Cowork Rochester

What Will Coworking Provide Rochester?

Posted in coworking, facilities by Erik on April 22, 2010

A recent WORK.LIFE column by Liz Kofman and Astri von Arbin Ahlander on True/Slant got into some of the unclear particulars of coworking. This made me think it’s time to focus the conversation of what coworking in Rochester, MN would look like because it does differ from place to place and to serve the community it should come from this community.

I would like to see coworking in Rochester provide:

  1. A space that is fiscally sustainable.
  2. A community for creative and technical people.
  3. An office location where independents, telecommuters and virtual firms can share resources.
  4. A venue where local user groups could congregate for monthly meetings.
  5. A casual work environment.
  6. An off-site meeting location for local businesses.

What would you like to see?

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Incubator Style Coworking Space

Posted in coworking, facilities, shared office by Erik on March 17, 2010

WebWorkerDaily toured CoLab, an Orlando, FL coworking space and posted insight into how coworking is working in a larger city. The space is primarily being used as an incubator style / shared office configuration instead of a solo-worker destination.

The coworking common area at CoLab is definitely underutilized. It was virtually deserted on the Monday afternoon that I visited, although I was told a few members use it on a regular basis. This is likely because CoLab’s suites are so affordable that they are packed to the rafters with small businesses.

Another reason for the lack of utilization may be due to the variety of options available to solo workers in Orlando.  In some locations where there is an existing culture of web-based entrepreneurs a larger number of startups an incubator style startup may work. In fact, this is a major benefit to any bio-technology firm considering involvement in the Pine Island Elk Run Biotech Park or even the Minnesota BioBusiness Center. However, for internet professionals, the demand for this type of space doesn’t appear to be there and downtown would be better served by a more traditional open coworking facility.

What’s Beyond Mayo and IBM?

Posted in economy, industry by Erik on March 5, 2010

Despite earlier ramblings on this blog, Rochester isn’t entirely Mayo and IBM. There is actually a diverse group of companies operating largely off the local media radar. Don’t tell anyone, but there’s even a Y-Combinator startup on the list below. With the University of Minnesota campus expansion in the next few years, new and fresh ideas will follow. Rochester is uniquely situated to grow in the information technology and knowledge economy. As Rochester’s business environment diversifies, collaboration and cooperation between these companies will be critical to continued success in this region.

These are a few operating or based in Rochester:

I read a depressing quote on an article from the Star Tribune while looking for information for this article.

There really isn’t a VC community/pool here in MN — especially for web technology — but even the medtech folks will tell you that its all but dried up. We’re unfortunately a layover between the coasts. You either have to be self funded or have a deep pool of the 3F’s – Friends, Family, and Fools. You’ll spend a lot of time driving around, buying lunch, getting free advice. And in the end, someone on the coast will be beat you to the punch.

Some of the above companies are directly serving Mayo or working in conjunction with IBM, but not all. One thing is certain, there is a mass of talented people working in Rochester with a diverse set of industries and backgrounds represented. The old saying that the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts rings ever so true. Rochester is uniquely positioned currently to transform itself and open collaboration and sharing within the technology community will be a vital component of that success.

You can read more about these local companies in the RAEDI glossy and in Rochester Magazine’s Silicon Prairie series too. I’ve intentionally left off solo-workers and firms that exist only to serve one of the major employers for the sake of brevity. Furthermore there is no shortage of web design and development firms in Rochester, be sure to check them out while your at it. If you feel you were unfairly excluded, add yourself and a one liner about what you do in the comments below.

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Posted in coworking by Erik on February 19, 2010

Um, No. Community plays a huge roll in ultimately the determining success or failure of a co-working location. A building, no matter how well located, how cool and how hip can’t hope to succeed unless the community needs it. Brad Neuberg ended up closing his first c0-working facility because “nobody came”, but that is not entirely accurate. Many people did come and his idea spread to other locations. His ideas were remixed, spread and new facilities cropped up all around the country and the world. A community of space catalysts was born.

A post illustrating the differences between temporary and permanent co-working caught my attention today. The author described some of the features of a permanent location and a temporary event like a Jelly. What was missing, however, was the sense of community and collaboration, the human resources, that are present in both models. Anecdotally, I’ve learned that successful co-working facilities have grown out of communities. Both CoCo (MN) and The 3rd Place (MN) both started out as a less formal co-working group that meets regularly in Minneapolis.

In 2009, WebWorkerDaily posted an article about Justifying Coworking as an Investment. It highlights the decision process someone should go through when contemplating wether co-working will be a good fit for them. This paragraph from that article really hits the nail on the head:

If you are looking to build meaningful professional relationships, the kind that can’t come from email exchanges and the occasional lunch, then coworking presents a tangible benefit. If you need your company to have a public face, and one that exists in a brick-and-mortar sense, and you need that consistently, then coworking presents an attractive proposition. If your working hours are interrupted in consistent and unpredictable ways at your home office, damaging your productivity, then coworking could help.

So how might co-working take hold and get started in Rochester and other cities? By forming a community. Over the last few weeks I have learned that there are multiple communities of small firms and solo-workers already in place here in Rochester. I’ll be working to connect with these communities over the coming months.

Hat tip to CoCo for sharing the WebWorkerDaily article.

Economic Makeup of Rochester

Posted in economy, industry by Erik on February 17, 2010

Some interesting data regarding the makeup of Rochester’s economy and workforce.

141,360 People live in Olmstead County; 96,975 (67%) of which live in Rochester (2008 estimate). 8,951 (6%) people generate income from non-employer establishments in Olmstead county. According to RAEDI employment numbers for major area employers, 24% of the jobs in Rochester are directly related to healthcare. 31,539 (22%) by Mayo Clinic and an additional 2,170 (2%) by other health service organizations. Hospitality is the second largest industry, accounting for an estimated 5,000 (3.5%) jobs. Adding hospitality and and the Medical industry together results in 1 in 4 Rochester residents working for or in an industry directly supporting the Mayo Clinic!

The census describes non-employers business as, “generally small, such as real estate agents and independent contractors.” It goes on to generalize their contribution to a regions economy, “Nonemployers constitute nearly three-quarters of all businesses, but they contribute only about three percent of overall sales and receipts data.” No data was available as to how non-employers break down further. RAEDI provides a wealth of other information interesting information including housing prices, median age and industries.

Sources for Rochester data: