Monday, January 10, 2011

Coworking in Austin: Perch Coworking

Like many other Austin coworking spaces (Conjunctured, Soma Vida, Brainstorm, Space12), Perch Coworking is in East Austin. But its space is very different. Located "on the ground floor corner of a mixed-use development," Perch has a clean modern design that fits in with the rapidly gentrifying area - and the young independent professionals who are living and working here.

Those two themes - design and local independents - surfaced frequently in my talk with Perch's owner, Lisa McTiernan. Lisa, who does homeowner association management for condominiums, opened Perch in late October. Like many independents, Lisa is often on the move, but still needs somewhere to land and to have occasional meetings. Since her HOA client base is in the central/east Austin area, she began looking for "interesting, affordable, workable workspace in central or east Austin." But she also had other requirements in mind: a beautiful space with a modern design aesthetic ("minimalistic, clean, uncluttered"), natural light, and ground floor access.

Lisa had heard of coworking when she lived in Los Angeles, so she began researching area coworking spaces in downtown Austin. But none quite fit her criteria. And then the space on East 6th opened up. After discussing the opportunity with friends, Lisa decided to open the space as a coworking space that would serve as
a community work space for folks who either are freelancers, entrepreneurs, work from home, whatever the case may be. ... they need a non traditional or part time flex office space where they can truly get some serious work done, network with others, have ... a different environment in which to be productive. And also ... a really affordable office space that's low commitment. Just something really flexible and easy.
Perch is not a large coworking space: It consists of an open-plan room and a conference room. But its aesthetic is clean and modern, with thoughtfully placed tables and a beautiful view to the street. (Its furniture and design remind me of Link Coworking more than any other Austin coworking space.) As Lisa says, it's a pleasant environment to work, "flexible and easy," and Lisa is continually thinking about how to tweak the arrangement so that people feel comfortable in the space.

The furniture rolls away - which is useful since Perch also hosts occasional yoga classes. Perch also recently hosted part of the East Austin Studio Tour, displaying local artists' work. Lisa wants that function to be a regular feature, regularly rotating artwork to keep the space fresh.

These features and Perch's ground floor location mean that Lisa gets a fair amount of foot traffic. They also mean that Perch's members are proud to meet their clients in the space.

All in all, Lisa is excited about coworking in general and Perch's role in particular. She believes that "coworking will move in to ... more and more well designed spaces" and one of its key challenges is to ensure that as coworking spaces grow, they don't become cramped. In that sense, Perch is Lisa's manifesto of what a coworking space should be.