Co-Working Community, Part One
If you told me a year ago that I would be working in a co-working space, I would've asked "What's a co-working space?" Unlike what you might think of as the 'typical' co-working space member (or employee), I didn't come here chasing Silicon Valley talent and fortunes, nor did I come here with a crazy idea to disrupt an industry. Instead, I'm here because I was looking for something different. A year ago, I was working with girls aged 5 to 8, teaching classes that focused on basic science, design, and engineering. I loved my students, but I disliked my role as an authority figure, and the pressure of being the person with the answer-book. I found myself wanting to be in a community, on a team (having the occasional conversation with other adults was on my wish-list, too). I knew I wanted to be in a place where it's okay to not have everything figured out.
Enter PARISOMA. This is the place where a big fat question mark hovers in the air, where ideas come to life, and where people talk to each other not like they are half colleagues and half work-acquaintances, but full friends. The community here feels like just that - people come here not because they're required to by an employer, but because they're pretty autonomous and looking for others to be in community with. The people I meet here are full of ambition, constantly keeping their eye on possibilities. It's hard not to get caught up in their excitement.
It's also a place where a wide array of individuals and early-stage companies share the kitchen, the open working space, and a community. Far from tech-centric, I've found that there are three kinds of entrepreneurs who join our community here: the typical
Take Daniela Semeco, founder and CEO of Polyglotte, for example. Daniela tells me that PARISOMA is where everything fell together for her company. When she held her product launch at PARISOMA back in June 2013, the clown she hired paid homage to the company's logo, which is a P formed with a downward pointing arrow, by standing upside down on his head. Similar to the PolyKeyboard, Daniela is multilingual so she invented the upside-down shift key to ease the transition between typing different languages. She finds the community here supportive both in her desires to practice French daily and to further her product's visibility through pitch opportunities she learns about from communicating with other members.
For social soccer app Jogabo, the benefits of a built-in community are slightly different. Co-founder and CEO Jeremy Melul finds that co-working gives his small team the resources they need to be successful. With a small team where "each role is filled by one person," Jeremy says, "it's good for them to have another designer or back-end developer to talk to and learn from." He was able to look to other companies and individuals for new ideas on work flow solutions and new tools, and use his knowledge to leverage resources. Being a part of PARISOMA allowed Jeremy to feel like he has a small extended team, where people are sharing and learning from each other. Also similar to larger companies, there's the water cooler talk and the social distractions. Getting a cup of coffee can end up taking 30 minutes because he gets caught up in conversations with other PARISOMA members!
I'm not a startup-techie-engineer-disruptor, so I've also been learning a lot from the entrepreneurs here. At PARISOMA, we get to see startups in the many stages of their lives - we've seen ideas grow into products and individuals grow into teams. We celebrate their successes while they're with us - and when those successes take them away from us.
James Scanlan, co-founder and COO of business collaboration app SyncUp, is no stranger to the startup scene. Having worked for startups since 1999, he has a good idea of what makes a team work and what doesn't. He shared a productivity story with me about lights. An employer noticed that his employees weren't producing much so he decided to brighten the lights. He immediately saw productivity jump. The next week he brightened the lights even more and saw the same results. So the week after, he decided to switch things up by dimming the lights, even lower than original levels and to his surprise, saw that productivity continued to go up. Finally, he brought the lights back to its original level, the level where employees weren't at all productive but even still, productivity soared. What James wanted to share with me on his decision to leave PARISOMA was that the company needed change to increase levels of productivity, to keep things fresh. Another factor in their switching work places is that they're growing and will need more space. So an office is the next logical move.