Shared Spaces: Black Entrepreneurs Cater to Tech Startups

TechSquare Labs, Atlanta, Georgia

In April, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and Tech:NYC analyzed more than 60 startup ecosystems in 24 countries and ranked New York City as the world?s second-highest-performing ecosystem, with more than 7,000 startups and more than $71 billion in ecosystem value. The city?s tech ecosystem alone has grown from $2.3 billion invested in tech startups in 2012 to approximately $13 billion invested in 2017. The tech buzz has triggered a demand for locations where innovative companies in their early stages can perform their daily functions without having to shell out huge sums for office and design space. That demand has led to a proliferation of shared, office- space sites, sometimes referred to as communal or co-working spaces, campuses, and niche communities.

Known for its globally sought-after real estate, the city?s borough of Brooklyn is witnessing an influx of startups, particularly tech startups, evidenced not only by how quickly co-working spaces are being established throughout the borough, but also by how quickly they are being filled. The borough currently counts some 50 co-working spaces, some of them catering exclusively to women and/or minorities. Some, too, are owned or co-owned by Blacks, such as Compound Cowork (www. thecompoundcowork. com), co-founded by Ronald Baker, and Electropositive, (www. electroposi. tv), which was co-founded by Keith R. Gill, and which is home to the Black and Latino Filmmakers Coalition.

The thinking behind shared spaces may be simple, but the practicality of it has been game changing. Instead of a building housing a single company, the same building can be configured to house multiple companies. Companies may become members of these co-working facilities and rent furnished spaces ? from an open desk to a pri vate office to an entire floor. There are drop-in, daily, weekly and monthly rates; rates for longer periods; rates for use of a conference room; and rates to host an event. Members intermingle in common spaces, such as kitchens and lounge areas, and at the ubiquitous water fountain.

According to RocketSpace, a global network of technology campuses, the world?s savviest tech startup founders leverage the power of niche communities?to boost operational power and maximize startup success. The power of niche communities comes, not only from connecting members with like-minded entrepreneurs, but also from providing mentorship; learning opportunities; financial, technical and professional resources; office and administrative functions; corporate partner matchmaking services; and partnerships with venture capitalists who have an open invitation to drop by and check out what members are working on. Averse to encouraging competition, they are a creative ecosystem that stimulates and fosters economic growth, embracing and encouraging such practices as the sharing of ideas, collaboration and even bartering of services.

Black startups are flocking to co-working spaces, as much in New York as nationwide. Similarly, Black entrepreneurs are investing in the lucrative sector of co-working spaces as outright owners or equity partners. The PlugDaily. com, an online tech newsletter covering founders and innovators of color, has compiled ?An (Almost) Comprehensive List of Black-Owned Co-Working Spaces,? with 54 names that cover states in the north, south, east, west and mid-west, and London, England. ?We plan to do deeper dives into this data and present potential stories on the communities where black-owned co-working spaces exist,? says Sherrell Dorsey, the newsletter?s founder. ?For now, we want this list to be visible and available for public use.?

Black-owned Co-working Spaces

There are more than 50 Black-owned co-working spaces nationwide, located in cities with large Black populations. Similar spaces can be found overseas. Co-working spaces generally house companies from disparate industries. Some, however, are niche-specific, while others may cater solely to female entrepreneurs. Below are ten Black-owned spaces that cater to tech startups.

Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship; http://rcie . org; Atlanta, Georgia

TechSquare Labs; techsquare .co; Atlanta, Georgia

Divinc; divinc .org; Austin, Texas

Blue1647; blue1647 .com; Chicago, Illinois

Colony 5 Inc.; colonyfive .com; Chicago, Illinois

The Cube; thecubelondon .com; London, UK

The Greenwood Project; thegreenwoodproject .org; Los Angeles

Echo Tech Vision; ecotechvisions .com; Miami, Florida

I/O Spaces; iospaces .com; Silver Springs, Maryland

In3 Incubator; in3dc .com; Washington, D.C.