Coworking spaces are vital to New Jersey developing a vibrant tech ecosystem primarily because they help increase the number of quality startups in our state. There are many pieces to the ecosystem puzzle. They include the educational institutions that create targeted entrepreneurial programs, receptive politicians who promote the tech community, specialized service providers, interested corporations, investors and a steady flow of quality startups.
Politicians and corporations will only become interested when they see the steady flow of quality startups. A well-run coworking space provides a great environment for entrepreneurs to launch these companies. Coworking is fertile ground for great ideas to grow into great businesses. This does not mean a successful startup can’t be launched without them. Many legendary companies have been started in garages, basements and sheds. The problem with launching a company from home is that you can easily develop tunnel vision and start thinking that all your ideas are great. That often leads to wasted time, money or both, which startups can ill afford. You can try to work around this by developing a system through which you periodically reach out to others. For a few highly disciplined people this may work, but most of us end up making excuses (for example, “I need to get this done, then I’ll do it.”). At a coworking space, all you have to do is talk to the person next to you to receive feedback, or wait until a person takes a coffee break to solicit input.
Coworking spaces conserve personal energy while providing networking opportunities. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of work and has many ups and downs. Working alongside others who are experiencing many of the same issues you are can go a long way to helping you get past the tough times. The value of networking is often overlooked by startup founders. Some figure they’ll just find the resources when they need them. Others never consider networking’s value or become so busy that they never engage in it. When you work in a coworking space, networking is built in. Unless you are extremely antisocial, you will talk to your neighbors, who will in turn know people whom you may need at some point.
Incubators and accelerators are an important part of the ecosystem, but each has its shortcomings with regard to building an ecosystem. There aren’t enough incubators, and accelerators are great, but what happens when a company graduates from the program? Coworking spaces are a low-cost alternative that fills this need. Finally, just being in a coworking space may help motivate some potential entrepreneurs to take the leap. I know a few people who saw a coworking sign, walked in, signed up for a free trial and ended up launching a company. Coworking spaces are not a magic bullet, but they are a great resource for helping to launch quality startups. That is why they are vital to a vibrant tech ecosystem in New Jersey.