WeWork Labs Gives New York Entrepreneurs a Home Before They’re Ready For an Office

4/6/11Follow @arleneweintraub

New York City’s incubator scene has been exploding of late, with Polaris-backed Dogpatch Labs opening in early 2010, and General Assembly setting up in January of this year with help from a $200,000 city grant. Now it’s time to add a new name to that list: WeWork Labs, which opened in SoHo on April 1.

Perhaps it would be more accurate, though, to call WeWork Labs a “pre-incubator.” That’s because it’s designed for entrepreneurs who still don’t have their business ideas fully cooked. They can rent a chair, some space at a long table, and 24-hour Internet access for $250 a month. And they can stay until their business ideas are well enough developed to move into a more traditional incubator. “We’re a feeder for things like Dogpatch Labs,” says Matthew Shampine, a computer scientist who cofounded the space.

Shampine’s cofounders are fellow entrepreneurs Jesse Middleton and Adam Neumann, who Shampine met through WeWork, a rapidly expanding collection of communal office spaces for entrepreneurs. Neumann is the founder of WeWork, which has two locations in New York, and another opening in May (A San Francisco WeWork will open this summer). Shampine rents space for his Web development firm, Simande, in WeWork’s SoHo office. While attending a conference, he met WeWork Labs cofounder Middleton, who is now working on his Web startup, GetMinders, there.

When 3,000 square feet became available upstairs early this year, Shampine jumped at the opportunity to bring his vision for a new sort of incubator to life. The idea fit Neumann’s WeWork perfectly, because WeWork is designed as a co-op for entrepreneurs. It’s not quite an incubator—companies that rent space there are mostly established, and they do get their own private offices—but it is designed to allow easy interactions among residents. WeWork Labs embraces the same culture, but it’s aimed at people who are at an earlier stage of starting up companies.

“We didn’t want this to be a space for people to just work on their startups,” Shampine says. “We are focused on building a community of people with ideas.” WeWork Labs’ 30 or so flagship occupants include … Next Page »

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