David Walker, relaxing on a green couch in an old house in east Austin, was spending a quiet, rainy afternoon chatting and working on his scrapbook. But that gives you the wrong impression of Walker, the scrapbook, the house, the conversation, and even the couch.
Walker is the co-founder of Conjunctured, a coworking space in East Austin. Several years ago, after hosting a handful of jellies—an unfortunate nickname for informal work sessions at a local coffee shop—he and his business partner raised some money and rented the house, which they kitted out with desks, lockers, a kitchenette, and local art.
Now, Conjunctured has 22 full-time members paying $275 a month each for a key to the space, plus a couple of dozen basic members, who rent space on more flexible terms. The scrapbook profiles the members, all of them independent workers looking for a way to reintroduce some of the structure and social life they had been missing in their home offices.
The couch is a mascot of sorts: Two of the coworkers had struck up a business partnership that they dubbed the Green Couch Group. And Walker’s chat was a bit of business: He was consulting with Elton Rivas, who had just started a coworking space in Jacksonville. Riva spent years working in corporate America before striking out in search of something more fulfilling.
It’s an increasingly common sentiment. The day before, Austin had hosted the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, an annual confab of coworkers, entrepreneurs, designers, and businesspeople. According to Deskmag, an online coworking magazine, there are now some 1,100 such spaces around the world.
The growing movement known as co-working meets multiple needs of fledgling entrepreneurs by providing a shared work environment. Co-workers have access to information technology and telecommunication services, workspace, a conference room, shared printers and a community of fellow co-workers. According to a recent survey on deskmag.com, 54 percent of all co-workers are freelancers. Almost 20 percent are entrepreneurs who employ others. As a hub for entrepreneurs and startups, Austin has seen a healthy growth of co-working facilities. The most visible are GoLab Austin, Soma Vida, CoSpace, Conjunctured and Link Coworking.
All things co-working will be the focus of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference March 8-9 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas.
Link Coworking in Austin, owned by Liz Elam, is hosting the event, which features a conference track and an unconference track.
The conference track includes speakers on topics such as the state of co-working, how to design and build co-working spaces, and a question-and-answer session with several co-working space owners. The unconference features a Co-Working Treasure Hunt, which will be a self-guided tour of co-working sites in Austin, including Conjunctured, Co-Space, GoLab, ...
But the group, which began in 2009, is well-funded ($1.5 million from Google alone back in December) and well-staffed. It has 26 fellows, many of whom have been sent to eight cities (including Austin) to coordinate Code Across America, a Hackathon that starts this week.
The Austin portion of the event will be a Hackathon today at Conjunctured Coworking, 1309 E. Seventh St., from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Psychic Readings & Spiritual Cleansing by Emma probably saw this coming. The business just moved from its home on East Seventh Street so neighbor Conjunctured could grow. Conjunctured offers freelancers, telecommuters and entrepreneurs a place to work...
Don Teague video tours Conjunctured and talks about the growth of coworking.
In Austin, another office option for cost-cutting businesses is the Conjunctured house, a co-working space that opened in a renovated house on East Seventh Street in August 2008.
During its formation, Conjunctured pooled money from its four co-founders and members. It also used the traditional barter system to get the office painted in exchange for a membership.
The Conjunctured office — equipped with desks, tables and a galley kitchen — serves members who pay a $250 monthly fee to have access to a quiet workspace.
Conjunctured founder David Walker said the house is now operating at capacity with 26 members. About 65 percent of them are technology companies, but he said the concentration of tech companies should settle at about 50 percent within six months.
Conjunctured has given local businesspeople a reasonable middle ground between working cheaply from a home office and spending scarce capital on leasing an office. Also, working beside other businesses is less distracting and less lonely for most members, Walker said.