About Me

Hi, I’m Alex.

I build communities, started one of the longest running coworking communities in the world, write a crapload of words every day, tweet a little too much, coach people to be the best version of themselves possible, can't stop learning new things, and do my very best not to take myself too seriously.

I have one goal: to fill the world with truly excellent collaborators so we can all work together, better.

Because let's be honest...most of us aren't very good at it.

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RIP Workspace. The Hard Discussion.

Reposted from the Coworking Google Group:

The closing of Workspace in Vancouver is really, really sad news. I only visited workspace for the first time in this past year, but it’s always been an inspiration from a space design/utilization standpoint for me. I met with Dane while I was there in February, and have the utmost respect for him, his approach, and his involvement over the years.

I can echo that we’ve continued to grow despite (or thanks to) the recession. Great things are happening for many of our members, and we seem to be coming out of a slight summer “lull” of activity and our office has been teaming with people for the last 2 weeks.

We, and transitively, the entire scene, has seen a rejuvenation underway for the fall. Barcamp planning is underway. New event ideas are springing up every day. Peoples’ businesses are taking off. Things are good right now.

Now, the hard discussion. I hope nobody thinks that I’m crass in bringing this up so quickly, but I kept quiet after the last significant space closing hoping that someone else would bring up these issues, and they were not approached. This is where things get hard for coworking. Bad things will happen. My heart hopes that no bad things happen to anyone that any of us know, but it’s inevitable, and healthy.

My thesis is that in order for coworking to be truly mainstream, it needs to fulfill both successes and failures. Like, massive successes. And colossal fuck ups. Coworking will never find its way into business textbooks until both sides of the scale have been tipped. We need case studies from both ends of the spectrum to study the longevity of this business concept, this movement, and this way of life.

What strikes me as a valuable lesson with the Workspace closing comes from the e-mail they sent to their members:

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The new owner mentions that they took on workspace’s pre-existing debt as a public service, and I have to imagine that even making it just past break even while sustaining any amount of debt is bad for the spirits of the management team, which trickles down to the membership.

This reinforces why we believe so strongly in bootstrapping. Spend money like you don’t have any. One of my favorite lessons/stories from Geoff is how he runs his businesses as if there was a recession all the time, so when there actually is a recession, it’s business as usual.

Taking on debt as a public service is a bad move. You’re not helping anyone in the long run. There’s an immense value in remaining introspective and purposeful with your coworking space. There is no value in a space that’s packed full of amenities, but accrues more debt than members.

Furthermore, I think it’s interesting that Workspace kept the problem from its’ members. I won’t speculate why because that’s unproductive, but it certainly makes me think how I would approach things if we were in hot water for any amount of time.

In recent months we’ve seen the fall of two longstanding coworking spaces: Cubespace, and now Workspace. Both were large spaces, with significant communities that called them home over a long period of time. Cubespace let their community know that there was a problem, but only after it seemed too late. The community’s response was positive and supportive, but wouldn’t support as more than a band-aide. Workspace shocked its members with an abrupt notice. Ripping of the band-aide, to continue the metaphor.

I’m frankly not sure which I prefer, and while I hope that I’m never in the position to make the hard decision that those space owners made, I hope we can all learn from the things they’ve done during their time open.

I hope that we can have this discussion out in the open, candidly and intelligently, and all turn this disappointing news into something we all can reflect on.

Centernetworks Startup Tips Month: Revisited

I’m a week behind on Cluetrain posts. I know. My bad.

Things have been pretty wacky at IndyHall the last few weeks, us hitting capacity on a regular basis and ultimately stressing me out about growth in a pretty big way.

I’ve been burying myself in work, partially to cope with that stress but also to get a bunch of things done, so I’m admittedly behind in the Cluetrain series again. I’ll binge again soon and get caught up, there’s no doubt about that.

