Daily Archives: May 24, 2012

Coworking makes room for larger startups

Corporate remote employees, we recently reported, are increasingly joining the mix of freelancers and entrepreneurs at coworking spaces. But apparently that’s not the only new group making increasing use of the movement. Spaces have long been home to fledgling ventures with just a few employees, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting, that more larger startups are sticking with coworking even as they grow beyond the traditional small size associated with shared space.

Emily Maltby reports on a new style of jumbo spaces being set up to accommodate these larger startups, including the Cambridge Innovation Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and RocketSpace Inc. in San Francisco:

In recent years, though, some new ventures have bucked the traditional model by creating pay-as-you-go setups for sizable start-ups.

Some of these spaces have vast, open floors that can be partitioned according to the size of a company, or enclosed offices with adjustable walls. And they often provide communal reception services, copiers and conference rooms—or even amenities like showers and massages.

Many entrepreneurs are turning to these spaces as a way to save on overhead as they expand, as well as maintain the communal feel of the business incubators where they launched their companies.

Though staying in communal space may be good for the budgets of these adolescent startups, and may be comforting to entrepreneurs used to the supportive community aspect of coworking, experts apparently warn their may also be downsides for businesses that fail to cut  the apron strings and move out on their own. These include, the “difficulty of keeping secrets from rivals. And some critics worry that coworking for too long may hinder businesses from developing an individual identity,” writes Maltby.

Other startups in the space stealing your employees could also be an issue. “You have human-resources issues…. I don’t want another company to romance my guys away,” George Deeb, founder of start-up consulting firm Red Rocket Partners, told the WSJ.

Should firms with dozens of employees rather than a handful stick with communal office space? 

Image courtesy of Flickr user novemberwolf

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This Is Not Communication

An article in Inc (not available online) extols the virtues of new app which helps directs and managers create weekly reports about their work. So far, so good. A founder and CEO of a web-design company is a user of the app and he says, “I have my first-level employees send the reports to their managers on Friday, and the managers send me the reports on Monday”. He continues, “My favorite thing .. is that it lets managers easily escalate an idea or concern from an employees report and include it on their own… then we can have a conversation right on the report, and the manager or employee gets an email every time I comment”.

When I got to this part, I was practically screaming – this is not communication. This is not the way to deal with employee’s concerns, or even their ideas. Would you learn to trust someone who only deals with your work via an automated system? Would you feel valued if your ideas were praised that way? To be fair, the article doesn’t say that this is the only way with which this CEO communicates with his employees, but it is implied.

There’s a reason that One on Ones happen weekly between two people speaking to one another. Because that’s the way human beings develop relationships. Even though we have all this technology, we still want to ‘put faces to names’ before relationships become really real. Automated systems which capture our thoughts via our words just aren’t the same. Yes, I realise the irony as I write – but my point is almost made here. I write often, and yet we don’t have a real relationship. Automated systems are a convenience, a time-saver, but they’re no substitute. No one gave their all for a man they only knew by email.