Our latest thoughts on the evolution of work
Conjunctured, Austin’s first coworking space and one of the original coworking spaces in the world, will be closing its doors at the end of August. Conjunctured first pioneered the coworking movement in Austin six years ago, when coworking was a brand new concept.
Over the years, Conjunctured has explored expansion several times. In 2010 the community banded together to remodel the little house next door that was previously occupied by a psychic. After a six month test lease, we cut our ties and focused on other avenues of growth. In 2011 we nearly signed a lease on a multi office space off South Lamar that would have housed the high demand for coworking in South Austin. In 2012, feeling a high after building partnerships with multiple investors, we nearly signed a least on a 10,000 sq ft warehouse space in downtown. And in 2013, we partnered up with a Conjunctured alumni whose office lease was soon to expire, to launch a special events meeting space, called the Conjunctured Annex, in a new development in East Austin. It was an experiment based on the increased meeting room interest we had been receiving. All the while, maintaining a thriving community at our home location on 1309 E 7th Street.
These days, the coworking industry is booming. There are 15 coworking spaces in Austin and over 4,000 throughout the world. Austin is one of the most coworking dense cities in the world in the company with San Francisco, NYC, Berlin, and Barcelona. At the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) in Kansas City a few months ago, where coworking space owners and thought leaders gathered to discuss the industry, Emergent Research reported trends on the massive growth in coworking.
It was also there, that Conjunctured co-owner and author of the recently published, The Fifth Age of Work, Drew Jones, spoke on a panel called “The Future of Design and Work.” He spoke about how corporations are in need of innovation as they struggle to stay relevant as the workplace is evolving and how coworking can be used as a model for finding new talent, reimagining company culture, and inspiring innovation. An avid proponent of coworking since the beginning, Drew owned the first coworking space in Birmingham, Alabama, called Shift Workspace, co-authored the first book on coworking, I’m Outta Here: How Coworking is Making the Office Obsolete, and has been teaching as a business professor at Texas State University since moving to Austin in 2011. As one of the original members of Conjunctured during its first days, Drew maintained his interest in Conjunctured from a distance and when he moved back to Austin, he officially joined the team as co-owner.
Drew and Conjunctured co-founder, David Walker, have together been managing the coworking space since – recruiting new members to the community and keeping the energy (and coffee) flowing. Every day, new emails and phone calls arrive as the mobile workforce rapidly grows. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of the US workforce will be freelance by the year 2020. This, along with the need for independents to be in a productive and social work environment rather than their homes or coffee shops has been driving the demand for coworking spaces across the globe. Although membership at Conjunctured has decreased over the past two years, as other coworking spaces open and expand throughout Austin, it certainly hasn’t decreased enough to call it quits. In fact, the number of inquiries asking about office space, community events, gig hires, and the in’s and out’s of coworking is at an all time high.
So, why is Conjunctured closing its doors? Not the reason you may think.
Yes, the Conjunctured house (the first coworking house in the nation) was purchased last year by a new owner, and yes the proposed new rents for the next lease term were tripled, and yes there is more competition in coworking than ever before.
But ultimately, we elected not to renew the lease on East Seventh street and made the tough decision not to bring our current members and future members to a new larger space in East Austin—the toughest decision in the company’s history…in order to grow.
The future is bright for Conjunctured, even without signing a new commercial lease.
For those that follow the coworking industry, you’ve noticed new industries adopting elements of the coworking ethos to bring disruption (and innovation) to outdated models. The coworking infrastructure breathes new life into an old model by allowing static work environments to evolve into true hubs of dynamic, collaborative innovation. Libraries, universities, hotels, local governments, and corporations are following the lead of the thriving coworking movement. Conjunctured can grow by opening up new locations, or by helping to innovate within new sectors of the economy.
