I’ve posted in the past how I enjoy visiting entrepreneurs in their own offices, as you can learn a lot about a startup in the way it expresses itself through the space which it occupies and uses. Over the past few weeks, it feels like I’ve been talking to about an increasing number of very early-stage startups which are choosing shared space situations – everything from formal shared office space environments, to looser arrangements, to spending time within VC firm’s offices. I think that this decision really reflects how the founders feel about communication and collaboration.
In a great post, Nabeel Hyatt calls Cambridge “the new hub of Northeast startups” with which I agree (non-coincidentally, it’s home to both the Web Innovators Group and Venrock’s local office here). In this area, we of course have the structured Cambridge Innovation Center, but other less formal arrangements are popping up as well. For example, I visited the gang over at the 13 Magazine Street outside Central Sq. last week, and loved the layout and composition. There is an intangible quality about joint-occupied spaces with other early stage startups surrounding you, and you can see it there.
Of course, pooling shared fixed-cost resources diminishes expenses vs. individual office locations, which is essential for any bootstrapping startup. But beyond that, I am of the opinion that there is real value in the “hallway effect” of sharing ideas, experiences, and frustrations with others embarking on similar (but separate) endeavors. Virtual teams do work, and because of communication technology, are increasingly effective. But there is something to be said about sharing a space with others participating in a community of similar pursuits. Eventually a startup grows up and does needs more – more desks, more conference rooms, more resources. But very early on in company formation, a startup can truly benefit from more ideas, more feedback, and more community.