It's always important to start with the end in mind. In our case, the end is about creating the most complete network of collaborative spaces on the planet and making those spaces available for learning and innovation. Learning in the form of formal or informal classes and innovation in the form of project or business team collaborations or work sessions.
The cool part of our model --- at least we think it's cool --- is we incent the people who have space (real estate, commercial property, retail, campuses, hotels...even accelerators & incubators) to share their space with people looking for space to collaborate, learn and innovate. We also have some cool technology to enable us to understand "who" and "what" is in the community around the space and a way to monetize the space through targeted, demand-driven classes and workshops. It's the collaborative consumption model, for sure, but with intelligence and rewards for the people taking the risk and participating.
I like to say we came to our model honestly -- pure luck! Not really, but it has certainly been incremental. Cospace started out as a coworking facility on North Lamar in Austin, Texas. @KirtusDixon and his original partners simply wanted a place to work while they launched a franchise for kid's software. Voila, CospaceATX was born:
Apparently, Kirtus was aware of the role of education in collaborative spaces early on...
Spin it forward a couple of years of Kirtus running Cospace in the background while working on a couple of software startups, partners coming and going...all the while Cospace became this vibrant, collaborative community in Austin.
Ultimately, Kirtus enlisted me as a partner and he and I made a decision in December 2012 to focus on our real passion: using Cospace to advance the role of education and entrepreneurship in fostering innovation. Innovation means jobs -- good jobs -- higher margins, wealth creation and reinvestment. These are the steps that resulted in the kind of economic development and vibrancy that has made Austin a model city and great place to live.
We started in early 2012 focusing on a business model that built entrepreneurial ecosystems where and when they're needed. Kirtus and I were working with @RayAWolf of @Peoplebrite and Ray alerted us to the 'Austin Live' project the Austin Chamber of Commerce was launching. Perfect for the 'entrepreneurial ecosystem' approach we were baking. We got in the loop and started working on a response to their RFP.
Kirtus bumped into Josh Baer of Capital Factory out and about in Austin and the two shared their separate interest in the Austin Live project. They agreed to work on it together. Long story short, Capital Factory secured the contract and Cospace put its best coworking resources on helping Josh and his team build out their space on the 16th floor of the Omni. That happened and Capital Factory downtown was launched.
In reality, our work at Capital Factory building, launching, and operating their space confirmed for us our role in all of this isn't to be an accelerator or coworking facility or to operate them or even to be an 'entrepreneurial ecosystem'. Our role is to help spaces become more open and accessible for collaboration, learning and innovation.
As we were crafting and testing our model, we had the good fortune to have lunch with this gentleman...
Rodrigo patiently listened to our story and offered this simple analogy: you guys are a lot like Airbnb.
Collaboration at it's finest. Thanks Rodrigo!
An important piece to the puzzle was the addition Paul O'Brien. Paul, or @SEOBrien to a lot of you, is one of the most collaborative people Austin has ever known. He's also a great product marketer and he, Kirtus and I founded our new company, Cospace Ventures Inc., in July 2012.
Paul brought an energy to our strategy, product development and marketing expediting our ability to find and get to market. If you're in Austin, it's likely you've heard about us A LOT the last few months. That would be Paul and his efforts.
Since then, we've also added one of the great business developers in Austin, Marc Mapes (and his buddy @CospaceMoss).