TechHui

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A former gallery space in Chinatown? A peaceful cottage in Manoa Valley? An office in the heart of the financial district? When you close your eyes and think of an open, friendly, shared headquarters for creators and developers, what does it look like?

After talking with Burt and Todd years ago, and Patrick most recently, and seeing Manoa Geeks grow and TechHui thrive, I've started to imagine it could happen. I've even named an imaginary coworking spot Lumihana -- "working space."

So tell me... what do you see?

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This is a really great idea and I think there's a business model here. I see this as a "24 hr fitness" kind of model. We take out a given space and equipment and we have members which pay a monthly fee.

I'd like to know what you guys would be willing pay for this service. 24 hr fitness wants $124 upfront and $42.99 per month for a Kapiolani location.

Would you pay same for a coworking space? Lets assume it would have all the stuff you'd need to work except for computers: desk, cubies, power, wifi, conf rm, projector, seating, etc.
I posted some Back of the Napkin notes... starting with a 1,000 square foot space at $2-$3 per square foot per month. I figured you'd have "charter" members who pay for the privilege of a few dedicated spaces, then regular members who pay for access to work in a "24 Hour Fitness" model, as you put it.

Places like HatFactory and Citizen Space cost $200-$300 per month for the dedicated space model. I can definitely see people going for it as there's a big gap between "set up at a coffee shop" and "rent your own office," and a collaborative tech-friendly environment is a great benefit. These folks get a desk where they can leave their stuff, books, some storage, maybe a nice logo somewhere.

Then members could pay something per month just to have access to drop in. $100 a month works out to under $4 a day if you were a heavy user. Guests could pay something for the day, or the week. Visiting business people who want to be downtown would love this, tech or not.

Finally, of course, the space should be configurable with a large enclosed meeting space so there's revenue possibilities for other groups who need to rent meeting or presentation space, or we could host receptions or performances.

The "24 Hour Model" is tricky in the "24 Hour" sense. Most coworking spaces have set hours that are made possible by the "charter members" committing to being there to open up and lock up on a schedule. And those "charter members" would be the ones with the key. I don't think a landlord would be comfortable with all members having unfettered access to the premises.
I can certainly see myself as someone who'd make heavy use of something like this. Although my office space is nice and comfortable, it'd be nice to have a professional environment AWAY from home so that I could maybe separate my home life from my work life as much as possible. It would also be nice to have my regular Monday and Thursday 4:30 AM conference calls to Houston without having my co-workers give me a hard time about the roosters crowing at my neighbor's house down the street :)
I think having this inside a mall would be best - you've got access to food/drink, and most importantly, PARKING. IMO this is dead without free parking which means you gotta be at a mall.
I already spend over $100 for coffee a month working out of a coffee shop so I would think this would be reasonable. It would be great if there was a conference room to all of this-something that a coffee shop doesn't offer.

Peter Kay said:
This is a really great idea and I think there's a business model here. I see this as a "24 hr fitness" kind of model. We take out a given space and equipment and we have members which pay a monthly fee.
I'd like to know what you guys would be willing pay for this service. 24 hr fitness wants $124 upfront and $42.99 per month for a Kapiolani location. Would you pay same for a coworking space? Lets assume it would have all the stuff you'd need to work except for computers: desk, cubies, power, wifi, conf rm, projector, seating, etc.
Aloha Iqbal... that's a fascinating facility. A "health club for the brain." And definitely larger and more equipped (four separate "environments") that I typically see in a metro coworking space. The rates are lower than I'd expect, too -- $40 per year for adults, $20 per year for students, $60 per year for families, $100 per year for organizations. Is it just that real estate is that much cheaper in WI? :)

And Peter, I respectfully disagree with mall positioning. I do think what we're looking at is technically retail, but not THAT retail. True there is parking and "amenities," but... the energy of a place counts for a lot. The examples I mentioned, a Chinatown gallery space or a Manoa cottage or an office in a downtown tower, all might work and would come with very different energies. But I can't see a workspace between an Ann Taylor and a Footlocker, you know? Maybe it's just me.

I'd like to hear more on the parking thing. A coworking space could be in a neighborhood with low density and lots of parking. But being in a metro center offers a lot, too. Public transit, and municipal parking, probably reserved tenant parking for leaseholders (a.k.a. "charter members")... not enough?
Thank you, Ryan, for starting this group and for firing up the coworking idea here in Honolulu! My ideal coworking space would have easy access to parking, boast nearby eateries, have ergonomic seating/desks, have a clean bathroom (that I don't have to clean), foster both areas to power through work and spaces to interact with others, offer conference room space, have adequate air conditioning and have stylish decor.

It'd be cool to work in a Chinatown but I wouldn't want to pay for parking or have walk too far everyday. A mall space would work for me, but wouldn't it cost too much to rent? A cottage in a valley somewhere would be great, as long as there is adequate parking and A/C; however, you might run into zoning restrictions. It'd be great to be in a high rise office building with a fantastic ocean view, but that'd just be dreaming.

Personally, I probably wouldn't stay 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Perhaps I'd make use of it three mornings per week.

One key to making a coworking location work would be to acquire a minimum number of anchor tenants would be finance the lion's share of the expenses to make sure there are no cashflow problems.

Another thing to consider is most people who would use a coworking space don't have time to manage it. For example, although I'd make use a coworking space, I wouldn't have time to deal with business issues, handling maintenance, etc because my primary business takes up all of my time. Is there someone who would be wiling to step forward to take on that roll? That "office manager" should get a salary or he/she should take this on as a business.

I'm not sure the exact reason why CitizenDesk closed its doors, but my guess is that it did not survive due to inadequate cashflow. In hindsight, he would have first built up the community around coworking until it reached a level that the community could sustain an actual coworking space.

