Less than one year ago, CNBC published an article proclaiming Austin, Texas (and not the hyped Silicon Valley) the true “start-up mecca” of the United States. Austin has grown in recent years into a bustling center of innovation, and central to that growth has been the birth of coworking spaces across The Capitol City.
As described by the experts, Austin is home to five main types of coworking spaces: national chains, incubators, small networking spaces, “Maker Spaces” and “Mom and Pop” spaces. This article will introduce you to some of the best of the Austin coworking kaleidoscope.
East Austin coworking spaces: blending passion, health and pursuit
East Austin sets its sights on what it considers most valuable: health, social good and creativity. The coworking spaces in this area empower their clients to excel in more than just profit margin.
From its inception, ATX Factory has been a place of progress. Founded by Vijay Mehra, owner of software company REthink CRM, ATX was 90 percent full within 6 months of opening its doors.
What makes the space so attractive? For one, a commitment to providing its members the comfortability they need to thrive. As Mehra describes, “We offer unlimited healthy (and not so healthy) snack options, beer, as well as cold brew and kombucha on tap. We also have massage chairs, locker rooms with showers, and even Japanese style sleep pods.”
The price point is another perk. Plans begin at $175 a month, and parking is always plentiful. There is more to be told, but some benefits remain under wraps. “What makes our community special,” said Mehra, “is our secret sauce. You have to be a member to understand.”
Createscape is the perfect place for smaller-scale creative workers in the Austin area.
One of the cheapest options available, Createscape boasts a part-time membership of only $90 per month. The contracts usually run on a month-to-month basis, and they offer discounts for students, veterans and companies that sign up three members or more.
Multiple social events are offered to members every month, and range from “happy hour to board game night, movies, community cookouts, holiday potluck events, and much more.”
The mantra of Soma Vida is “Space to do what you love, wellness to love how you live”. They hold true to this mantra with onsite yoga, acupuncture, family therapy and healing workshops. Yes, really.
CEO and founder Laura Shook is a firm believer in the importance of good health. “In today’s culture entrepreneurs often wear their sleep deprivation like a badge.”
Soma Vida prides itself on being 100% female-owned, and, as the oldest coworking space in Austin, has set the tone for the rest of the city. It’s refreshing, in this day and age, to find a coworking space that not only encourages growth of one’s business, but also their personal health and social consciousness.
Very rarely do coworking spaces set out to further social good or fight a social ill. Enter Urban Co-Lab, a space founded on the belief that “rapidly changing urban communities need advanced spaces for entrepreneurship.” Co-Lab works with entrepreneurs to “address urban problems through job creation, internships, and inspiration for local residents.”
Their main proxy of contribution is “Urban Innovators”, a separate non-profit branch of the space aimed at creating an entrepreneurial economy in East Austin that is fertile enough for all members of the neighborhood to find inclusion in the startup market.
Urban Co-Lab has come to represent the changing social landscape of one of Austin’s previously most crime-ridden areas. The space Co-Lab currently occupies was once a brothel and its members focus mainly on fields of education, housing, transit, and public policy.
Downtown Austin coworking spaces: bringing tech to the Alamo
Downtown Austin bustles with the click-clacking of coding keyboards as one of the fastest-growing tech epicenters in all the country. Programmers and engineers who move to Austin looking for fertile tech soil in the desert usually wind up here.
One of the epicenters of the Austin tech scene, Capital Factory is as powerful as it looks. The coworking space sits at the very top floor of a downtown Austin office building, wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows.
Capital Factory, as described by its executive director, Joshua Baer, “is the center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Austin—especially tech startups. Unlike other spaces that will accept anyone who walks in the door, we screen each member to make sure they are really in tech and entrepreneurship. Nobody comes here because we have the cheapest desks or the nicest offices (even though we do) — they come because everyone else here is in tech and working on startups.”
The main concentrations are in AI, VR, digital health, education technology, real estate technology and the Internet of Things. The people who work at Capital “believe they are going to meet someone who will change their life – their co-founder, first investor, first employee, or first customer,” says Baer.
North Austin coworking spaces: where the Old Guard reigns
The spaces that do best in North Austin tend to appeal to more well-established small businesses and startups that are well past the incubator stage. The two major players in the area: Link Coworking and Vessel Coworking. Both describe their offices as places for those to pursue direction, not find it.
When discussing Link Coworking, Operating Manager Liz Elaine stressed that the beauty of the space lies in the fact that it’s the original model.
Link’s clientele is a bit older than the competitors in South Austin. The diversity amongst Link Coworking members is a big part of what sets them apart from their competition. “We’re nothing like an incubator,” says Elaine. “We’re a pretty tried-and-true model.”
Vessel Coworking has maintained a clear game plan since their inception in January 2015.
“We’re a creative, productive community, and those two words are true and in that order for a reason. We’ve got a comfortable and warm and welcoming vibe, but we also have a very productive vibe,” says Sarah Coker, manager of Vessel.
And, much like Link, Vessel is designed for groups and enterprises that are no longer in need of breaking ground. Instead of focusing on networking, incubation and launch, Vessel provides a quiet space for established businesses to do their thing.
The most attractive quality of Vessel is the price point: $200 a month will get you 24/7 access. “It’s designed to run lean and be simple, and if we keep it that way it keeps prices super low,” says Coker.
The bottom line
While we’ve created a list that is comprehensive, the vibrancy and multifacetedness of Austin ensures that it’s not exhaustive.