4 Questions with Shane from CoLab Factory!
This time on Featured Spaces, we spoke with Shane Barbanel from Brooklyn’s own Colab Factory. The downtown coworking spaces doubles as an accelerator; a facility that strives to help its members reach their full potential. Here’s what the founder had to say.
Shane: tell us a bit about yourself and CoLab Factory.
“Well, I’ve been trying to build this coworking space for three and a half years.” The 10k sq ft space in downtown Brooklyn offers over 20 offices and three conference rooms, but it was not easy to put together. Brooklyn is a bustling space, and becomes more competitive with each passing year.
The solution? “I did my homework,” Shane proclaimed. “I didn’t design a coworking space for myself; I designed the space for every kind of work personality.” Shane did extensive research in order to learn how people work and what preferences they have. Even desk work can be done in different ways: some people like to stand up while they’re at the computer, and others like to lie down or sit in a more comfortable position. The goal was to design a space that could fit these needs and improve the member experience.
What’s more, CoLab offers different “zones” that members can freely switch between. “There’s a zone where you can be loud and boisterous, there’s a quiet zone, there’s a place to eat, some lounging areas.” These zones provide a lot of flexibility to members, so that they aren’t locked down to a particular work style 100% of the time.
I understand CoLab Factory also operates as an accelerator? Could you tell us a bit more about that?
“We want to help young startups and freelancers who can’t quite connect the dots between product and customer, or between [their] skillset and job, or entrepreneurship and money.” Education is a big part of CoLab’s operations, and they have a full-fledged classroom on-site. The space hires staff that actively help members to thrive, so the relationship is much closer than that of landlord and tenant.
It’s true that some members simply want to use CoLab as a workspace, and that’s okay. The space doesn’t force members into an accelerator program. But help is available for those who want it, and that’s sure to be a big plus for startups and freelancers who are now getting their businesses off the ground.
As Shane said, “sometimes ideas need help to become reality.” Creative minds need nurturing, and CoLab is a step in the right direction.
How were you first exposed to coworking, and what made you interested?
“I was completely smitten.” It was around 2011 when Shane was working as a real estate agent in New York, and the moment he caught wind of the movement, he knew he wanted to get involved. “I love being around creative and innovative generators.” The ethos of coworking appealed to Shane on an intuitive level, and it promised to change the way people worked—which, a few years later, is exactly what happened.
“I want to support the little guy who’s in the ring with a lion and just a toothpick.” Fostering small companies and helping people to build their dreams is central to Shane’s vision. It’s a fight worth fighting.
What do you think is necessary for a coworking space to succeed?
On a basic level? “Heat and air conditioning.” Basic necessities are still necessities, and no amount of events or amenities can make up for physical discomfort. Workers need a secure and comfortable space before they can begin to be productive.
Once those basic needs are taken care of, spaces should provide events and classes to help their members along their career paths. There’s no denying the importance of community-building, particularly local, grassroots communities—this can give members the network they need to succeed.
But at the end of the day, the most important thing is to make members feel as if the space can help them grow their business. That’s what they’re there for, and it’s the space’s job to help in any way they can.
Colab Factory can be found at 14 Dekalb ave, 3rd floor in Brooklyn, NY 11201. They’re currently open for business.