8 Questions with Chirag from NoD Coworking – Dallas, Tx.

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Today we are thrilled to present our newest Featured Space interview with Chirag Gupta, founder of NoD Coworking in Dallas, Texas. We first met when Chirag ever so kindly put me in contact with some startups working out of his Coworking Space for our article on the impact coworking has on startups. After hearing so many positive things about NoD, I had to find out more about Chirag and his space!

So Chirag, how did it all start?

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Originally from North Dallas, Chirag first was exposed to the Coworking Movement when he was studying in Chicago. He studied Industrial Engineering and Integrated Marketing & Communications at Northwestern University and after graduating, he joined the famous 1871 Coworking Space and worked on various startups for a couple of years. After having “crashed and burned” a couple of times, he then went back to Dallas and realised how much it had changed since he had left: “Before, there wasn’t much of a tech scene, nor coworking spaces either. Apparently something had changed while I was in Chicago (2008-2013). In 2013, when I returned to Dallas, there were 6 or 7 Coworking Spaces, and I joined the Grove Dallas in West End to reconnect with the community and start freelancing. That was my intro into Coworking in Dallas.” He spent about 3 months there, freelancing mostly, when one day he got a call about a building in Far North Dallas very close to his childhood stomping grounds: “The new building owners were looking for new ideas for the top floor, and looking for tech startups to join… It sounded like an interesting opportunity so I put together a proposal: give me 6 months of free rent and 10,000 square feet of space and I’ll find enough startups to rent the place!” Thanks to his past experiences in Coworking Spaces, he knew the model: how to get members, create events, find sponsorships… NoD Coworking is now 10 months old, alive and well! With currently 45+ members, the goal is to reach full capacity of 90 by the end of 2015.

You also founded Code Collective, can you tell us more about it?

“Code Collective is basically a developer meetup group for non-developers. The idea is that anyone who is learning how to code can meetup with real developers and exchange knowledge. It’s designed to be open, friendly, and collaborative. It’s the type of group I wish existed when I was first learning HTML/CSS, Javascript, Ruby, etc. The aim is to enable non-technical folks to ask questions and have a meaningful exchange with professional developers. It takes place every Saturday at NoD, with food and drinks. It’s a weekly educational event, and is part of what makes the community at NoD so strong. Check out what we’re up to by following us on Twitter at @TexasCode”

How’s the Coworking and Startup Scene in Dallas?

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Now this is a subject Chirag is very passionate about. He feels that there isn’t enough of a startup community on college campuses yet, which is why he frequently gives talks there to help spread awareness: “2 years ago, there were just a couple Coworking Spaces. Now there are over 23!”

I wondered why he moved back to Dallas after such a positive and dynamic experience in Chicago: “There’s a big difference between those two cities. Chicago startups are more evolved, active and there are many angel investors. But Dallas is unique because there’s this ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality. There’s no vibe like that anywhere else and it shows up in the Coworking scene as well”. He gives the example of the Dallas Coworking Collective: an association of 6 Coworking Spaces that meet up once a month to update each other on events that are happening, and also because they have a consolidated coffee budget: “We purchase coffee together from a local roaster to get a group discount. It’s a win-win relationship, the aim is to support each other. Salt Lake City’s coworking community has recently adopted the same model as well, it’s really cool to see that inter-space collaboration!”

What types of members can one find in NoD Coworking?

“It’s really a mixed bag. For example, a political science Ph. D. recently joined. He’s an author who wants to work in a place where he can get feedback and share ideas. There are also 6 companies who are in early stage beta, and tech startups that are applying to incubators and angel investors. They work together and help each other as they are living the same adventure. That brings a great energy, and everyone in the space wants to get on that same level of energy. There are also social media consultants, growth hackers, sales consultants, designers, developers, and student interns from local universities”  Indeed, a mixed bag it really is!

What sets NoD Cw apart from the rest?

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NoD has everything a typical cool coworking space has: 24/7 access, ping pong tables, conference rooms.. But according to Chirag, it’s not the amenities that really differentiates it from the other spaces. What makes the place so special is the strong community feeling that reigns within: “Here, we are going to help you get your business developed, professionalize your hobby. You’ll meet with me and the members, and get coaching and guidance. We’re one large team, even though we all have our own individual fights to fight.”

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a Coworking Space?

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“Running a coworking space is great, but you have to make the numbers add up. Because if you don’t it simply won’t be sustainable. You need a pricing strategy, a proper amount of funding, a clear goal and a clear path to profitability. You need to think it all the way through before starting and have a long term plan and vision. It’s also important to have a culture of  community, collaboration, accessibility, trust, and openness.”

What are your thoughts on the Coworking movement as a whole? How do you see its future?

“To be honest, when I first started NoD I was totally unaware of the larger ‘coworking movement.’ As I connected with more coworking space leaders and learned more about the industry, that’s when I really started to see the larger movement happening. Organizations like GCUC and OuiShare have started making national and international connections among members of all coworking spaces, and I see that as an extremely powerful development. We recently had a few members attend and present at OuiShare Fest in Paris and now they’re coming back and sharing what they’ve learned with the coworking community in Dallas. That sort of thing was unheard of 10 years ago.

In terms of coworking culture, I would like to see the culture materialize in other industries beyond tech, startups, digital nomads, lifestyle businesses…I would love to see coworking culture influencing the more traditional long standing core segments of the global economy like schools, governments, corporations, non-profits, religious institutions, and even families and neighborhoods on a hyperlocal level.”

And as for his plans of expanding in the future, Chirag told me he’s specifically looking at other cities in Texas, such as Houston and Austin, and is just scoping out the real estate for now. Nothing is set in stone at this point regarding expansion, but he’s excited to expand NoD’s presence in Texas in the next few years.

Thanks again Chirag for answering our questions so kindly and sharing your story with us! There are some desks available at NoD Coworking, you can check out their space here. Best of luck for your next endeavors!