Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of businesses providing coworking office space to entrepreneurs launching startup ventures. The startup scene in Melbourne has been no exception. Consistently ranked in the Top 20 Global Startup Ecosystems, Melbourne has enjoyed new co-working facilities sprouting up throughout the CBD and inner suburbs almost every month. Here are some of my favourites:
Since opening in October 2011, York Butter Factory has become arguably THE co-working space of choice for Melbourne’s early stage tech startups. Housed in a heritage listed building in the heart of the CBD, it is typically home to 50+ startups at any one time, spread across two floors.
Among its founders are the partners of venture capital firm Adventure Capital. The advantages of having a VC firm operating out of the same site includes greater profile and access to funding for new enterprises, as well as the opportunity for mentoring from more experienced entrepreneurs.
They also boast that their kitchen coffee machine goes through 13 kg (almost 30 lbs) of coffee every month.
Inspire9 is a co-working space found in the Melbourne inner city suburb of Richmond, occupying space in one of the suburb’s oldest buildings – the Australian Knitting Mill which was established in 1910. It is home to around 70 permanent residents from a variety of tech and creative backgrounds.
In 2014 Inspire9 was the site of Melbourne’s first ever female hacakthon. The appropriately named ‘She Hacks’ was hosted by Inspire9 fixture Girl Geek Dinners Melbourne (GGDMelb). (Note, men were permitted to attend, but only if they were accompanied by a Girl Geek!)
Renovated in the style of a New York warehouse loft, the facilities include white board walls (a must for any serious brainstorming session) and the obligatory ping pong table, with in-house tournament play.
Electron Workshop opened in North Melbourne in August 2011, with a focus on attracting digital creative types to the refurbished 1920’s era Bulla Cream truck workshop. More than a mere co-working space, it seeks to be a ‘community of excellent humans’, complete with foosball table and cinema.
Electron Workshop recently became one of the very first companies in Australia to be awarded B Corp certification. B Corps are certified by US based non profit organisation B Lab and identify companies that have satisfied prescribed accountability, transparency, social and environmental performance standards. B Corps are dedicated to shifting the meaning and future of business towards a more sustainable basis.
There are regular events held on site, including the bi-monthly meetings of the Melbourne Drone Club. That sounds like something that I should check out.
So, what does the future hold for coworking spaces? The demand for them seems certain to continue growing. One further trend is an increasing focus on active specialisation in a target industry or stream of work; e.g. York Butter Factory / early stage tech, Electron Workshop / digital creatives.
In late 2014, Bitcoins Reserve, a bitcoin arbitrage fund, opened a co-working facility in Melbourne intended specifically for startups operating in Bitcoin. This was conceived with a vision that a critical mass of bitcoin related businesses will make cross collaboration easier, ultimately benefiting all in the industry. Time will tell.