Finding camaraderie in coworking spaces
With so many freelancers and entrepreneurs, the coworking trend has gone global.
The WeWork coworking office space in New York City has been the home base for Michael Parrish DuDell, an entrepreneur, speaker and bestselling business author, since April 2012. He's a long-term fan for many reasons, but one tops them all: "Really for me it comes down to community," he told From the Grapevine.
"There's tremendous power in being around people who understand the joys and pains of building something from the ground up. Being an entrepreneur or freelancer can be incredibly lonely, and community is more valuable than most people realize," DuDell said.
Fostering a sense of community is part of most coworking spaces' DNA; the most successful of them (and WeWork has plenty of competition, including ImpactHub and other industry-specific shared offices) bring people together seamlessly and make networking easy. As Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, chief brand officer and founding partner of WeWork, says, "More than half of our members collaborate."
Of course, there are other benefits to coworking, too – as more people work independently (and living spaces get smaller and more expensive in many major cities), a need for a separation between work areas and home areas is growing.
Coworking offices look great, and have great modern design and updated amenities – and you don't have to clean your own bathroom. "For me, environment is such an important part of the creative process. I think great design is something WeWork does better than anyone else," says DuDell.
Amenities such as high-speed laser printers, package delivery and receptionists mean that in many useful ways, coworking spaces function like real offices, leaving behind the worst of office culture.
And there are other benefits, too — like help with health care, IT support, payroll, legal support, education and training. "Every WeWork location is staffed with community managers who work directly with members to understand their business needs, struggles and growth plans – and connect them to other members who can help," says Paltrow Neumann.
Coworking spaces are popular, and WeWork exemplifies that. The company is expanding, with plans in the next year to triple its membership and expand to 60 locations from 21 today with new offices in Miami, Austin, Chicago, Brooklyn and Amsterdam, bringing WeWork spaces to more than 1 million square feet of coworking collaborations. Two of these new spaces are in Israel, with a new space in Tel Aviv and another in the tech-focused city of Herzliya.
Coworking environments are good for getting work done – and community building. (Photo: WeWork)
So why Israel? "Israel's startup ecosystem is second only to Silicon Valley. So we knew it would work here," Benjy Singer, director of WeWork Israel, told From The Grapevine. And WeWork CEO Adam Neumann was raised on a communal farm there, an experience he credits with his ability to understand that what startups and entrepreneurs need in an office is both a collaborative workspace and community.
The company's specialization of offices isn't just about location, but about type of business as well: "The WeWork brand can extend into many different categories across various industries," says Paltrow Neumann. WeWork Labs is the company's first foray into that arena, helping early-stage tech startups. The SoHo West location in New York City was the first office of that type and, not surprisingly, a new San Francisco Labs location has opened recently.
So Israel is also a logical next step for the company in terms of their focus on startup culture, and WeWork is responsive to the needs of each market. "It looks like the percentage of startups will be around 60 of our members, which is more than any other market," says Singer. "There will be local value-added services for our members in Israel that are relevant to this market."
WeWork has even taken the food truck idea and turned it on its head a bit: Singer recently took WeWork on the road to bring ideas to entrepreneurs in Israel, taking the idea of a mobile office to the next level. Singer, who was in the restaurant business for 25 years, says of his switch from hospitality to workspaces: "Instead of making people feel good when they play, I will make them succeed when they work."
Singer says he was influenced by his brother Saul, who is the co-author of "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle." "I have been an entrepreneur all my life. My brother told the story of Israel as the startup nation. That's when I realized I was an entrepreneur in the wrong business."
Since we spend more time at work than ever before, this makes all kinds of sense, and means that coworking spaces are likely to keep growing and specializing, offering more perks, and becoming an important part of cities' local business landscapes. WeWork is poised to take full advantage of this new world.
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