Wisconsin Startup Growth Driving More Coworking Spaces

1/15/14Follow @XconomyWI

[Updated 10:35 am] For the entrepreneur or remote employee itching to get out of the home office or corner coffee shop, the coworking space phenomenon of the past decade has provided a welcome alternative.

These open, often collaborative offices have been growing in number across the country, and that’s the case in Wisconsin as well. For a monthly fee, nonprofits or companies provide desks and offices to contractors, consultants, mobile workers, and small startups. These patrons gain access to amenities like the Internet, printers, and conference rooms, but the deeper, less quantifiable benefit is the constant interaction with peers that leads to new ideas and sometimes even new businesses, coworking officials say.

“People are colliding and meeting each other all the time,” said Matt Cordio, the co-founder and executive chairman of Startup Milwaukee, a nonprofit that last year opened 96square, a coworking space for tech startups in downtown Milwaukee, “It helps sharpen people’s ideas faster.”

96square has 15 tenants, mostly young tech companies who are sharing similar experiences like pitching their ideas to investors and adjusting their business plans.

“There’s a community of people that want to see each other succeed,” Cordio said. “They’re going through experiences at the same time. They have an opportunity to learn from each other and grow.”

Coworking spaces also encourage spontaneous collaboration on projects, said Niko Skievaski, the co-founder of 100state, a coworking space that opened last year on Madison’s Capitol Square and has about 100 members. If a startup needs help designing a logo, there are 100state members who might volunteer to do it for “super cheap or free,” he said.

100state members have also teamed up on side projects that are generating revenue. While shooting the breeze at a concert on Capitol Square last summer, members got to talking about an international medical code system that the U.S. is transitioning to in 2014. The standard includes about 76,000 diseases, symptoms, and external causes of injury. While not usually a joking matter, many of the codes include odd and downright ridiculous examples of possible medical diagnoses, such as “burn due to water skis on fire,” “bizarre personal appearance,” and “passenger in heavy transport vehicle injured in collision with pedal cycle in traffic accident.”

The 100state group thought it might make a hilarious illustrated children’s book, and the healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, and artists made their idea happen.

It’s been a surprising hit for coffee tables, office waiting rooms, and bookshelves. The group has sold more than 3,000 copies of their book, “Struck by Orca,” driving more than $37,000 in sales since they started taking orders in November, Skievaski said.

“There’s so many opportunities that come about by being associated with a ton of entrepreneurs all working on their own startups,” he said. “They feed off each other. We try to empower them to do that.”

Successful coworking spaces take … Next Page »

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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  • adam

    Great article! Maybe coworking spaces like 100state are driving WIsconsin growth? Are we the chicken or the egg?