The co-working space industry can be divided into three; Co-working Spaces, Business incubators and Business Accelerators.
Accelerators and Incubators
Incubators are for early stage startups who are still in their seed stage and accelerators are for more developed businesses who already have minimum viable products.
Accelerators programs tend to have intense timeframes of a few weeks or months whereas incubators are more relaxed with their timelines. You can define incubator as the childhood stage of a startup while accelerators can be defined as businesses that are being guided from adolescence to adulthood.
Co-working spaces on the other hand are not solely focused on the startup world as accelerators and incubators are. However, many co-working spaces do offer advice and mentorship to startups through dedicated services, events and networking sessions. Some also bring investors in for funding rounds and mentorship.
Some co-working spaces are also run alongside incubators (where you are provided with a variety of resources, training and other services to accelerate your business success) which you have to apply separately for. There are spaces that target specific industries like creatives or technology. There is a co-working space for fashion entrepreneurs.
Some of the things driving the industry are;
The drive of entrepreneurship
Influx of foreign investments
Infrastructure gap; power, internet.
Research has it that in 2020, 50% of the world population will be freelancers and entrepreneurs. please note that co-working is not real estate. The best part of every co-working place is about how the place looks. People’s productivity depends on the environment where they work.
In terms of the future of the Co-working Industry, design, construction; fittings, lightening and services like the cleanliness of the place is very important.
Definition of co-working space
Now, I will define a co-working space as a community of like-minded individuals who work together in the same space to collaborate and grow. Those co-working are not employed by the same organisation.
Most startups have humble beginnings. We have heard stories of startups who started from their homes, garages and basements. However, as your startup grows, things have to change, you cannot continue to meet your clients in a coffee shop or restaurants and it is also not advisable to go rent a duplex just yet as you may not have the cash. You may say, okay, I will work from home, working from home will also affect your productivity as there will be distractions from kids, pets, TV and family. All these can be avoided by moving into a co-working space. Co-working spaces are now popular and are springing up all over the country.
Benefits of co-working space to entrepreneurs
When you work from a co-working space, you get motivated by other creative and dedicated people. Creating an incubator culture through co-working has an impact on the speed of growth and success rate of startups. Co-working members grow through collaborations with the space operator where opportunities allow. It gives startups the chance to showcase their businesses to a wider audience they may not otherwise have had access to.
Co-working helps startups fail faster which is very important to innovation. Startups fail slow when they’re alone and can see the wood from the trees. You fail fast and can pivot when you have access to impartial and well intentioned feedback from fellow coworkers.
Co-working is a movement
Co-working is about building bridges and making better connections through people, through networking and through openness. It is the new way of work especially for digital nomads; people who are not constrained to a physical office, people who are free to roam the world while working.
Co-working now get a corporate facelift and corporations are embracing practices pioneered and perfected in the co-working environment; activity based workstations, unassigned seating and breaking down the corner office.
The Disadvantages of Coworking
Depending on the type of person you are and the type of project you are working on, you can get distracted from the bubbling and buzzling that is prevalent in a typical co-working space. At ReDahlia Workspaces, we have found the perfect mix; a calm and private workspace alongside a collaborative and creative environment,
Proximity to Competitors/ Privacy Issues
There may be other coworkers who do the same thing you do and may be overhearing your conversations or copy your work.
Lack of customization
Every co-working space is unique with their office layout, furniture and design. If you like to design your own office layout, then co-working will not work for you. You might opt for a traditional office space.
There may be a culture mismatch between you and the co-working space and you will have to deal with this.
Advantages of a co-working space
A co-working space offers flexible plan option, flexible cost options and flexible space option. You can choose a daily plan or monthly plan depending on your need. For instance you may have a short term project in a different city or country, a co-working space will come in handy and you can leave immediately you finish your project and not have to incur so much cost to get a traditional office space.
For flexible space option; When starting out, you may decide to start with the open space plan option, as your business grows and you begin to build your team, you can move to a private office in the same co-working space. This means you can start small in a co-working space and move at your pace without having to incur too much cost like the more traditional office space. What this means is that you don’t have a long term financial commitment to the space.
Opportunities to network with startup founders
You get to meet like minded people you can bounce ideas off. Entrepreneurship or the journey of starting a business can be lonely and can deal a blow to your emotion. Working with a network of like minded people gives you the emotional support you need. As you continue to build networks, you may meet people who want your services or who want to collaborate with you. You gain new businesses and valuable contacts, so businesses exchanges hand.
Greater access to key players and partnerships
Co-working spaces are very interested in community building so they organise events where they invite industry leaders to speak to members of their community. This is an opportunity for members to meet key players in different industries and this may also give rise to investment opportunities.
Also, as you are building your company, you may not have the resource to hire a whole team. Co-working spaces gives you access to freelancers who can help you with web design, graphic designing, lawyers, accounting matters, online marketing etc. So since these professionals work in the same space with you, you can discuss your need with them and also see their implementation of your need. These people become long life friends and you can even find co-founders in them.
Amenities And Services
High speed wifi, printing and scanning, complimentary beverages, full kitchenettes, mail distribution, service support and meeting rooms are some of the amenities and services that a co-working space provides.
You appear professional and make clients happy
In Nigeria, trust is still an issue. Working from a co-working space , you can arrange meetings with your clients and meet them in the meeting room or boardroom room. it is not professional to meet your clients in an eatery or have them visit your home. Your clients are happy and you appear professional. Win win for all.
Factors to consider before you decide on a space
You should consider the location of the co-working space and ensure that it is something that works for you. You will want to consider the commute and the accessibility of the space to your home.
Visit the place, take a tour of the facility and meet the community manager. Is it what you want? Each co-working space is different in it’s approach to community and space design. Before signing up to any co-working space, ensure to take a tour of the facility and talk to the community manager to ensure their services suit your need.
Define what your business needs are. Are you looking for an incubation program, accelerator program or normal co-working space? You might want to visit the space and see the startups they have in their cohorts, interact with them to see if it is something you want to be part of.
If you are keen on meeting people and networking, you might what to ask for space event calendar to see what programs and events they have lined up.
You might also look at the design of the space and how the whole space is partitioned. Does it give you the room space that you desire?.
So here you have it. I hope you now understand what co-working space means.