Coworking Spaces and Founders Rocking the Melbourne Startup Scene

Man-In-Field

With GCUC Australia only a day away, what better way to prepare for the occasion than checking out some of the best coworking spaces and the founders behind them?

If you haven’t bought your GCUC ticket yet, click here.

Article written by Robert Ollett, co-founder Habu.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend a month among some of the best coworking spaces and founders in Melbourne, Australia. The coworking ecosystem in Melbourne is incredibly diverse, from spaces focusing on blockchain technologies to women entrepreneurs to film and digital art.

Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorites with you and some of the amazing stuff they are up to. These are the spaces that, in my opinion, are rocking the Melbourne coworking and startup scene.

ACMI X / Katrina Sedgwick

This is absolutely the place to be for anyone working in the world of moving images as ACMI X caters to filmmakers, screenwriters, web developers, digital and visual artists, and more.

The vibrant community at ACMI X is nearing capacity in its eye-catchingly well designed and large open-plan space. One of the driving forces behind the space is supporting the members by nurturing fundamental business development skills. As CEO Katrina Sedgwick says, “idea generation and connections happen quite naturally in an open space. It’s the operational insights needed for the first couple of years that are so important.”

One of the main benefits of working in ACMI X is that almost every startup at ACMI X has worked with ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image), one of the leading cultural institutions in Melbourne, in one way or another. That’s a massive opportunity for these creative entrepreneurs as more than 1.5m people visit ACMI each year for research, beta testing, and more.

Katrina Sedgwick, CEO, ACMI X

Katrina Sedgwick, CEO, ACMI X

CoBrew / Nathan Liascos

As the self-proclaimed “first ever brewery, bar, and coworking spacecraft” you might expect to find an intoxicating mix of interesting members, events, and beverages. And you wouldn’t be disappointed at this quirky, yet understated neighborhood coworking space situated above the 3 Ravens brewery.

Nathan Liascos, the inspired helmsman behind both CoBrew and 3 Ravens, is quick to point out that “‘cobrew’ is more of a metaphor for creation rather than just relating to brewing beer.”

He’s also passionate about nurturing a culture of support for freelancers and startups. There’s a particular emphasis on events and talks with influential speakers such as Taylor Tran. Nathan says, “it’s 100% important for people with insights to share them with startups, having better ideas about what you can do differently in business is key – regardless of industry.” And there are some great additional perks for coworkers here too; craft beers on tap and artisanal coffee roasted on-site courtesy of one of the members.

Nathan Liascos, Founder, CoBrew
Nathan Liascos, Founder, CoBrew

MKTPlace Ventures / Tony Simmons

It’s not a coworking hub per say, but MKTPlace Ventures certainly rocks the Melbourne startup scene as a pre-seed incubator. Founder and CEO Tony Simmons knows what he’s looking for when going through the selection process and it’s typically a mixture of a great idea and founders with “fire in their belly” who are prepared to take risks and move fast.

He takes a very active role with the startups at MKTPlace Ventures. “I’ve set about with the MKTPlace Ventures incubator to be more like a teaching lab than a funding lab. Funding only gets you so far. Knowing what to focus on and cutting out the glorious distractions takes you further.”

Tony continues, highlighting the ecosystem in the city, “Melbourne is flush with funding and opportunity. Where MKTPlace Ventures is positioned is in working with startups and plugging them into the opportunities that are out there.” Lithodomos VR, who merge archeology and VR, are an excellent example of this, having secured A$1m and landed major deals within just a few months working with Tony at MKTPlace Ventures.

Tony Simmons, Founder, MKTPlace Ventures
Tony Simmons, Founder, MKTPlace Ventures

The Cowork Collective / Rebecca Mutch

The Cowork Co is a beautifully designed, boutique, and collaborative workspace based in a former gold stamping factory. Everything is intentionally kept open within the space (other than the fantastic meeting rooms). No offices, no dedicated desks. Just lots of really great flexible workspace.

From founder Rebecca Mutch’s perspective “one of the great things with the Cowork Co is that there’s no territoriality as there are no permanent desks.” The emphasis on open space also provides lots of flexibility within the Cowork Co model which means they balance both coworking plus a busy event and workshop hire schedule in evenings and during the weekend.