In the mean time, I wanted to share a post that I wrote last year for Centernetworks.com’s Startup Tips Month. Allen had asked for some of my perspective on startup as an independent, and I got the chance to share some of my core philosophies that were born while forming and growing We Know HTML and have carried over into subsequent projects.

Allen is re-featuring the e-book he created from the month’s worth of posts from entrepreurs I’m proud to be featured among, including Tara Hunt, Pete Glyman, Shawn Ward, Ted Rheingold, and David Weekly. You can download the whole ebook, or just read my post about how to get started as an indie.

The tips I expound are:

  1. Bootstrap
  2. Organize and “polish” your resume and portfolio
  3. Start Blogging
  4. Get out in the field
  5. Don’t underestimate the value of word of mouth
  6. Stay horizontal for as long as it makes sense

While a lot of these tips may feel obvious, as I’ve lived them so long, I’m sure many people can benefit from my tips and the others in the series, so I’m glad Allen is re-publishing the ebook. If you’re “recently liberated”, “newly independent”, or considering a small entrepreneurial venture, I think all of these tips still apply.

Oh, and subscribe to Centernetworks.com if you dig honest, high quality content about technology and startups beyond the usual echo chambers. Allen doesn’t pay me to say nice things about him, I truly really appreciate his approach to tech journalism. Keep up the good work dude.

Calling for Independents Hall Membership

Also sent to the Indyhall ListServ:

To my esteemed Independents Hall list members,

This email is a long time coming. We’re coming up on 5 months since the March 1st inauguration of this list, it’s pretty incredible to already see the effect that we’ve had on each other.

From projects evolving with the help of one another, to the city’s first large scale unconference, to a generous hat-tip in Wired Magazine (among many, many other bits of media scattered about the internet).

The time has come that our community has grown into our goal of wanting and needing a permanent shared space of our own. We’ve diligently researched, polled interest, and with fingers (and toes) crossed we should be hearing back in less than a week about a space in Old City that we’re very excited about.

Up until this point, Independents Hall has been 100% free, with open events funded out of our own pockets or through donations of time, money, and resources from individuals. Obviously, running a space won’t be free, but we’ve done some number crunching and have made it a point to consider your wallets, and make your involvement be as sustainable as possible. Here’s the scoop on membership, tentatively, that you can read and figure out where you fit with needs and buget: http://wiki.independentshall.org/planning/membershipmodel

Here’s the part where you all run away screaming and my dreams are crushed to pieces: I need to ask for commitments. No engagement rings here, no “Its not you, it’s me” excuses. I’ve been level and transparent through this entire journey so this should be a simple decision for you, nothing is hidden, this is the real deal.

Respond to me, off list, that you would like to commit to a membership and at what level. Also, since this is a 100% bootstrapped effort, we’re looking to see if anyone is able to do a couple of months up front to help, or even better, a charter donation. If there is interest expressed in that charter donation, we’ll figure out what the return for that donation would be.

Many of you are listening in and going, “well, I don’t need a desk, what does this mean for me?” It means that you should still become a member, at $25/month, since you’ve followed along for this long and believe in what we’re doing. That $25 goes to making desks affordable for everyone else, supporting the community, funding events, and making sure that this can keep happening. Not only are you giving to help that, but your name goes on the member directory, you’re on invites for events, and you do get a free day in the space and a free hour in the conference room built in and reduced day rates, should you decide to drop by once in a while.

Also, being in the member directory is a great opportunity to find work as well as workers for your projects, since our project is already getting some heavy visibility.

Finally, if you’re a business listening and you’re interested in sponsoring a desk, contact me off list and we can discuss options for that.

This is huge for us, so please be realistic and honest with your commitments. If you have questions or concerns about any of this, speak up!

Thanks again, for all of your continuing support. This is really, really incredible that we’ve gotten this far, we can’t slow down now! Viva la Philadelphia!

[tags]independents hall, coworking, philadelphia, shared resources[/tags]

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