In fact we (David and Drew) are headed to Palo Alto, New York, Amsterdam, and Barcelona over the next six months to pioneer a new future for the global coworking movement. You see, Conjunctured may be closing the little coworking house in East Austin, but in doing so, we’re opening the coworking model to the rest of society. Recently announced as one of the winners of the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge M-PRIZE sponsored by SAP for our Nomatik Coworking entry, we’re going all-in on what could be an opportunity to bring the essence of coworking to a broader landscape, making a substantial impact as the Sharing Economy booms and the design of the workplace innovates to bring our society into the Fifth Age. We’re inviting coworking proponents (and coworking space owners) around the world to join us in this movement.
Moving forward, Conjunctured has partnered up with fellow coworking pioneers, Cody Marx Bailey, co-founder of Creative Space, Texas’s first coworking space, and Tony Bacigalupo, co-founder of one of NYC’s first coworking space, New Work City, alongside international partners, Seats2Meet and the SerendipityMachine from the Netherlands, founded by European entrepreneur and trend watcher, Ronald van den Hoff. Seats2Meet facilitates a dynamic environment where guests work together, meet each other, and share knowledge. SerendipityMachine is a social tool that helps guests make unexpected connections with other guests and local coworkers. Ronald also wrote the book Society 3.0, and has started a movement in Europe that is quickly growing. Serendipitously, it was at the recent global coworking conference where Drew and Ronald first met. Conjunctured has also partnered with Maite Moreno Bosch and David Vilella Balleste of MondayHappyMonday and Neàpolis Cowork in Barcelona in an effort to connect thought leadership and coworking methodology to the business community in Spain. The first client is a winery in the Catalonia region that is implementing a Corporate Coworking initiative to revitalize its culture and innovate its bottom line.
As Conjunctured begins its transformation we have authored a collection of three pitch decks outlining a methodology for authentically exporting the coworking model:
In addition, we offer an introductory workshop called, The Fifth Age Workshop, explaining what Activity Based Working is and how it can transform your company culture. We walk companies or licensees through the theory and methodology of ABW – qualifying and licensing participants to work with the Fifth Age tools. Like the Fifth Age Program, these are delivered either directly to the company or to third party groups interested in using them in their own practice.
Introducing Nomatik Coworking membership to the Conjunctured community & Pop-Up Coworking to Austin’s coolest workplaces for community “work-ups”:
So, where does this leave the members of Conjunctured? Conjunctured has always been community-first. As such, Conjunctured is going back to the roots of the original coworking essence, Jelly.
For those that study the coworking movement, you’ll know that before there were coworking spaces, there were Jelly meet ups. Jelly was started up in NYC and quickly spread throughout the world as people craved what would soon become the coworking movement. These were coworking meet ups at various places around town, usually once per week. Coffee shops, people’s apartments, libraries—anywhere there was wifi and plugs. There were no membership fees and it was very ad hoc. Before you went to a Jelly, you would check out the local Jelly wiki page and see who was going and what they were working on. Often people would share their twitter profiles and a little info about themselves so that folks had an idea of what to expect. Conjunctured was founded by four twenty-somethings that became united through Austin’s Jelly community, Dusty Reagan (founder of Austin Jelly, currently: owner/operator FriendOrFollow), John Erik Metcalf (currently: Director of Business Development at Radius Intelligence), Cesar Torres (currently: Lead Designer at Sidecar), and David Walker (currently: co-owner/operator at Conjunctured).
The above photo is a throwback from 2008. Jelly was amazing. You met new people all the time. It was social. It was fun. It was adventurous. It got you out into the city exploring new places. Many people experienced professional “community” for the first time in a Jelly environment. Once a week coffee shops were overrun with a flashmob of coworkers. It was surreal to experience first hand. As coworking spaces have opened up at a rapid speed, the Jelly movement has pretty much disappeared. Was Jelly simply a stepping stone towards coworking spaces? Why do you need Jelly when you have a coworking space to join? Jelly saved the isolated mobile worker. It helped the independent get out into the world—meet new people all the time and be exposed to an energy of innovation. It was a culture hack. And it was inspiring. A new place, a new experience that everyone looked forward to each week. The ironic thing about coworking spaces, as they became more prevalent, is that they have become just “the new office.” No longer a cultural hack, but becoming more and more a cultural norm. It has become part of the routine. The same people. The same experience. A consistent experience sprinkled with a little new-ness here and there while housed in a community environment with all the convenience of an office. Coworking space communities are notoriously silo’ed off from each other, creating a lack of collaboration and interaction between the very people that desire connectedness. What also got lost, was the excitement of breaking into new ground. Breaking a rule in society—doing something you weren’t supposed to do, but you knew was on the right side of history. It was the revolution of the nomadic worker realizing the power of connection and the innovation that comes with adventure.
