Home, Cowork, or Incubate: The Best Place for Your Startup
Well, you’ve decided to take the plunge and start building out your business. Your automatic whale juicer is going to make a big splash in the market, but you need a spot to work on your idea. The question is where? Working from home is a great option, so is that chain coffee shop with free wi-fi. There is that creative coworking space a short drive from your house, and that big office space with all of those startups in there.
Where to go? Where to go?
I’m here to help break down the pros and cons of each workspace to help you choose where to go based on where you are in your business.
Let’s start with Working from Home:
Working from home is great if you can actually do work. There are tax benefits for having a home based business, you can work in your jammies, not have to socially interact with anyone, and really be able to do things on the cheap. The downside is that you are alone, so very, very alone. Holding client meetings has to be done away from home. You have to seek out adult interaction to get the feedback and validation you so desperately need about your business.
The other potential downside is the ease of distraction. If you have kids, especially young kids, you won’t have any quality time to work on your business. Kids, as they should, demand all of your attention and you should give them the attention they deserve. Other distractions at home to be aware of are the couch, the bed, and any other spot that looks good enough for a nap. Naps are awesome and the temptation to take one at the home office is always there. (You can substitute “nap” for your particular favorite thing to do at home that would take you away from doing work – binge watching any show on Netflix would count too.)
Pros: cheap, jammies, alone time
Cons: isolation, distraction
Next Up The Coworking Space:
Coworking seems to be a hot thing right now. As a matter of fact, we’re working on our own coworking space and have a coworking network of area spaces (shameless plug) that we like to help support. Coworking is kind of that next step up from the home office and having that “third” space that is not a coffee shop. You are in a more business-like environment that might help with that Adult ADHD you generally get while at home. Plus you have the added benefit that there are other adults that are working on business related stuff too. They have connections, ideas, opinions, and can actually hold conversations with you about stuff you care about. It’s like actually having coworkers without really having coworkers.
Andy from the Salt Mines does a great job explaining coworking in this short video.
Generally, the Coworking option does cost a bit of cash. Anywhere from a few bucks an hour to get a shared desk to a few hundred a month to get a dedicated spot. It’s a great option if you have a company just starting to generate some revenue and need a spot to do work and not be embarrassed to hold a client meeting.
Pros: professional space, adult interaction, connections
Cons: going to cost some cash, jammies are frowned upon, still kind of on your own
Finally, The Incubator:
A business incubator is kind of a generic term, unfortunately. The original concept of an incubator is a firm that backs specific ventures with seed funding, mentorship, and general adult supervision to scale the startup’s business and get them out the door, making money, and returning some money back to the incubator. That model changed after the dot-com bubble pop. Incubators can now be thought of as coworking spaces, juiced up on financial backing from an organization with some kind of economic development mandate. You generally pay for your space in the incubator and in return the incubator staff gives you one-on-one attention to help you build your business, help you find funding, and ultimately get you to a point where you company is strong enough to leave the nest and survive on its own.
Most incubators have a three to five year engagement window with your company and if you don’t graduate by then, they kind of stop paying attention to you, but will still collect your monthly rent check. Incubators are a good place to go if you have a prototype for a product and a few early adopters of your product or service. Its the place to go when you have reached the limits of your ability and need help scaling up the company.
Pros: professional space, adult supervision, access to capital and other resources
Cons: going to cost some more cash, no longer the sole master of your destiny if you are part of a program
The most important thing for you to do when evaluating what to do and where to go, is to figure out what your end game is going to be. One of the things I like about Innovate New Albany’s model is that it blends coworking and incubation into a hybrid of the two. You can start as a Virtual Tenant, having access to conference rooms, events, etc. Then as your business develops, moving into a cube, then to an office, then to a suite, and then out into the world. I know that sounded like a commercial for Innovate New Albany, but following that kind of concept for your own business, engaging in services and spaces when you need them, helps you figure out your milestones and gives you something to work toward to measure success in developing your idea.
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