Those of us working in the coworking community know, that per capita, Austin, Texas is the hotbed of the movement. According to Google Search Trends and reported by DeskMag, Austin leads the US market in search queries (demand) related to coworking; it’s no surprise Austin is home to the Global Coworking Unconference. For that reason, it came as no surprise to hear that Whoosh Traffic founder, Erica Douglass, was opening a coworking space here in Austin; but knowing that she was involved in the coworking movement from the very beginning and then learning that she was opening an East Austin space in a house, we had to catch up with Erica and share her story.
I first got interested in coworking when I attended the first-ever
“coworking” meetup in 2006, where Hat Factory [now closed] and Citizen Space started,” remarked Douglass. “I started the first coworking space in San Jose, since that’s where I lived and worked at the time, in 2006.”
By 2007, popularity in the Simpli Hosting office space had captured the imagination of early entrepreneurs, hungry for coworking before it really even caught on, and the office couldn’t maintain the coworking feel that makes such work environments so appealing. Erica’s first venture into shared work space wasn’t as much of the “coworking” she had desired anymore and the office was sublet-ted to another company.
Don’t wait for opportunity to knock, prepare for it
As is the case with the best of entrepreneurs, a dream, blended with the search for the right opportunity, prompted Douglass to grab the name she knew she would one day fulfill. Later that year, she picked up opportunityspace.net, knowing that when opportunity struck, Opportunity Space would be born. With the lessons learned from her experience in San Jose, the dream seeking an opportunity was that of a coworking space in a house. It’s a dream many have had and continue to have today; why are we only converting office spaces and commercial or retail property into coworking spaces? Homes are far more comfortable. Working toward that dream, Erika and some friends in the Bay Area crunched and recrunched the numbers but couldn’t make the math work on a house with dedicated desks. Opportunity knocked and as Erika sold Simpli Hosting and shelved her dream of coworking, those friends went on to open Silicon Valley’s Hacker Dojo.
Career and life moved Douglass from N. California to San Diego, and from there, in 2011, to Austin, Texas.
I arrived in Austin and again began scouting for space–this time just for my own business, Whoosh Traffic, as I didn’t know very many people in the tech community here,” shared Douglass. “That turned in to us scavenging some extra office space Joshua Baer and Jason Cohen had with OtherInbox and WP Engine (their companies) on the 8th floor of the Omni building in downtown Austin.”
Baer recognized the demand among startups to have a space to meet each other and work together in downtown Austin, and in March 2012, ironed out a deal for a new vision, Capital Factory, on the 16th floor of the Omni building downtown. Cospace had the pleasure of working with the team to develop and launch the space and, along with OtherInbox and WP Engine, Whoosh Traffic was one of the first companies to move in.
Capital Factory is an amazing space, and I have nothing but respect for Josh and the many others who have brought it to Austin. However, some part of me just wouldn’t let my dream go,” added Douglass. “I had a ‘backorder’ set on opportunityspace.com (in case the original owner decided not to renew the name, I’d be the first in line to get it when it became available again.) In March 2012, the original owner let the domain go, and opportunityspace.com was mine!”
Austin Entrepreneur Opens Opportunity Space
Idly flipping through real estate listings on craigslist, January 23, 2013 marks the date opportunity knocked. The perfect space, the perfect house, in east Austin, was there. With some personal risk, signing up for the space from her savings, and the goal of finally having an entire space where she could lease out dedicated desks to other startup companies, Opportunity Space was born.
In Austin though? Where there are easily more coworking spaces per capita than anywhere else in the United States, and possibly the world; can the market support more? With demand for coworking expected continue to grow at exceptional rates, those of us in the know know that traditional office space will continue to die. We’re experiencing not so much of an increase in coworking properties but a transition of traditional work environments to shared work spaces. As home to many of the most innovative entrepreneurs in the world, where better than Austin to continue to evolve work space in creative ways?
I’ve always had, in my mind’s eye, my space being a house I could work out of with others,” shares Douglass. “And, as a startup owner, I know there are two things on our minds: 1) We don’t want to mess with Internet access or jammed printers or broken coffee machines, and 2) We want our own space where we can shut the door, talk amongst ourselves, set up desktops, bring in family pictures, and really make the space our own–while still being engaged in and working with other startups in the space.”
There is an ever increasing demand and desire in all communities for startups to have their own space and while coworking provides the shared environment that fosters collaboration the likes of which we’ve never seen before, as startups grow, they need something more formal – the 2 year lease on an office isn’t the solution, Opportunity Space is the opportunity. And, for Erika, this represents a personal achievement nearly 7 years in the making.
Opportunity Space is now live and located close to downtown, Opportunity Space benefits from one of the most precious of resources for coworking spaces – dedicated parking; as well as, fast Internet, full kitchens on both floors, and room for you to grow. If you’re a startup owner in Austin who wants your own dedicated space for 3+ people, book a tour now. If you’re a solo-entrepreneur in need of only a single desk, go take a look, this is the start of a great opportunity.
Thanks Paul. I just referred a company over to Erica. Really appreciate the fact that you are raising awareness of the coworking spaces available especially here in Austin.
Brilliant Steve. I love that this town is really the hub of the shift in how we work. Not only the greatest density of shared work spaces but retail, office, and residential spaces are all trying to enable accessible work environments AND we’re all working together here to do it. I’m looking forward to hanging out at Golab during SXSW!