To reinvigorate some of the adventure, Conjunctured is launching pop-up coworking as the next evolution of the Jelly movement. We’re partnering up with a handful of Austin’s coolest workplaces that have historically only been open to its employees. (If your workplace is interested in being a venue, sign up at Nomatik. And Independent coworkers can sign up too.) We’re giving our members the opportunity to experience that excitement of the Jelly movement in environments that would not be possible without the mainstream adoption of the coworking ethos. And companies get a chance to get access to some of the most talented independents around to hire for contract gigs. See, companies get it more today, than they did six years ago. It’s no longer a battle of the freelancers versus the full-timer’s. In fact, many companies pay the coworking membership for their employee because they know its a better environment than they could provide. We’re creating a Nomatik Coworking calendar so that members who have the Nomatik Coworking membership can opt-in to work from the inside of companies that never before knew how to open their doors to an outside community. And now, thanks to the adoption of the coworking model, it’s possible. It’s also reimagining how companies hire talent. Why go through an outdated interview process when you can just work side by side with potential collaborators for a week?
It’s a new way for companies to hire independents for projects. It’s a new way for companies to share their mission. It’s a new way for the citizens of a city to step into a new environment in a trailblazing fashion and share their energy with organizations they are fans of, but have yet to have the opportunity to collaborate with, in a meaningful way. It’s a way for talented freelancers who have opted out of corporate America to opt-in to gigs with high paying clients. It’s a way to solve what they’re calling “the Talent Gap.” Also, it’s a way for employees of companies to feel the intangible of being a part of coworking experience.
And it’s an experiment for companies to see what it would be like to have a coworking space inside their corporate campus. If they want a permanent installation, we can do that for them with our Fifth Age Program. To be one of the innovative organizations to opt in to pop-up coworking, let us know nomatik.com/#contact.
Update the Source Code of the Workplace
Between Corporate Coworking, Hotel Coworking, Pop-Up Coworking, among a slew of community initiatives – Conjunctured has its hands quite full. Coworking, like any movement, grows and evolves. Times, they are a’chang’n, as they say. If you would like to participate in Coworking 3.0 – let us know. We’re looking for partners, allies, and a community who gets it. We look at all this as a sort of Open Source Coworking.
All this being said, the little house where Conjunctured started is open for coworking throughout the month of August, with the lease being officially over August 31. If you’re one of the hundreds of community members who still have a key to the house, you’re especially invited to come by. There will be a closing party, details to be announced soon. Stop by and say farewell to the USA’s first coworking house and Texas’ longest running coworking space.
If you would like to show your support in a financial way, please consider sending a few bucks to firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up as a Philanthropist member on Nomatik.com. This will help us close out some final Conjunctured expenses, and will allow us to start fresh into our next evolution. We’re also considering selling the Conjunctured brand to the right individual, especially if we can find some strategic way to grow together: Nomatik + Conjunctured. Contact email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
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Please consider sharing this news to friends and colleagues who are passionate about the coworking movement and the mission to Build a Movement to Create a Better World of Work - Press info here. Drew and David are available for interviews. Also, if you’re a coworking space owner and you’d like to introduce the Coworking Model to large organizations in your city, let’s partner together on the Fifth Age Program.
About Conjunctured & Nomatik Coworking:
Conjunctured is one of the most established coworking spaces in the world. Based in Austin, Texas, we grew out of the epicenter of the innovation economy. Our Nomatik Coworking brand is our way of bringing the community experience and talent of coworking to organizations in the US and throughout the world. Nomatik serves as a “disruptive bypass” (1) that brings together the interests and needs of the growing population of independent professionals with companies prepared to embrace open structures and open innovation.