A big question for Rebecca is the question of “how can I add value to the community while not creating a business model that’s high maintenance?” With that in mind, there are plans underway at the Cowork Co to create a toolset that supports the community through online courses, that’s particularly aimed at early stage entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Despite an ever-growing number of coworking spaces in the city, Mutch still feels that “there’s still scope in the market to grow, it just needs to be niche-ified.’” It seems that the Cowork Co might just have found theirs with a mix of an open-plan working, boutique event spaces alongside creating supportive digital tools for entrepreneurs.

Rebecca Mutch, founder, The Cowork Collective
Rebecca Mutch, founder, The Cowork Collective

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Hatch Quarter / Aiman Hamdouna

There are two sides to Hatch Quarter, a coworking space founded by two brothers, Aiman and Mo Hamdouna. There’s the intimate workspace filled with a creative ecosystem of companies working in design, development & marketing. And then there’s the Hatch incubator that makes the most of the in-house experience.

Here’s Aiman’s take on it: “we only work with startups that we feel we can add value to. We bring in industry experts for our workshops, but

This year they’ve focused on taking the Hatch incubator to the next level. They launched a startup program in July offering A$33k in business support to selected startups. Hatch Quarter also have a partnership with investors in Dubai to fund startups once they’re ready. As serial entrepreneurs, the Hatch team are well placed to support startups in Melbourne with resources and a healthy dose of realism. “It’s tough to run a startup. You can have a brilliant idea. That’s free. But so can someone else. It’s how you build and execute that counts. It’s not a quick buck. It’s hard work and lots of late nights.”

Aiman and Mo Hamdouna, co-founders, Hatch Quarter
Aiman and Mo Hamdouna, co-founders, Hatch Quarter

One Roof Women / Sheree Rubinstein

For female entrepreneurs and female-led startups in Melbourne, One Roof Women is quite simply an amazing coworking experience. Co-founder and chief visionary at One Roof Women, Sheree Rubinstein, has created a space that’s elegantly designed, promotes wellbeing in the workplace, and offers a packed and excellently curated event and workshop schedule. And this is something that resonates with the female startup community seeing as One Roof has had to expand twice since opening in 2016 to support the dynamic and thriving community.

Part of this success is rooted in the community-first approach that’s defined One Roof from the outset. Sheree began exploring ways to nurture female entrepreneurship by running a week long pop-up event at a mansion. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. As Sheree says, “so many people said ‘we loved it. When are you going to do that again?’. And that’s where it all started. We called it One Roof to symbolize that we provide all of the things a female entrepreneur needs to thrive all under one roof.”

Sheree Rubinstein, CEO and co-founder, One Roof Women
Sheree Rubinstein, CEO and co-founder, One Roof Women

Blockchain Centre / Martin Davidson

The Blockchain Centre is home to a budding community of startups and entrepreneurs involved in the nascent world of blockchain technology companies and cryptocurrency specialists. Or as Martin Davidson, Community Manager, says, it’s a “building of pioneers.”

The Blockchain Centre is a not-for-profit work and education space that maintains a spirit of welcoming openness, very much in-line with the underlying ethos of the transparent and decentralized blockchain technology. For example, they offer free access to the space every Monday and have become the focal point for the wider community hosting numerous events, and host one of the biggest blockchain meetups in the world.

Many of the members based at Blockchain Centre also contribute to the educational mission, volunteering their time by teaching children how to code at the Coder Dojo academy. One member recently managed to introduce a blockchain learning module into the educational curriculum at a local school. Martin also points to a strong research element at the coworking space with “people coming from around the world and base themselves here researching and working with the companies here. For example, an emerging research group is currently setting up the Distributed Technologies Institute”. Martin concludes “I get goosebumps from what I hear when the members tell me what they’re up to. It’s a really, really exciting space. It’s a privilege to be here and help facilitate what’s going on. You’re not going to find a place like this in the world, I’ve made sure of that.”

Martin Davidson, CEO, Blockchain Centre
Martin Davidson, CEO, Blockchain Centre

About Robert Ollett

Robert is co-founder at Habu, workspace management software that’s focussed on keeping things simple. One of the perks of his job is that he gets to meet the founders of coworking spaces doing great things. Before becoming an all-round doer at Habu, he was a designer and writer. He loves football, philosophy and family, but not in that order.