Why Co-Working Space is Critical in Fostering a Start-up Culture

posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 in Blog

Recently, Nate Clayberg of the Alliance & Chamber and entrepreneur Trace Stephan of the HowFactory spoke with Gary Edwards on KXEL's Morning Show about the value of co-working spaces. Much of what they discussed is outlined here.

Over the last year, there has been increased activity in the Cedar Valley to build a stronger base for entrepreneurs to build their businesses in the region. This “entrepreneurial ecosystem” provides resources to people with business start-up ideas to help move from an idea into a scalable business. A part of many successful “ecosystems” is “co-working space.”

A business facility known as a Co-working space describes an existing space where independent workers work alongside each other in an open environment. The space is also open to independent contractors and work-at-home professionals that shared similar values and interests. This environment fosters a synergy among the informal colleagues that help each personally in their professional work through pursuing separate business start-ups.

The Cedar Valley has a rich history of visionary entrepreneurs. Today, members of the entrepreneurship community are looking for a central gathering point to exchange ideas, work through solutions and scale their businesses. A “ground zero” for entrepreneurship has not yet existed in this area. While similar settings do exist on the UNI campus, in coffee shops in Waterloo, Cedar Falls and other regional communities, a true Cedar Valley co-working space does not. The co-working spaces in place in competitive Iowa markets are drawing attention from these ambitious start-ups.

Co-working space should not be confused with incubators, accelerators or private shared office suite operations, offer in many cities. The co-working environment is not about the real estate, rather it is about forming a community and work culture that nurtures successful entrepreneurship.

So, who are the entrepreneurs in the Cedar Valley that would use this space? What do they do? Who do they work for? Why are they in the Cedar Valley? It is easy to identify some of them, but not all.

Based on Brad Feld's book Startup Communities, there are “leaders” and “feeders” in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The “feeders” are groups like the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, Community Main Street organizations, universities, local and state government, banks and investors that support business growth. The “leaders” are people and companies that have a direct interest in supporting this type of activity because it impacts the success of their own business endeavor.

When the entrepreneurship community takes the lead there is a greater chance for the space and its users to flourish. The role of the “feeder” is to help guide new businesses down the right path and to support the co-working concept.

Today the Cedar Valley “feeders” are actively working with the “leaders” to identify the market for a Cedar Valley co-working space in Cedar Valley. The next step is to hold Jellies – a form of “pop-up” or “flash” co-working space-filling events. The first Jelly took place on July 31st at the office of a start-up business in Waterloo. The next Jelly will intentionally build a following that leads to the creation of a permanent co-working space in the Cedar Valley.