Posted: Nov 4, 2018 in Education

Expanding the Circle

If you’re interested enough to have read this far, this is the part where we open up the hood and share with you why we are building cowork spaces in Edmonton and how we are approaching this work strategically.

Here’s the thing: If it is the operator who shapes the meaningful spaces that make cities great, then a focal point of city-building should be expanding the circle of quality operators. Through strategic cultivation of leadership and the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we can proliferate nodes of culture, community, cross-pollination, and innovation, throughout the region. Several key levers can influence this outcome.

1. Map the Ecosystem

Study industrial ecosystems, identify growth sectors positioned to take advantage of regional strengths, and look for ways to apply exponential technologies. Identify related ecosystem gaps and coordinate local operators or new operators from outside to address those issues. Build spaces around aggregated leadership and initiative for future relevance.

2. Know your Make-Makers

Gather operators and community leaders whose work enables the success of other leaders and creatives. Maker-makers include community builders, culture curators, market hosts, venture mentors, mid-size company skunkworks, network hubs, incubators, accelerators, etc. Prioritize building urban spaces around the initiatives of quality maker-makers.

3. Lower the Threshold

The ability to commit responsibly to a commercial lease is a tangible threshold that can represent risk for early stage companies. Fledgling operators daunted by this threshold can benefit from spaces that offer flexibility:

Smaller SqFt Spaces

It can be challenging to find space that is just the right size for a dynamic young venture. Quality work space in the form of drop-in ‘hot-desks’ and smaller private offices (70-100 ft2) provide affordability and flexibility.

Flexible Lease Terms

Typical 3-5 year commercial lease terms can be daunting. Flexible options for month-to-month and 6- to 36-month lease terms lower risk and allow companies to scale as needed to accommodate the dynamic staffing needs of early-stage venture.

Pre-Built Improvements

Tenant improvements, demising costs, and furniture represent a significant capital outlay for a young company. While pre-built and furnished offices require somewhat higher rents, they reduce upfront risk by requiring near- zero capital investment.

Scaleable Office Pods

It can be difficult in early stages to estimate how much staff and space a venture will need in year two or year five. Smaller ft2 spaces allow tenants to avoid paying rent for space they don’t need. But if an operator needs to staff up in year two, moving offices represents distraction, cost, and risk.

Sparrow Studios are designed to allow operators to scale within their space. This is achieved through the use of innovative wall systems that can be moved or reconfigured easily. The studios are also organized in pods of 6-8 offices. If an operator takes on a 1-3 year lease and indicates that they anticipate a need more space in the future, we can position month-to-month or ‘hot-desk’ pods next to them. These short term tenants can be relocated with 30 days notice to provide space for an expanding pod.

4. Curation & Cross Pollination

The Sparrow Studios platform distributed across multiple locations represents sufficient scale to hire a dedicated community manager. The community manager’s role is to know the community; understand the strengths, needs, and ambitions of each operator; and work to facilitate fruitful collisions, cross- pollination, and collaboration. And to throw kickass parties every now and then. Such community curation can create valuable opportunities for operators to build alliances and strengthen initiatives.

Once the Sparrow Studios community has achieved some scale, it also becomes easier to consider the kinds of programs mentioned above that can support operators with strategic needs such as:

  • administrative capacity,
  • operational capacity,
  • access to capital, and
  • access to markets.