The Sharing Economy: Co-Working and Incubator Models
I recently asked the question, Does WeWork Work? And answered the question with a “We’ll see…” But there’s other co-working/incubator models out there worthy of discussion.
Co-Working and Incubator Models
On a recent panel at GSU’s Views From the Top was a Roam Innovative Workspace representative. Like WeWork, Roam is an alternative office model, but currently boasts only five locations. There are also Incubator tech business models out there. One such model is the Atlanta Tech Village.
One model is not necessarily better than the other, but what is certain is they all disrupt the office market.
Quick Thoughts on WeWork
I dove deep into WeWork previously and questioned how the concept can compete with traditional landlords, REGUS and CBRE’s Hana concept, which can easily adapt to the changing market. Essentially, WeWork acts as a landlord, but offers more flexible leasing options. It is very much a real estate-based model, with rapid growth and an eye on going public.
Roam: Warm + Fuzzy Co-Working
Now, Roam is a different story, literally. Roam started when some IBMers got kicked out of their office. Forced to work in crowded coffee shops, they wanted something better. Roam became “a coffee shop– brew pub offering flexible office space alternatives with Wi-Fi and conference rooms.” Its vision has evolved, but Roam remains a private company with manageable locations based on hospitality.
Roam offers different levels of memberships with varying amenities, including guest passes, meeting room hours, digital advertisement and after-hours eligibility. Members can also opt for a Dedicated Office and additional a la carte services.
There’s a warm and fuzzy component to this model—their mission is to intentionally connect people and develop a cohesive culture. There’s an emphasis on hospitality and community that is lacking at WeWork. Roam is trying to grow, but their model appears more difficult to grow than WeWork, possibly due to its strong service emphasis.
As Roam grows, it risks losing its unique culture. For an entrepreneur, often a love of what she does drives her business’ initial success, but that changes when the business expands. Will that happen to Roam? We shall see.
Atlanta Tech Village: Incubating Ideas
Incubator models, including The Village, help businesses grow by uniting bright people with different ideas and giving them space, professional financing and management assistance. The Village calls itself a “community of innovation” with a goal to “create 10,000 jobs and fuel Atlanta’s rise to a top-five tech-startup center in the U.S.”
Serial entrepreneur David Cummings started The Village to support start-ups. Similar to Roam, The Village offers private offices and co-working space, but takes amenities a step further, adding free beer, nap room, game room, free lunch Fridays, 24/7 access and more. With 400+ events per year and 300+ companies at The Village, support and networking are ripe.
Cumming opened The Village in a high-profile building he purchased and renovated at a steep price. What is interesting is The Village doesn’t really create building value since it consists of young entrepreneurs with little capital, no credit and no long-term lease commitments. This is a venture capital model located in a high-profile building owned by Cumming. If The Village disappears, Cumming can lease to unrelated tenants.
Final Thoughts: Co-Working/Incubator Models
WeWork, Roam and Atlanta Tech Village are three different concepts with three different goals—one is real estate-based, seeking to scale-up and sell; one seeks to create community; and one seeks to promote and benefit from entrepreneurship.
My thoughts? WeWork is the most vulnerable since its concept can be duplicated. Roam fosters an inviting culture, but appears difficult to grow while maintaining its character. The Village is a business concept that just happens to be in a great building.
What are your thoughts about co-working and/or incubator models? Are they trends, or do they have long-term staying power?