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Alex Hillman

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My morbid curiosity with Coworking Space Closings

18 Sep 2012
by Alex Hillman

I’m sure I’m not the only person interested in Coworking who has Google Alerts set up for the words “coworking” and, sigh, “co-working“.

Between the number of new space announcements that show up in those alerts, Deskmag’s reporting on coworking growth trends, and many amazing success stories that I’ve been privy to seeing unfold, there’s no doubt in my mind that coworking isn’t disappearing any time soon.

But speckled among the success stories are sadder ones. Coworking spaces who struggled and failed.

Another closing hit my Google Reader tonight, in St Louis. This is far from the first time I’ve written about the topic. Like here. And here. And this one. And this isn’t even my first call for data (though that one was far more complex to participate in).

Is It Just Business As Usual?

On one hand, the business of coworking is susceptible to all of the rules of starting a new business – there’s going to be a failure rate. Not every business is meant to be. The rate at which I hear about closings is increasing, but it’s hard to tell if it’s growing in or out of proportion of openings.

Between coworking spaces that struggle to keep the lights on and coworking spaces that have closed (for good or bad reasons), there’s patterns in closures that I personally find very interesting, far more interesting in “new hotness variations” on the coworking models.

The pattern-watcher that I am, I see some things, but I need more information to build a better hypothesis that can be proven or disproven. How many coworking space deaths are predictable? Can these problems be stopped before they start?

I think so. 

I can’t do this alone. If you’ve started and closed a coworking space, been a member of a coworking space that struggled and failed, or are simply a passionate observer who saw an unfortunate closing, please take a few minutes to help fill out this survey.

Personal Stories are Personal

This information is personal and potentially sensitive. I don’t expect all of the replies to include names or all of the details. Many people on this list have shared their personal stories before, and we should all be thankful for that.

The best solution I could come up with is to choose how anonymous you would like to be.

1) The name and email address fields are optional and will ONLY be used to reconnect with the submitter for more information.

2) The final required question asks for your consent to share the data you enter, beside the optional name/email fields which are anonymous by default. In case you have an alternate preference, you can specify it in “other”.

Even if you’re not aware of closings you can share about, I need help getting the word out about this project. I’m hoping for some assistance from Steve King & Team Deskmag since I know this stuff is already on their radar. If there’s anyone else already studying this (all of the grad students quietly studying coworking, I’m looking at you), I’d love to share work reciprocally.

My goal is to organize this information and share some hypothesis that we all study together and share back again, overall helping the ecosystem not just learn from successes but also avoid repeating historic failure patterns.

My hope is to be buried under a mountain of responses and have to recruit some of you to help me dig myself out 🙂

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.