[FoRK] Co-working spaces (was Re: LA Traffic - solution?)

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sun Sep 2 11:15:46 PDT 2012

On Sep 2, 2012, at 12:57 AM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> I've never lived in a part of the US that fits your "suburban sprawl, prohibitive zoning, and ... city planning ... makes efficient and effective co-working non-viable".  Ohio, Northern Virginia, Mountain View, downtown San Jose, even semi-living in Honolulu: all had office and plentiful warehouse space in or near major population centers yet many commuted large distances.  

The choice is not co-working versus corporate office. It is co-working versus home office. This has been evaluated by many companies. Availability of office space is usually irrelevant.

Having people work at home beats co-working every time using your model. That is why co-working has never taken off in the places you mention. Under different parameters though, co-working can work well and has in practice.

To extend your argument, who wants to waste time commuting to a co-working space when they can "commute" to their home office? Just because people at your company live nearby does not mean they are people you would  ever need or want to interact with. In a sprawling suburb there is a low probability that people who would benefit from co-working together are going to be anywhere near each other. It does not fix the commute problem, it just rearranges it. You have to solve this problem or co-working becomes a euphemism for "satellite office".

> We differ about what is holding cowork growth back: I think the main things holding back widespread cowork are: Willingness and comfortableness of companies to use it, ready facilities that have a critical mass of low cost, ease of reservation, security of various kinds, complete enough and trustable facilities that can be integrated into the mother space, and parking or other effective, fast transportation solution.

I don't buy that Silicon Valley is so backward thinking that this is why it has not taken off. Co-working works well in other cities. Co-working spaces with all the features you mention have been available in Silicon Valley for as long as I lived there; I used a few. They sucked for reasons having nothing to do with the issues you raise.

> Additionally, many of those that might create cowork space for tiny startups or otherwise be an emergent cowork force simply work from home.  That is already a sunk cost generally and therefore the most economical solution.  

Co-working spaces are quite popular for tiny startups where I live. Again, you are missing what is attractive about them -- they are not about office space. I know plenty of people with tiny startups that walk from their home office to a co-working space. Co-working is more about the "co" than the "working". It is a different way of organizing the tech social networks. 

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