Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coworking in Austin: Texas Coworking

Recently, I saw a tweet from someone I've been following on Twitter for a while: "Texas Coworking now open at 200 East Sixth, see http://texascoworking.comfor details on this new Austin coworking space"

The tweeter was Paul Terry Walhus, who runs and has been a fixture in the Austin tech (and coworking) scene for a while. Along with Derek Williams, a "serial startup engineer" and data consultant, Walhus has rented a space on the third floor of the historic Hannig Row building - across from Buffalo Billiards and the Driskill Hotel on East 6th Street.

As Walhus told me, they had not really planned to open a space - although they had wanted one. They had gone to Conjunctured for meetings, and they liked the idea. But this space opportunity fell in their laps: they found out about the space, moved quickly ("rent is cheap" in the downturn), and signed the lease on the December 31. Consequently, they have not been able to build a community before opening their coworking space, as is typical coworking practice. But that doesn't seem to have hurt them: They already have five clients, mostly women, mostly creatives ranging from web development to handcrafts. And they've maintained good relations with other coworking spaces: proprietors from Conjunctured, Cospace, and LINK Coworking had already contacted them and either toured or planned to tour. They had also discussed a local version of a coworking visa, in which people who purchase one membership can work in other spaces.

Part of what makes this cooperation work - and, I suspect, what will make the coworking visa relatively unused - is the diversity of these spaces. As I've suggested in earlier blog posts, every coworking space seems to be different, not just in configuration, but also in philosophy and clientele.

At Texas Coworking, the configuration is interesting and so is the location. (They have their own picture gallery, but I took my own, shown below.) A spacious board room can accommodate - and has already accommodated - meetings of local organizations. Indeed, it's central to the space, since the proprietors envision a Day mode (coworking) and a Night mode (local tech events).
A terrace overlooks Austin's famous Sixth Street and the Austin Convention Center, home of South by Southwest, a few blocks away. Perfect for hosting SXSW Interactive parties and gatherings, they tell me.
Inside, Texas Coworking offers an open-plan area, cubicles, and dedicated offices with a view on Sixth Street. The plan is to offer differential pricing.

From Coworking: Texas Coworking

From Coworking: Texas Coworking

Texas Coworking also offers a kitchen and a dedicated server room (not shown). The server room - and professional data management and security - provide a service that is so far unique among coworking spaces in Austin. The server room will house Linux and Windows 2008 servers, it will have a dedicated "IT guy," and it will allow Texas Coworking to offer a dozen dedicated IP addresses. Naturally, Ethernet ports lead to all rooms.
From Coworking: Texas Coworking
The former space owner, a design firm, decided to "go virtual." Walhus tells me that they have contacted the owner and invited her to cowork there.

At the front, the Texas Coworking sign is not up yet, and they don't yet have a concierge - a concierge who will connect people, getting to know clients and finding opportunities for them to collaborate. The physical mail slots, however, are already there and waiting to be filled.
Other amenities will include a jobs board.

So the physical amenities are good already and will improve as the proprietors remodel and implement their other plans. The location is fantastic - if you like working in downtown Austin or if you are involved in an event at the Austin Community Center. The terrace and boardroom are major draws for social and business meetings.

Philosophically, the space is a bit different from others I've discussed here. It seems to fall somewhere between the co-op style of Conjunctured, which caters to independent professionals, and the concierge-style approach of LINK, which caters to telecommuters. But the clientele currently leans toward independent professionals. And the differential spaces, with differential pricing, suggests a hybrid between coworking and executive suites.

Another differentiator is the concierge. Whereas other Austin coworking spaces rely primarily on space planning and coworkers themselves to make connections, Texas Coworking's proprietors see the concierge fulfilling part of that function.

In sum, Texas Coworking is an exciting entry into the coworking space here in Austin. While holding true to the general idea of coworking, they have differentiated themselves from the other spaces and expanded the possibilities of coworking for independent professionals. I'm looking forward to visiting the space more often.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Research Across Borders 2011

If you're interested in writing research, please consider Writing Research Across Borders. It's a terrific international conference focused specifically on writing research. I went last time and it was fantastic. And of course I'll be going again.

More information:
  • February 17-20, 2011
  • George Mason University
  • Washington D.C./Northern Virginia

The proposal deadline is May 3, so get cracking!

Monday, January 25, 2010

My SXSWi panel: What Coworking Tells Us About the Future of Work

Some of you may have been following my research on coworking in Austin, part of a larger arc of research into loose organizations that perform knowledge work. I'm happy to announce that my South by Southwest Interactive panel has been accepted. We'll be presenting on "What Coworking Tells Us about the Future of Work" on March 15 here in Austin.

Besides me, the panel includes:

Drew Jones

Drew is a trained anthropologist and consultant who has been studying how work is changing as Gen Y takes over the workforce. He's involved in a consuntancy, Shift101, and a related coworking space, Shift Workspace. Drew literally (co)wrote the book on coworking and another on innovation.

Gary Swart

Gary is CEO of oDesk Corporation. oDesk facilitates connecting, maintaining, and building trust among online workteams. Gary will talk about the practical challenges of "loosely coupled, highly aligned teams working remotely, including our own use case of 70+ remote resources working directly for oDesk from around the world."

Liz Elam

Liz is a former global account manager at Dell, but now she is about to unveil her own coworking space in Austin. Liz brings a hard-nosed business sensibility to coworking and seeks to accommodate teleworkers at large local companies. Whereas Drew has examined coworking as an anthropological phenomenon, Liz has researched it thoroughly from a for-profit business perspective.

I'm really thrilled about the panel. Hope you can make it.

UPDATE: The panel is scheduled for 11am in Hilton H.