The costs associated with office space are a major concern for every entrepreneur. However, very few entrepreneurs know that there are rent free options with regard to workspaces. For some time now accelerator programs have been providing startup workspace as a perk in exchange for equity. There are also some really incredible opportunities for completely free office space on a no-obligation basis. The three types of free workspaces entrepreneurs can get are discussed below.
Spaces sponsored by communities
For the purposes of promoting local development in some cities, chambers of commerce are actively working with the local government to lure entrepreneurs with free workplaces. These are highly competitive programs. The first Durham startup stampede scheme, for example, selected only 11 startups out of 78 applications. The selected businesses were provided with free office spaces for about two months. Having access to an office space is a huge help in attracting talent and clients, as well as removing a major source of stress and overheads.
To secure this type of workspace, the entrepreneurs must show a business concept alongside its projected growth potential. As these types of incubator programs are specifically aimed at entrepreneurs with the inspiration, events, mentorship, and advice and help startups receive can be just as valuable as the workspace itself. Entrepreneurs are busy individuals with little time for anything other than their own projects, but for incubation programs to produce the best possible outcomes it’s essential that participating startups take advantage of the various resources, mentorship, sharing and events available, not just space. Making the best use of the available opportunities can only serve to move your venture faster towards success.
Under the co-working space arrangement, businesses are given an office type environment free of charge. This is usually done on a first come first served basis. These arrangements usually seek to benefit solo entrepreneurs who would otherwise be working from their couches. Some good examples of such spaces are Wix Lounge in New York and San Francisco; Dogpatch Labs in New York, Gangplank in Phoenix, Cambridge, Mass., Palo Alto, Calif., and Dublin, Ireland. Those companies that are looking to target entrepreneurs sometimes operate co-working spaces. For example, Wix.com provides this kind of arrangement in order to encourage entrepreneurs to use its free platforms for generating more traffic to their websites
Abby Ziff, one of the founders of Beauteeze.com, a spa and salon appointment scheduling website based in New York worked with Wix till last January. He says “he always liked the idea of networking in an informal manner with app developers and graphic designers.” The shared space enabled her to have a routine instead of going crazy at home, she added.
It’s worth noting that if you want to take advantage of this kind of offer, you need to be ready to accept a less than a conventional environment. A large number of co-working spaces are configured with large, shared tables so multiple users can “plug and play”. This can be challenging if you need to make phone calls or conduct meetings due to the noise levels. Because of this, Ziff makes all her calls in the morning when she is still at her home before going into the office. Another constraint that the startups face is the lack of enough space and dedicated desks making it difficult to add more employees. So when the company starts to grow you find it’s time to move out to explore other workspace options.
In order to spur entrepreneurship on campus, some universities such as Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind and the University of California at Berkeley provide free office space facilitated through incubator programs run on-campus. In order to qualify for office space, entrepreneurs must produce a viable business plan and most of the university incubators require that at least one of the members of the startup is an alumnus or a current student at that institution.
University space is considered by many young entrepreneurs as an option worth pursuing. This is because being affiliated with a university-sponsored space is an instant tick in a startups favor. Commenting on this idea, Tucker Hutchinson, co-founder of GoOverseas.com, recalls that he and his two coworkers had recruited interns from the university which helped them tap the knowledge of both engineering and business professors who visit them regularly.
Though available free of cost, rent-free office spaces are not without their downsides. Such spaces might not have an impressive ambiance or provide enough space to operate several business functions. They might not have a dedicated, quite or semi-private area in which you can take meetings or meet with clients and potential investors. Nevertheless, being able to say you won government or university-sponsored space shows someone saw something worthwhile in your business ideas. And being able to save money on office rental, at least initially, is no small thing to a struggling startup.
Hence the idea here is that businesses can take advantage of these unconventional workspace options in order to give themselves some breathing space at the very early stages of business development before moving on to the next phase of their office space evolution.