Time was, people who wanted to start a company in Silicon Valley worked in their garages. Then, they began working at home and collaborating in coffee shops and libraries. Still, even if you get out for the occasional meeting, working from home can be isolating, and it’s not always the best thing for your motivation.
As a solution, entrepreneurs have increasingly turned to co-working spaces – shared rented areas with collaborative space, cubicles, offices, conference rooms and all the comforts of work. Space can be rented by the hour, day or month. Unlike incubators, they don’t require users to compete for membership. Anyone can sign up as long as there’s room, although some require signing statements of community standards.
All of them work to create a community of members. They provide a minimum of table space with an Internet connection, and pride themselves on stocking their break rooms with high quality coffee. Beyond that, Silicon Valley co-working spaces range from funky upstarts with open tables to office centers with answering services. Here are four offerings:
Downtown San Jose’s NextSpace – one of several the organization runs in California — is the prototypical co-working space. Most space is set up like a café, an open area with tables, couches and a few workstations high enough to stand at. Its walls are the company’s signature orange, white and black, colors meant to promote high energy. There’s also a large conference table where workers can collaborate or simply work separately together.
At the back is a wall with photos of all the members, along with their company names, if any. “This plants the seed that this is a human space, and people will collaborate,” says Community Curator and Director of Development Gretchen Knight Baisa. “It’s our first stab at introduction.”
NextSpace is pet friendly, so a picture of Baisa’s dog Huey also graces the wall.
Coworking at NextSpace has facilitated relationships that have led to new companies, Baisa said. Freelancers meet, have lunch and exchange contacts, which often results in their hiring one another or collaborating on totally new ventures.
Want a tony Los Gatos address with easy access to shops? Then try Satellite Telework Centers. Founder and CEO Barbara Sprenger started the first of her centers in 2008 in response to environmental concerns. She saw the traffic going over the hill to Silicon Valley every day, and decided to build work centers in Santa Cruz County where the commuters lived. At the same time, she said she was concerned by the telecommuting trend. “Everyone will be working in their pajamas and slippers, and that will increase the isolation,” she said.
The company has won awards from the environmental groups Acterra and Sustainable Silicon Valley.
Satellite has developed software and technology for managing access to and usage of its centers. Users receive an electronic key, which tracks access and services used and bills members accordingly. The systems are being sold to other co-working centers, including the soon to open Silicon Valley Business Center in Campbell.
The Los Gatos center, which opened in 2012, has two café areas, including three personally assigned stations, four cubicles and nine offices, as well as an eight-person conference room and a fully enclosed telephone room. Noise echoes off the vaulted beam ceilings in the front café area, so the room provides a quiet place for private phone conversations and prevents disturbing other members. To foster community, Los Gatos Center Coordinator Heather Osiaskowski throws mixers both for clients and the general public.
In addition to its Felton, Scotts Valley and Los Gatos centers, Satellite offers a center in Santa Monica.
Opened just this past July, Palo Alto’s Enerspace is the newcomer to the co-working scene. It’s the second center for founder Jamie Russo, who started her first in downtown Chicago out of a concern for wellness. A University of Chicago MBA, Russo had been teaching wellness seminars at workspaces to less than receptive audiences. She heard about the co-working movement and decided to build workspaces that focused on health.
The Palo Alto center includes a large café area with several workstations that enable users to stand while working. “Sitting is the new smoking,” says Russo. The center also has showers for workers who commute in by bike or run the nearby Baylands Trail. In addition, Enerspace includes offices, a reservable conference room, an “inspiration room” for ad hoc conferences and a patio area with barbecue grill.
Russo estimates that 60 percent of members at the Palo Alto Enerspace office are startup consultants.
Want something more than shared workspace? The Rockefeller Group Business Center offers formal receptionists, a call center with operators to answer phones, conference rooms with intelligent whiteboards and monitors, break rooms with televisions, and offices of 100, 200, and 300 square feet, as well as clustered groups.
“I hope you’re not expecting big open spaces,” says General Manager Joanne Escobar. Indeed, the Rockefeller Group’s open work areas are a miniscule portion of the space, which has two-day-use cubicles and three open workstations.
The center is housed inside a high rise next to San Jose’s Santana Row, and was built to complement the high end shopping center and homes. Escobar said she recommended adding the co-working services to supplement the Rockefeller Group’s more traditional executive office services as a way to tap into the growth of telecommuting.
The center’s clients are wide ranging. Although the majority are in technology, the facility also counts lawyers, audiologists and insurance professionals among its members. To foster community, Escobar hosts regular parties and introduces clients who are working on complementary projects.