From the Coffee Shop to Shared Space, Start Up at its best?

NOTE: This is a co-authored post with insights and thoughts from @ludwigvan968 and myself

After having read many blogs and tweets about shared work spaces and start up districts, we have to say we are invigorated by this movement. We are unique in our position as we are observers – not necessarily full-fledged participants. It has been with great interest that we have watched groups of individuals meet at Austin Jelly to discuss the formation of shared work spaces and a start up “district”.  For those new to the conversation, we encourage you to check out John-Erik’s “What If Austin had a Start-up District..the story thus far?”  

But, the concept is not new, as it has been heavily pursued in other “creative class” towns such as San Francisco and New York (RIP CitizenDesk), but the bringing of this movement to Austin is an attractive space for Austin cultured entrepreneurs, the “web 3.0 kids” as Joey likes to call them. Their idealism, ability to look past corporate culture and want to create an “open source” space where people come together and share ideas, resources, talent and physical space is inspiring (Joey- Especially being from San Antonio where spaces like Jelly do not exist, let alone plans for a workspace). 

However, as has been noted by past initiatives and even current ones, this task is not without its difficulties and trials.  For our fellow Austin Entrepreneurs, we know we must ask the tough questions.  And here they are:

-What about intellectual property?

-How do we know where ideas and knowledge originate when working in such a group?

-How will having a physical space be beneficial for the participates (i.e. Austin Entrepreneurs) and the market in general?  

These are just a few of the questions we would like to pose.  Our rationalization for these questions come from many conversations and interactions we have had with people who have participated and/or created shared work spaces.  One key example is the Intellectual Property issue. This is a classic situation where friends come together to work in a physical space through either academic, corporate or purely social reasons. The synergy that is created often leads everyone to be very excited and to look toward to the future. This period is referred to by many as the “honey moon” stage of start-ups, everyone is excited about the “idea” the sharing of knowledge and the lack of constraints and the endless possibilities.   

However, this stage often comes to a close with many people’s feet and hands stepped on; because in the end, when you take a a group of people from being a “community of makers” with little or no fiscal worth and then introduce a large amount fiscal potential, you begin to create a space where things like “amount of work”, “amount of effort”, “quality of work”, “commitment” and other lingo begins to start flying around. No longer is it about “coming up with ideas” but a discussion of “how do we make money on this and who receives what percentages?”. This next stage can also be referred to as the “closing of the box”, this is normally where your community begins to become more and more closed, the people with their success share it amongst themselves and others begin to be left out.

And this is where we would like to cut this story short. This story can go in many directions from there, but the one we are hoping that our new found Shared Work spaces figure out is how they get said communities/companies to give back to the space and re-invest in the sustainability of the group.  At a Jelly meeting we talked about this issue, however it was not clearly addressed.  And while we already understand there are fiscal solutions to such issues, how do we deal with social and cultural problems that will arise from the success and un-successful ventures in such a community?  How will such a group keep new talent coming in and successful ventures involved with helping such a community?

It is without doubt that building a community, like a start up district, is better than going at it alone. We cannot dismiss the benefits that other’s have noted. (NYT: They’re Working on their own, just side by side) Heck, we know two minds are better than one, right? – this collaborative post is a testament to that. 

 

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7 Responses

  1. […] Check it out Kristine Gloria, a fellow Jelly mate and I have written a small article in response to the growing trends of shared work spaces in Austin, Tx […]

  2. Funny how a lot of forward thinkers in different cities are moving in the same direction. We here in Houston are also trying to form a “Startup Corridor” that stretches from the Houston Technology Center to Rice University through the Montrose and Museum District and have also had a group known as the Caroline Collective set up lease space for CoWorking in both the Art and Technology communities. Lots of cool stuff going on!

    Find out more about Houston Startups at http://tinyurl.com/3d5nh2

  3. Awesome write up. Some great questions you and Joey came up with. Next time we’re hanging together, make sure you grill us about these in person. This will be a great discussion.

  4. I truly believe this is how entrepreneurs should start out: working together. In my home city of Cali, Colombia, there is similar concept: http://tinyurl.com/3w56ax

  5. I believe the Jelly concept has been around for many years (and yes Joey, even in San Antonio!). It may not have been as recognizable as it is in this current day and age or in the same format. Having been in the construction industry for many years (my grandfather was a general contractor in San Antonio), I was used to working with various sub’s and collaborating with them to explore new systems, techniques and technologies to resolve technical problems and to build a structure which in the end was profitable for all of us. We were all independent contractors, however, in many ways we were dependent on each other. Is this not perhaps similar to the Jelly concept?

    Also, in the late 1970’s there was a company know as Control Data Corporation who tried to develop a similar concept as part of their social contribution. I was in the construction business then and we helped them build an office building in San Antonio. The building was very unqiue at the time for San Antonio as it was built specifically for bringing together entrepreneurs, creators, start-ups and support staff in one building. The spaces were known as “incubator” spaces and the idea was to have a physical space and the support staff and services where you could grow your business. Once you reached a certain size, you would them move out on your own to a larger and different location. I’m not sure how successful they were in the end or how many businesses were developed. The building itself has now become part of UTSA. Back then, the concept was very intriguing for me and the Jelly concept sounds similar to this process.

    Keep up the good work. Having known Joey for many years, I have had the joy of sharing in many of his projects. I believe the Jelly concept has many merits and potentials. As with any business project there are alway hurdles to clear. In the end, with the right motivation and clarity of purpose, anything is possible.

  6. great post! check out http://startupdistrict.com/node/36 as well for a cool quote from “the long tail” about why startup district is a good idea…

  7. Love the discussion around this topic. Clearly, this is of importance to everyone in this city. Think there are some great ideas – now MAKE THEM happen. That’s really my only ask.

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