With its budding entrepreneurs and growing startups, Seattle has wholeheartedly embraced the coworking movement. More than 30 coworking sites pepper the region, providing homes to hundreds of small and growing companies that can’t afford — or simply choose to forgo — traditional office space.
The idea is simple: Open up office or creative space to people who work remotely but want to do so in an inviting and productive environment. The chemistry among members often leads to collaboration and, along with it, explosive new ideas. From the perspective of developers, it’s a new way to attract tenants who otherwise might not be able to afford office space. For those getting started in business and feeling isolated, it’s an opportunity to exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges.
“We aim to build communities to help our members be more successful,” says WeWork’s “chief experience officer,” Noah Brodsky. WeWork opened its first coworking space in New York City in 2010 and has expanded to seven cities across the country, including Seattle earlier this year. WeWork’s first international site, in London, opens this fall.
Having served as an incubator for successful startups like Reddit, Imgur and BuzzFeed in New York, WeWork wants to encourage collaboration among its Seattle members to create a distinct community of entrepreneurs and small businesses.
In many cases, coworking spaces repurpose older buildings and breathe new life into underused spaces across the city. One example is Impact HUB Seattle on Second Aveenue South in Pioneer Square. In a building that had been occupied by Masins Furniture since the 1930s, coworkers share space with, among many other tenants, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and Fledge, a social-business incubator.
One of the original bastions of coworking in the Puget Sound Region is Office Nomads, which has been offering space to its members since 2007. Cofounder Jacob Sayles says the Seattle scene differs from coworking in other cities because spaces in this area tend to work together by pooling resources and industry contacts rather than competing.
“I really like that we have a good relationship with other coworking spaces,” Sayles says. “You go to a lot of other cities and people don’t even talk to each other. It really changes the tone.”
Some of that camaraderie is Sayles’ own doing. He founded the Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance, whose mission is “to unify, support and promote the coworking and collaborative space movement.” The alliance has monthly meet-ups and actually encourages prospective coworking clients to visit many coworking spaces before settling on a home.
Edwin Depner cofounded his small real estate consulting business, The Depner Group, with his wife, Jennifer, and recently joined WeWork’s South Lake Union location. He says the chemistry between himself and his space-mates is palpable. “The world as we know it is shrinking,” Depner says. “Every time you get into a business or do some kind of startup, the idea is networking. … Who knows what kinds of connections I might make?”