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How Austin caught the coworking bug

Space 12 in Austin, Texas. The city has a surprisingly high number of coworking spaces for its size since it only belongs to the 35th-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. (Picture: Clay Spinuzzi)

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Austin, Texas, is a city of 780,000 people (and a further 900,000 in its surrounding suburbs), and has already eight coworking spaces. Other cities of a comparable size come nowhere near that level of coworking space saturation. How is it that the capital and fourth biggest city of Texas has become a hub of independent worker collaboration?

 

Austin Coworking Profile

Number of Coworking spaces: 8

Average Desk Prices:

Flexible desk, office hours: US$ 217

Desk for one day: US$ 24

 

The city’s eight coworking spaces span the scope of style and cost. At Space 12, a community-run meeting venue, you can work for as little as a donation. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can drop in to the highly professional Link Coworking, which resembles an airport business lounge, for $250 a month. Soma Vida offers an interesting mix of yoga and work and Conjunctured opened as the first coworking space in Austin three years ago. Perch Coworking, one of the latest spaces, started in East Austin in fall 2010.

Martin Barrera from Brainstorm Coworking, a mid-priced office in central east Austin, says the high number of independent workers in the city help to drive demand for coworking spaces: “I think coworking fits Austin’s entrepreneurial and freelance personality very well. We are casual and social, yet creative and talented, and very effective with minimalist resources,” Barrera says.

The expert on Austin coworking is Clay Spinuzzi, associate professor at the University of Texas. He has been researching and writing about coworking for several years. According to Spinuzzi, a variety of factors feed into Austin’s coworking boom.

“Austin has an insanely high median education level,” he says, “We have a lot of knowledge workers here. That’s partly because of our universities and colleges, partly because of our industries, partly because we’re the state capitol.”

‘Knowledge workers’ is Spinuzzi’s polite way of saying that Austin is a city of nerds and hackers. The city’s known soft liberal leanings large, university population (one in seven residents is a student) and technology connections draw young independent workers from all over the country. It is home the Dell computer corporation, as well as regional headquarters for a dozen other large technology companies such as Apple, IBM, Ebay and Facebook, which creates a trail of supporting industries.

Most music fans know Austin as the location of the South by Southwest music conference, at which many up-and-coming bands get their big break. SXSW, as it is known, has diversified to include an emerging technology conference, and at the 2010 event coworking was a hot topic for discussion. So hot, that there has been an extra conference about coworking just right before the SXSW 2011 had started.

 

Find all coworking spaces in Austin on Deskwanted.

 

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More city profiles on coworking:

Coworking in Berlin, Germany

Coworking in London, United Kingdom

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