All that to say, it'd be great to make use of a coworking space but I couldn't see how previously. Hopefully the community can solve these gotchas as a team. In the meantime, there are the Jelly/Coworking groups in cafes. The two locations that I've chosen (Tropical Smoothie Cafe and Cafe Jupiter) for these informal groups have access to lots of free parking, are air-conditioned, serve great food and drink, provide free wifi Internet, have adequate seating (they are not overcrowded) ... and I don't have to manage them. My hope with these informal groups is to build up the local community around coworking and see what happens. Hope to see you there!
As one of the newly de-officed (working on my own at home full-time now), I'd probably go in to a coworking space if:
1. It was not too far away. If it takes a gallon of gas or more to get to, that is too far.
2. Free or really cheap parking
3. Nearby eating places is desirable but not required
4. Good network access (wired and wireless)
5. Needs LCD displays on every work area so I can plug in my Macbook and have dual-screens to work on if needed while there
6. Air conditioning. But, I would also like to make it a Green IT showcase somehow too. Perhaps a solar powered AC or good passive cooling with low-power fan assist?
7. Debating on the need for a printer/copier. I actually don't print very often. But, still...
Ryan,

It's not so much that I crave the mall, but it's got the best parking gig around. Free parking is the priority, not so much the mall. Knowing that you're paying $1.50/hr really puts a damper on the flexibility. Manoa is cool, but if I gotta drive way off the beaten path (like to Manoa marketplace)...well then I might as well go to Starbucks.

One great example of a coachroached coworking space is the library & the med school downtown. It's perfect! You park @ Kakaako (I know, you're not supposed to) for free, then go to a clean library with great net connections and free PCs, right next to a great fooderie.

If you could put a coworking space around there or one with similar benefits, you're in business.
I know this has been discussed elsewhere but I thought i might suggest it here. Perhaps a non-profit model would best work to support a tech coworking space. In order for a facility to stay in operation and accommodate the stream of people coming in and out, someone needs to be there at a minimum during the work hours. That person needs to be paid. If this were to be a for-profit business, then that person will need to bootstrap the business, i.e. secure the tenants, pay the rent, buy the infrastructure, maintain the space, coordinate activities, etc.

As a non-profit the same activities would be required but as an organization, it could secure funding from grants and sponsors. There would be a governing board for the non-profit which could then hire a person to be exec director of the coworking space. As a non-profit the challenges of financing and supporting a space like this would not fall on one person. You could argue that you could create a similar governing body as a for-profit, but initial funding sources would come from out of pocket or friends and family.

As a non-profit 501c3 there are strict guidelines on formation and financial reporting. This is a good thing since as a collaborative this will need the structure. And, as a result of the Board formation, would be a shared effort. I think we need to think about how we will support a coworking space before we go an plop down the first 2 months rent. I like Todd's lists of wants in a space but if we don't first have a good understanding of how we sustain this we might as well meet at Starbuck or at the mall.
I think many people who have worked out of Starbucks have had this same idea and it is great to see that this group might be the start of something actually happening.

I also agree that parking would be a big factor in my wanting to utilize a space. Convenience would be a close second. I wouldn't want to drive too far or park too far. So pretty much everything that everyone has said so far is probably what I would also like to see.

The mall thing is kind of nice only because there are other side benefits to having one nearby. When I used to work in an office that was right at Ala Moana there were many days (maybe too many) where I just had to get out and walk around and the mall was a great place to do it. Having other humans around (that are not geeks) and just a different scenery was kind of nice to clear the mind or even spark other ideas. But that doesn't mean it has to be a storefront, something like the office spaces they have at Kahala Mall are kind of cool. The old Tower Records location, the offices upstairs of Barnes and Noble. All not "retail" spots but still "in the mall". Heck, the old American Savings building that is a stand alone building and has its own parking as well as mall parking would be an interesting location too. Hmmm....

And as far as needing someone to "lock up" the space and "have the keys". My suggestion would be security cards for the doors. All the doors if there are hallways involved and people are really worried about security. With the scan cards and maybe an associated PIN code you will know who used the card, or at least who was responsible for using the card. The place could be available "24 hours" in that case and combined maybe with a good security camera system would provide enough control I would think to ensure that the place didn't get trashed.

Great thoughts! Who has the money? Lets do it!

-R.
Thanks for your note, Russ. It helped me sort out my mall aversion. Indeed, there's office spaces essentially connected to malls... 1585 Kapiolani (i.e. the Shokudo building) at Ala Moana, the office tower at Kahala you mentioned (though I'd put Kahala a little outside the strike zone). Parking, decent access, and yes, things to do nearby. Being near an Apple Store couldn't hurt.

An office space like this would almost eliminate the spontaneous walk-in traffic, though, the "community synergy" I would want to see in a place like Chinatown. It indeed becomes more a conventional office lease, and less a resource and meeting place for others.

I gotta admit, though, I'm just obsessed with the idea after seeing the vacant space across from Hawaii Theatre on Bethel Street. Geeks and artists and the revitalized Chinatown? How could that not be great?

The access issue I see as one of more concern to the property owner than to the group. I think the space would indeed need 'hours,' in addition to anytime access for some folks (again the folks paying the bulk of the bill).

Folks have raised a good point, though... these things don't run themselves, though you'd hope they would. Monitoring the premises, maintaining the premises, keeping the books... that's a job, probably a full-time one, yet one that nobody who needs a coworking space would be able or want to do. Fully bootstrapped, this stuff would fall to the core hui, as with other such coworking spaces, with under a dozen folks keeping a schedule to cover hours and rotating maintenance duties ("It's Burt's turn to clean the fridge!"). But these tasks could also be outsourced -- it would just add to the budget considerably.

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