We asked NextSpace’s CEO Jeremy Neuner to tell us about what it’s like to cowork in his facility. Here’s what he had to say.
Why did you start NextSpace?
NextSpace represents a joint effort to build businesses here in Santa Cruz. Before I started it, I was the economic development manager for the City of Santa Cruz. My co-founder, Ryan Coonerty, was the mayor of Santa Cruz and my other co-founder, Caleb Baskin, was the head of a non-profit with a mission of engaging more thirty-somethings in the local economy.
Santa Cruz has a rich history of creativity and innovation. Some great companies—Plantronics, Odwalla, and O’Neil to name a few—have started here. But we also saw that more and more people—smart, creative, highly-educated people—we opting not to work for big companies and were instead becoming freelancers and independent consultants or starting small businesses of their own.
That trend is accelerating, not just in Santa Cruz, but across the country and all over the world. NextSpace is an attempt to give those people the infrastructure and the community that they need to be successful.
What makes it unique?
This emphasis on creating community is what makes NextSpace different from other shared office environments. We’re not renting you space, we’re selling you membership in a collaborative, supportive, innovative community.
The space is important, and I think our spaces are really beautiful places to work.Ãƒâ€š But our space is just one of the tools we use to create great communities.
Do you have a core concept or a market niche?
I think our niche is that we don’t have a niche. Other shared workspaces often have an industry focus or a specific customer in mind, like high-tech startups, software developers, or social media companies. At NextSpace, we take all comers. Sure, we have plenty of techies who are part of our community. But we also have attorneys, accountants, graphic designers, writers, filmmakers, non-profits, and scientists. We even have a stand-up comic and a sex therapist! I think NextSpace would be boring if only, say, iPhone app developers worked here. Instead, NextSpace is a rich and diverse talent ecosystem.
That richness and diversity of talent and ideas is absolutely core to the experience that we try to create at NextSpace. Sure, its important to be able to trade insights and expertise with other people in your field and that definitely happens at NextSpace. But we think you’re more likely to be innovative, creative, and successful if you’re surrounded by people from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds.
For example, we’ve seen writers, designers, and software developers at NextSpace team up to create new products, tackle bigger projects, and even found companies together. We call that the NextSpace Effect. And you can get it only at NextSpace.
How would you describe the people who use it?
We love the wide diversity of people who are members of the NextSpace community. But there are a few common traits that many of our members share.
First, our members are really smart and incredibly accomplished. Many of them are world-class in their fields. For example, Spencer Lindsay is a digital artist and animator whose work is the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the internationally-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Second, our members are versatile. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners need to draw on a wide variety of skills and I’m always impressed at how our members balance those requirements.
Third—and this is the important one—our members are passionately committed to their own success and to the collective success of the community. I’m always gratified to see our members enable and celebrate the successes of their fellow members.
You can’t have that that kind of mutual support unless you foster a strong sense of community and we’re proud of how we do that at NextSpace.
What service, support or other functions are critical to your operation?
Coffee! Coffee is free at NextSpace and it’s the lifeblood of the entire operation. As we’re fond of saying: a NextSpace member is the mechanism that the universe uses to convert “caffeine” into “awesome.”
What advice would give to some one setting up a Coworking Facility today?
Focus on the community. And think about your community as something that extends beyond the four walls of your coworking space.
One of the reasons that NextSpace has been successful is that we’ve positioned our company and our community as an engine for innovation, economic development, and job creation. We have over 550 active members of the NextSpace community across all four of our locations. That’s 550 people who are succeeding in an otherwise shaky economy.
That’s a pretty darn good story to tell.