Friday, March 11, 2011

The Magic of Accidental Entrepreneurial Collaboration in a Coworking Space

It happens every day. In fact, it is happening before my eyes (and ears) right now.

And until you experience it done correctly, you won't believe the results.

As one of the co-founders of Think Big Partners, which offices out of our coworking space for entrepreneurs, I sometimes forget the powerful reasons that compelled us to create Kansas City's first true entrepreneur-focused coworking space last fall.

For those that are unfamiliar with the history of coworking spaces, the original term was coined in 1999. Defined as a shared working environment, yet independent activity, it allows people to maximize their physical and intellectual resources to achieve both their individual goals and the goals of others.

Through this collaboration, the collective energy of everyone's individual goals becomes a shared common goal, being to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem that fosters personal and business success. As an entrepreneur, I often find myself having a hard time drawing the line between personal and business success, as I am deeply passionate about my work and ultimately, this affects my family's well being.

As I walked into Think Big Partners this morning, I was able to witness (having first overheard due to the enthusiastic tones of voices involved) spontaneous collaboration occurring between 2 very talented tenants inside of our coworking space. One was teaching the other a few technology tricks of the trade, to help him become better connected in the online world.

This knowledge could have been sold as a service. Any buyer would have been more than happy to pay for this education, but would have had to pick up a phone or schedule an appointment to receive it. Instead, one tenant realized another tenant’s need to become better at a social media-related technology application, and the two entrepreneurs spent ten minutes helping each other conquer the world for that moment.

I have become spoiled working here, as I forget that this phenomena is not a common occurrence in other places that have coworking space aspects. Nothing against working at Starbucks, but coffee shops do not foster a collaborative atmosphere, as this would detract from the overall experience of the people there to drink coffee first and work second. It wasn't designed to be an office.

Executive offices are great, and if you need a well-appointed, nicely finished space like Regus, then very few other offerings in the Kansas City marketplace can beat this set up. The downside for many entrepreneurs is that this comes with a longer term lease and a hefty price. And as far as collaboration goes, most tenants at Regus will agree that there are more closed doors than open ones. I know because I have worked in one.

We built our coworking space in Kansas City after studying the early pioneers of this idea on the West Coast. There are great spaces like The Hive (San Diego), NextSpace (San Francisco – one of my favorites) and more. I have toured them, worked in them and have a deep admiration for these businesses as they have done coworking right. But we are in Kansas City; hence we took a modified approach to coworking spaces built for entrepreneurs. Then we added ingredients like electronic whiteboards, white noise masking, letter folders, postage machines, state of the art color copiers and more. We took the typical coworking space to a whole new level for Kansas City, and on a nice day, you will find people collaborating on our WiFi-enabled rooftop deck that is an entrepreneur’s dream office during warm weather.

The two tenants will remain nameless this morning (we also protect their privacy!) but THANK YOU to both of you, for allowing me to witness the magic of accidental entrepreneurial collaboration. The benefits are many, and when I heard a loud "THIS IS SO COOL" come from the mouth of one of you, I smiled realizing that we have built the right place for the right people. We want to inspire you to do your best work and become incredibly successful as an entrepreneur. We like these types of accidental moments.

Or is it by accident? :)

 Written by Herb Sih, Co-Founder Think Big Partners, Think Big Kansas City, bizperc and a bunch of other companies that were created during slightly over caffeinated moments of entrepreneurial passion.

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