There is a revolution happening in the workplace today and it is redefining what it means to go to “work.” Millenials crave freedom in the workplace and want to be able to work whenever, and wherever, they choose. Technology enables this to happen, offering anyone with a smart phone and an Internet connection the ability to set up a virtual office. It has also given rise to a new type of office space-as-a-business industry, which is being embraced by entrepreneurs, tech professionals, freelancers and entrepreneurs across the country. It’s called coworking.
The concept behind coworking is to offer an alternative to remote workers, who otherwise would work from home or set up temporary daily office spaces in coffee shops or other public spaces. Remote workers make up a growing segment of the working population, partly due to the previously mentioned affinity of millenials to avoid traditional office settings and partly due to the realization by some companies that providing office space for their workers is simply no longer necessary or cost effective. Coworking facilities offer remote workers and small startups the chance to rent a space, whether it be access to a communal work area or a designated space within the facility, providing them with a professional workplace as well as the camaraderie of shared office space.
In August, Minneapolis-based CoCo will expand its coworking business to include a space in Fargo. In “Collaboration Central,” we cover the ins and outs of coworking and why CoCo chose Fargo for its first expansion project. We also check in with Meso in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has been offering coworking spaces for several years and recently came under new ownership. Owners of both facilities say the collaborative atmosphere is the most attractive aspect of coworking for many of their members. In CoCo’s case, collaborations at its workspaces have even resulted in new companies being formed. Company leaders hope to achieve the same results in Fargo, perhaps even fostering collaborations between entrepreneurs in Fargo and the Twin Cities.
If collaboration and shared space fosters new startups, then the newly launched Fargo Startup House is sure to inspire new ventures. The house, located in a north Fargo residential neighborhood, will provide free room and board — and the fastest Internet access around — to six tech startups with the hope that they will grow their business ideas into a successful venture that will improve the world in some way. Selected participants will receive an initial six-month stay, with the option to possibly extend their time in the house. The concept of the startup house is a little like 24/7 coworking with a splash of dorm life and HBO’s Silicon Valley. Houses similar to the Fargo Startup House have been in play in Kansas City, thanks to the Google Fiber project, for some time and have been well-received. Attorney Miguel Danielson, who bought the Fargo house and worked with a group of supporters including the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. to get his project off the ground, hopes to have similar success in Fargo.
Projects like coworking spaces and startup houses provide new support to the region’s entrepreneurial community, which is strong and continuing to grow. Further to this effort is UND’s new School of Entrepreneurship, which will launch this fall as part of the university’s College of Business and Public Administration. Bruce Gjovig, founder of the Center for Innovation, which will serve as the school’s practitioner, says the timing has never been better to place emphasis on entrepreneurship throughout the university’s programs. “What a better time to get more people more entrepreneurial thinking that at a time of growth,” he says.
Local entrepreneurs are expected to play a major role in providing training to students of the entrepreneurship school. For details, read “Elevating entrepreneurship.”
Finally, this issue also zeros in on the importance of pheasant hunting to many local economies in South Dakota. In many small towns, the start of pheasant hunting every fall is the make-or-break time for businesses ranging from the service industry to retail stores. It is a celebratory time for many communities, but a recent decline in pheasant numbers has state officials as well as wildlife advocacy groups concerned over the future of the hunt within the state. In “Keeping Hunting on Target,” contributing writer Rob Swenson provides perspective on the impact of the sport and upcoming efforts to sustain it.
Read the entire August issue here.