Co-working Works in Waterdown
Written By: Julia Lovett-Squires
Co-working is not a new idea. Working together and collaborating has been around since the Silicon Valley days, when people would meet on the street or in coffee shops and develop unique ideas or tackle a problem from various perspectives. That idea just got a new name and now Waterdown is part of the collaborative scene.
“Hamilton is at a very, very interesting point in development,” said Rob McCann, president of Clearcable Networks (a company that builds broadband for smaller providers) and Hamilton Technology Centre (HTC).
He explained that the city, once a hub for manufacturing and steel, is now shifting to an arts and technology-based community.
“The city is really uniquely located because it’s in a place where there’s lots of population within a 500-mile radius, there is an international airport and international seaport, the vertex of the highways and [it is] really well-connected,” he said.
Founded in 1993, HTC became a place where companies could come together and inspire each other through innovation.
“When we arrived here, we found there were lots of like-minded innovative companies. We’re at a fantastic location, it’s very well-connected on fibre but perhaps that it wasn’t as successful as it could’ve been,” he said.
As a result, when the City of Hamilton was looking to create better value for the properties that they own, McCann saw an opening and Clearcable purchased the centre and now operates it.
“I thought this would be a great place for us to develop our vision for economic development and to be able to contribute to the local digital economy and grow my entrepreneurial experience.”
HTC is located on Innovation Drive in Waterdown and houses around 15 companies that share space and collaborate together and welcome new companies to the building who wish to innovate.
At the Idea Room on Hamilton Street North, Tyrone Matheson, who co-founded the space with his sister Talisha, said the plan was to offer a smaller, intimate space for a group of entrepreneurs to come together and grow through the exchange of ideas and synergies.
“As a consultant, I’m always looking for ways to collaborate with different people and when you go to the coffee shop, everyone seems to be working around doing their own thing,” he said, noting that if he could connect people, the businesses would grow faster.
“Why not create an environment where you can get like-minded individuals talking to each other and collaborating and sharing?” Matheson added, noting the co-working space opened earlier this year.
Co-working is a business model that is seemingly becoming the way of the future. It offers entrepreneurs, freelance workers and small businesses the chance to grow their companies and give them an office space without having to worry about high rental fees or long-term contracts. They also get to become part of a community and feed off of creative discussions and ideas that they normally wouldn’t be able to achieve on their own.
According to Forbes, by the end of 2017, 1.5 million people worldwide will be working in a shared space. Every shared space has a different business model. For HTC, it is based on rent, while the Idea Room is a membership-based model.
Matheson explained a lot of the co-working (the term entered the social conscience about 12 years ago) spaces are large warehouse-type locations with room for hundreds of people, and that isn’t the environment he wanted to create.
“This is 1,500 square feet, you limit the number of members based on maybe the industries that they’re in or the discipline that they’re focused on,” he said of the 30-business limit space.
Meanwhile McCann said that though Clearcable has always had a tight connection to the technology industry, they now want to achieve cross industry co-operation at HTC. Some people at the centre are working on steel testing while others may work on printing on cans and bottles.
“Even though these innovations aren’t necessarily tech, like in computer or ICT tech, they’re still innovations and I think that those entrepreneurs have a lot to contribute to each other,” he said.
“That’s really what this is about — getting a different perspective and different ideas from people who aren’t necessarily competing with you so that you’re able to all succeed together.”
At the Idea Room, their membership comes in three tiers: $50, $100 or $225 a month and includes access to space, a desk, boardroom, private meeting room and copier, although the boardroom and private room can be rented separately. Matheson explained that outside clubs such as Rotary use the space on a regular basis, as do junior innovators.
“It’s a real mixture; it’s not just the coworkers that are here, there’s other groups that are using the space to facilitate their business,” he said, noting that the businesses using the space is diverse.
McCann said that as far as he’s concerned, the co-working model doesn’t have any drawbacks and there is plenty of space at HTC for people if they would like to grow and expand their various enterprises.
“It’s really about building the community and the trust among the community. You know one of the things that we’ve implemented right away to try to make sure that everybody is familiar with each other is what we call ‘First Thursdays,’” he said, noting that once a month, they get a professional from the industry come in to talk to the tenants along with the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce members.
“That’s really to promote that level of trust, or at least communication,” he added.
According to Matheson, because the initiative is new, they are feeling out the hours of availability and at the moment are sticking with usual business hours of 9 to 5, unless the member is in the third tier. However, he said that it was subject to change if they receive feedback stating that the members need more time. Right now, however, they want to help people connect.
“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re at, we all have ideas and we can all bring something different to the table when we’re taking to someone,” he said.
“We’re giving people an opportunity to come to a place and work and talk.”.