An informal office pop-up space was created in a room in Chicago’s Universal Studios, the home of home-grown video games and theme parks. Fast-forward to 2016 and pop-up spaces are popping up in cities across the country, building on the exploding millennial demand for mobile and collaborative workplace spaces.
“Because of fast-paced technology and lifelong learning, there is a need for new ways of working,” said Pete Schwartz, co-founder of coworking space HTWOW.
For HTWOW, a coworking space opened in a converted H&M store in 2016. The space now boasts more than 2,000 members. Carhartt, the Michigan-based manufacturer of outdoor work wear, offers discounted rates to local entrepreneurs. These young workers need office space and security, Mr. Schwartz said, just like any other business.
“There’s huge demand for co-working and co-living spaces,” he said. “They are seeing what we’re seeing, and they are seeing a need.”
The success of HTWOW or Chicago’s UrbanSpace Council, as they’re called, is not unlike that of Airbnb, the home-sharing giant. Unlike the latter, HTWOW does not offer housing and rent out only desks and work space. HTWOW offers wifi and free coffee. There is no desk set aside for your laptop. Instead, the goal is for entrepreneurs to use their time to make more money, rather than lose time on their own PCs.
“We want every member to build value,” Mr. Schwartz said. “Do the things they do at work every day and then move on to the next.”
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“These are spaces that aren’t super traditional,” said Erin Lantz, co-founder of SPARQ, another co-working space. “We didn’t want the stereotype of the coffee-n-retail-fitness-fast food-fashion-dude office.”
SPARQ opened in 2017 in downtown Denver. It has seen a steady flow of entrepreneurs. More than 20 companies use the space as their main space, and many of those companies have increased their startup funding. The co-working space also hosts events, such as female tech speed-dating. It also gives employees perks like free daycare and massages.
“There’s so much excitement among people,” Ms. Lantz said. “They call us because we’re asking the same questions they’re asking.”
Workplace offerings of this nature are booming. The University of Pittsburgh Center for Entrepreneurship saw a 21 percent increase in coworking spaces in the past year. In 2015, there were 18 coworking spaces. Now there are 32.
Ms. Lantz, who founded SPARQ with her husband, said coworking spaces are the equivalent of the Ubers of the workspace world.
“It’s Uber for businesses,” she said. “You don’t need cars, so you don’t need lots of money, but you need access to lots of people. It’s the same for an office.”