The WeWork implosion in October reset expectations for coworkers and coworking business models alike. An indictment of style-over-substance valuations and the excesses of modern capitalism, the fallout from the We Company’s disastrous IPO attempt exposed the “tech startup” in the cold light of day as the Emperor’s New Clothes of venture capitalism.
The root problem? The ‘We’ brand was always about fashion and lifestyle and not about productivity. It was more about feeling good, posturing and self indulgence. It was about being something it was not.
“A growth company culture is created by being aligned behind a mission to motivate the team to work super hard,” says Innovation Warehouse CEO Ami Shpiro. “It’s not about innovating around the coffee machine – it’s more about doing than being. Being is for lifestyle, and will always be small for that reason.”
A cautionary tale for startups, then. The lessons? Beware style over substance – entrepreneurs need to establish clear, viable routes to profitability. It’s better to be a slow burn than a bonfire. Reaching profit may well take years – plan for it, take the time to reflect and grow.
In part 1 of this series, we explored some of the top habits you should follow to make the most of your time in the amorphous, entrepreneurial world of coworking. Let’s continue that thought by examining what really matters…
People choose to join coworking spaces because they want to be around other like-minded professionals. Entrepreneurs enjoy independence and self-motivation, but you can never undervalue the safety of the herd.
With a mobile phone, a laptop and a wifi connection, anyone can work from anywhere these days. But when you join a coworking space, you’re joining a community network that works to the benefit of all members and helps counteract the daunting isolation of freelance life.
Or at least, it should. Don’t just sign up to any old workspace provider – do your research, find a community that specialises in the industries most relevant for your enterprise and immerse yourself to grow your network.
Mentoring, support and guidance
The coworking environment – indeed, any business ecosystem worth its salt – should provide a true sense of community and additional professional support.
A good coworking space is like an onion – yes, you can treat it as a mere space to spend your working hours, but delve beneath the surface and you’ll find mentoring resources, accelerator programmes and support structures to fast-track your startup and become investor ready.
Innovation Warehouse’s in-house accelerator, the WISE Programme, is a unique investment-readiness programme that combines an experiential approach with focused learning.
The programme is centred around startups working directly with sector experts through focused mentorship and guidance across key business topics – the goal being to ultimately build stronger, more robust investment propositions.
Our resident expertise and knowledge supports access to funding, particularly for companies with solid intelligent, technical solutions and strong IP.
Employee pull and retention
The millennial mentality lends itself to inclusiveness, flexibility, lifestyle compatibility and having a cause. A good coworking space should be empowered by that mission mentality – the desire to build something according to a common ambition and purpose.
As an entrepreneur or startup looking to grow, hire and ultimately retain highly motivated staff, you’re unlikely to find a better place to inspire and retain potential employees than a forward-thinking coworking space.
If your workspace has multiple locations, the motivational power of having a mobile workforce cannot be understated. Freedom of movement often means freedom of expression (mental freedom) and greater creativity, and the process of performance measurement can be fast-tracked by observing your employees’ behaviours working outside of the box. Encouraging staff to bring their true, authentic selves to work should be a win-win for everybody.
The sweet spot for any company or professional environment, then, is to establish the magic ratio of innovative workplace design with day-to-day experience. And if you can keep things real – avoiding the WeWork trap of coworking as rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle – then all the better.