The coworking market isn’t just growing; it’s spinning off into new directions.
Spinning out of control, perhaps? In some cases, yes. We’ve seen an unsettling number of closures despite reports of coworking growth. Perhaps it’s because some spaces are too expensive, or in the wrong location, or simply aren’t marketed correctly.
Some begin life as a side-project and don’t have the momentum to keep going. Others lack that golden ingredient – a community vibe – which is generally regarded as the engine room of a successful coworking space.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Coworking is expanding strongly enough to warrant not just new locations, but new purposes.
As we saw last week, specific sectors such as the fintech (financial technology) industry is using collaborative workspace to accommodate gutsy entrepreneurs with a very clear mission: to radically transform traditional industries. Some of these spaces, such as Tyro Financial Hub, aren’t even designed to turn a profit.
And in this particular case, the space is only open to entrepreneurs within a specific industry.
This notable trend – that of sector-specific workspaces – has been gathering steam for some time within coworking circles.
In Denver, Colorado, Green Spaces is exclusively for “green and socially conscious entrepreneurs”. It’s not to be confused with Green Labs, another Denver coworking space, which markets exclusively to businesses within the marijuana industry (it’s legal in Colorado). Both spaces are active and continue to market to their respective sectors.
Another example is the WESST incubator in Albuquerque, which is dedicated to helping military veterans start their own businesses. Then there are gender-specific workplaces such as Hera Hub or The Hive in Philadelphia.
Whichever market or demographic they serve, these spaces simply wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a need or a demand for them.
Indeed, commonality can be extremely beneficial according to Jay Kamlet, co-founder of LawBank, in Thad Moore’s article: “Whenever you’re bringing together folks that are similar-minded, focused on a particular niche… you’re always going to benefit from someone else’s knowledge.”
But while successful sector-specific spaces might shine a light for others to follow, thankfully, not every space is intent on carving out a niche for itself.
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If all coworking spaces were limited by sector, where would that leave the ‘in-betweeners’? Or those working across multiple industries?
Furthermore there are immeasurable opportunities to be found through broadening one’s horizons, be it the jaded creative looking for new inspiration or the energetic disruptor looking for fresh challenges.
Cowork Unite raised similar questions in this thoughtful piece, which muses over the pros and cons of sector-specific coworking spaces: “For many, working in a co-working space is about networking. It’s about building your client base and your workload, or finding leads to new opportunities. But if you’re a lawyer, sitting next to another lawyer, does that expand your lead potential or hurt it?”
In some cases it depends on the size and orientation of the sector. In a vast field like law, or health, it is easier to attract coworking clients and for those businesses to remain productive in a sector-specific workspace than a smaller, more niche market.
The fact that coworking can accommodate a healthy range of both specific and non-specific spaces, and spread out into specific industries large and small, is a positive sign for this flourishing sector. Ultimately, balance is key. Let’s hope that the broader spaces remain intact for the ‘in-betweeners’ among us, who prefer to cross-collaborate in the name of inspiration, fresh challenges and pure curiosity. And with any luck, as coworking finds new balance in this brave new world, we will see fewer closures and a vibrant collection of sustainable, happy spaces.
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