How coworking won over a startup cynic
The first time I walked into Galvanize, a coworking space in Denver, I couldn’t help but laugh. The bar/cafe area where I had my job interview was populated exclusively with young, bearded white guys in branded hoodies with MacBooks on their laps, Beats by Dre headphones on and and craft beers in hand. The main working area was filled with whiteboard tables, chalk walls, a ping pong table, and an abundance of dogs (it is Denver, after all).
Every stereotype was true. Suddenly the caricatures on the HBO show Silicon Valley didn’t seem so far-fetched.
It was the polar opposite of the environment I’d come from: an academic medical center, where I worked in a fluorescent-lit office far from my coworkers and natural light. Nothing had been updated in that building in many years. I was isolated, and worse, bored.
I’m a cynic by nature, and hadn’t included the startup world in my job search. It seemed like a caricature of itself, too self-congratulatory and self-righteous. I’m a firm believer that marketers are not “storytellers,” that “growth hacking” is just meaningless business jargon, and that any so-called “community” based around a product only diminishes the term.
Somewhat surprisingly, my prospective boss agreed with me. But he liked his job, so I decided to give the startup world a try.
As it turns out, being around puppies all day is quite pleasant. So is being surrounded by smart, motivated people. And let’s be honest, I like craft beer.
Galvanize soon came to be my new weekday home. I found that working in an open office, surrounded by people instead of walls, was more stimulating than distracting. (And if I needed to focus, I could duck away to a quieter location).
I liked how easy it was to talk to my coworkers, whether about a project, what they did over the weekend, or their opinion on the latest Beyonce album. I liked that our CEO and other executives were right there with us, joking around or talking business at any given moment, making themselves fully available to everyone. And while I still reject the term “stand-up” for a meeting, I’ve come to appreciate the weekly time we had as a company. I got to see our values in action.
Beyond that, the organization that runs the coworking space provides a lot of resources and training for startups—that’s what it’s for. They host a ton of free events, workshops, office hours, presentations. Anything you want to learn, you can. The people may seem a bit too into their hoodies and Apple products, but they are also friendly and welcoming.
My company, Apto, has been involved as well. Our customer success and development teams each hosted meetup groups in the space, and we found a few job candidates from the events. I attended a session on inbound marketing techniques and chatted with people at the communal fridge about something other than the weather or the Broncos.
In other words, the community (yes, community) started to materialize. The startup world may be filled with silly jargon and distractions like ping-pong tables, but there’s something to it. By spending my weekdays in a coworking space, I’ve met new people and gotten to see collaboration in action. People are excited about their jobs and about each other. That counts for a lot in my book.
In a few months, Apto will be moving out. We’re growing like crazy and no longer fit in the coworking space. I’m excited for a building of our own, though I’ll miss our current environment. It’s where I learned that the startup stereotypes are real. And so are the benefits.
[Guest Author Bio: Elizabeth is a Marketing Manager at Apto, a commercial real estate technology company providing comprehensive CRM and brokerage management software.]