, and Steve Broback.

I left the house this morning and it was already 77 degrees.  For four years I worked at home and remember that once in a while the temperature gets so warm that it really is hard to work inside the house.

So this week, I’m opening up thinkspace for free to people looking to start their own business or entrepreneurs working from home.

We’ve got a community of entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses.

You can enjoy a nice desk, chair, WIFI, white boards, in an air-conditioned space and feel good drinking a warm cup of coffee.  Just swing by and say you’re here to “Beat the heat”.

We’re located 200ft from the Redmond Transit Center.  If you come by bus, we’ll give you a free bus ticket to get back to your home.  We’re partnered with the City of Redmond’s R-Trip program and we’re trying to promote trip reduction into the city.  * Free bus tickets, until we run out!

Jacob Sayles, Susan Evans, me, Tara Hunt

This last weekend was an amazing display of what Seattle Community is like.  My weekend kicked off Friday night at Office Nomads in Seattle.  I’ve been to a few other ON gatherings and always meet some really nice people and always have a great time.

Tara Hunt (@missrogue) was a special guest and talked a little about her new book “The Whuffie Factor“.  I got my autographed copy of the book and haven’t been able to put the book down.  At the event, Tara says “the book basically takes a look at re-framing the idea of marketing in the sense of instead of approaching marketing as I want to make a sale or transaction, I need to raise social capital like everyone else does in these online communities”.  The book covers five different ways to earn social capital:

  1. Shut up and start listening
  2. Be part of a community you serve
  3. Create amazing customer experiences
  4. Embrace the chaos
  5. Find your higher purpose

I’m going to review the book in more detail at another time and am thinking of having a little gathering to discuss this book if people would be interested.  Tweet or DM @thinkspace if you would be interested. I think a discussion on earning social capital would be really fun.

The other part of my weekend was going to BarCampSeattle 2009.  I find it absolutely incredible that people get together on an adhoc basis to share and learn in an open environment.  While I wasn’t able to attend that many sessions but there was still some fun discussions.

Here’s a picture of grid from Saturday: (click the image to see it big)

Back in October, I had a member ask us if we had space in San Francisco.  I told them that we did not, but, I did refer them to use Citizen Space.  I exchanged an email with Tara Hunt at Citizen Space and she told me that they “have a free drop-in policy…so anyone who comes from thinkspace to SF to hang out for a couple of days is welcome at Citizen Space.”

The Coworking Wiki site has something called a “Coworking Visa“.  This allows active members of one space, when traveling, to use another coworking space, gratis. Terms vary from space to space, with regard to hours of operation, reservation requirements, etc. Those currently listed on the Coworking Visa page agree to offer up to 3 complimentary, drop-in days, with guidelines listed about using those days.

After running around Portland the other week, I stopped off at Souk and Cubespace.  Those are two other Coworking places in Portland.

Robert Scoble from FastCompany toured our space and posted an article about us.  Here’s what he said:

“Want to work with a ton of cool startups like iPhone app developer Shazam? Well, then you’ll want to check out Thinkspace which is run by Peter Chee up in Redmond, WA. Right near Microsoft’s campus. Here Peter gives us a tour and talks about why he has one of the hottest places to work in the Seattle area. Read Peter’s blog too.”

Here’s a link to the FastCompany thinkspace article.

Robert also interviewed Newline Software and wrote an article about them too.

“It’s not every day that you get to see a company before they have their product finished, before they hired PR people, or have everything together. Which is why it’s interesting to see Newline Software, which is a startup located in Redmond, WA and is housed in Thinkspace, which is a green coworking space designed for startups. Here the two founders tell you about their company which is designed to back up your PC in a new way and they also tell you why starting up at Thinkspace is important to them.”

Here’s a link to the FastCompany Newline article.

The Scobleizer came into thinkspace today and interviewed me as I gave him a tour of the space.  Robert tweeted us as the “coworking / office space mashup”.  Robert also had time to interview green tech startup Newline Software, who is pioneering eco-digital preservation software.  We stopped by to see Bart McCormick with Shazam, but unfortunately Bart wasn’t in the office.  Robert now has a comp virtual office at thinkspace when he comes up to Seattle, we even made him a door plaque when he’s in town.

The next time he comes up here I hope to have Sysgain’s taggle service integration complete and he’ll be able to negotiate for real office space through an iPhone.  I’m also hoping that we get a random “Tweet-up” inside here when he comes back into town.  The Eastside tech community could use a few more events around here!

Your business goes through different stages and depending on your stage, your need for office space can have very different requirements.  Shared office space can help provide a business’s a place to go from seed to stem to branch and leaves.

  • Seed: Your business could be a concept that you’re trying to get started.  You might be self funded or even have an angel investor.  One of our virtual office clients registered his domain name and is starting his business.  He is using our address as his mailing address and that shows up on his domain registration.  When his address is “googled”, his business shows up on a map in the middle of Redmond, rather than, a residential neighborhood.  In the seed stage, your business might need creative space that helps foster new ideas, where you can collaborate with other likeminded people.  Our shared coworking space is an excellent option for those of you who want creative space without a lot of overhead. You’ll find desks, chairs, bandwidth (up to 30mb/s down and 5mb/s up), printer/copier, etc.
  • Stem: Your business is starting to grow and you want a professionals space to hold meetings with potential clients, a place to close the deal.  With the space and infrastructure your company of has the professional presence to convey to your customers that you’re operating a sustainable business.  Many of our clients tell me that they used to work at home, but, now need a quiet and private place focus and operate your business.
  • Branch and Leaves: Your business is growing and you are hiring employees.  You don’t have to move to traditional space or taking on more space than you need.  You can grow right inside this space.  We have space that ranges from 100 SF to 1000 SF.

Benefits:

  • Less financial risk.  You are able to grow your business without having a large capital investment.  In traditional space you have to commit a lot of money into office space deposits, lobby furniture, conference room table and chairs, phone systems, data networking infrastructure.  Don’t forget that you need to furnish the kitchen too.
  • No personal guarantee. You are a small company that may not have two years of operating history.  Trying to get a business loan in this economic climate is not always so easy.  You don’t have to sign a personal guarantee to move in.
  • Business insurance is not required.  Here’s something that often goes over looked but when you’re leasing traditional space you might be required to obtain business insurance that is rated AV-X.  That can be costly and is money that could be used elsewhere when starting up a business.
  • No lengthy and complicated lease terms. Negotiating a lease with a landlord can be as fun of an experience as buying a car from an auto dealer.  Lease documents can also be tricky to understand.
  • Economic climate:  Given today’s economic climate, it makes good sense to not get over committed in leasing office space.  With shared office space, you do not need to sign a long 3-5 year long term lease.  You can go with a 6 or 12 month lease.
  • Flexibility: You have the ability to grow or downsize.  You pay for what you use and not one square foot more than you need.
For more information you can contact me at peter [at] thinkspace [dot] com.