Coworking spaces have grown exponentially in the last ten years across the globe, taking different shapes and transforming the way we work. This phenomenon has introduced the CO-culture sneaking itself into different kind of spaces and businesses such as research and development institutes, incubators, accelerators, innovation hubs, maker spaces, hackerspaces, social clubs and hotels.
Coworking spaces host large creative communities where synergies are maximised and the possibilities of personal and professional growth are broadened. They have become a real source of talent where innovation occurs naturally but you really collaborate through daily dynamics driven by the community builder. The community builder designs a calendar of activities to stimulate the community, including social activities, workshops or talks to strengthen personal and professional relationships between the members. Since its beginning, coworking spaces have been considered a phenomenon of startups and freelancers because they offer flexibility, relative affordability and integral networking opportunities. Nowadays, it is the companies that are occupying this type of space.
Acceleration or incubation spaces, unlike coworking spaces where collaboration is basically promoted, they offer startups the opportunity to validate the business model and increase their chances of business success. In this process, startups have access to intensive training, mentorships by experts and corporates of the sector, partnerships with related companies, specific workshops, talks with experts, contacts and coaching. In these spaces, collaboration is also promoted, however it is focused on a commercial relationship of innovation-investment between startups and organizations. This collaboration is materialized by offering knowledge and support to accelerators by organizations, accelerators that have the ability to attract talent in a dynamic and sustainable way, connect startups with organizations for the creation of new projects by creating scalable business models.
What does thrive a startup to join a collaborative workspace, whether is a coworking space, accelerator, incubator or flex workspace?
Currently coworkings, accelerators and incubators compete for getting the startup attention. Each option offers advantages for an incipient business but at the same time very different alternatives and opportunities. To simplify, both the accelerators and the incubators offer vertical programs that help startups to grow the business through mentorship and financing opportunities; Incubators offer support services to startups at their early stage, while accelerators offer mentorship programs for a limited period of time to grow the startup business in a more advanced state. In both cases, they offer financing support in services or investment. On the other hand, coworking spaces may or may not offer acceleration and mentorship programs to startups, but their value proposition is the offering of warmer working experience to a multidisciplinary community of like-minded people that collaborate and grow spontaneously.
Which is the best option? It will depend on a very personal decision of the startup, depending on their economic needs, needs for collaboration, the degree of development or maturity of the project and future plans.
Coworking is the first natural step for a startup or an entrepreneur who needs a space to interact and collaborate with other talents, more economical and flexible. As the business matures, startups need the competitive advantages offered by acceleration services.
Finding the right balance between collaboration and competitive advantage can be difficult when you have to choose between the three spaces but they can be complemented perfectly. What startups will get is a level of assistance at a different level beyond their home or traditional office space where they are separated from the rest of the community. And true open innovation will be achieved through collaboration and accompaniment at each stage of the entrepreneurship journey but this is a topic that we will talk about in the next article.