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Coworking spaces: How to succeed thanks to crowdfunding

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More than just collecting cash

Specifying the rewards was one of the most difficult aspects of the campaign to calibrate, the team of HUB Oakland told Deskmag.

They wanted to give precedence to low-income members, and also offer rewards that could involve contributors. As a result, the project offered a large amount of coworking hours and services related to the space. For the most generous donations, rewards included coworking memberships, an intimate dinner with one White House advisor and a CNN contributor, or even a lifetime membership and the opportunity to get involved in the creation of the space.

If it is necessary to target your community, the campaign also has to be widely visible because coworking can offer much more than just collecting cash: it is a powerful promotional tool. It allows for broad project goals, which go beyond the local boundaries.

HUB Oakland has thereby convinced other investors and some partners outside of the campaign to join, while the crowdfunding campaign represented 10% of the total budget dedicated to the project. “People only love success stories and successful projects,” added Konda Mason.

Find success in your first crowdfunding campaign

Pauline Thomas, founder of the Paris based space Laptop, told Deskmag that it was still under construction when she launched her crowdfunding campaign on the European platform Ulule. “I really needed some bookings before opening the space and the campaign allowed for me to make a good promotion of the space. People got interested and actually booked their memberships by backing the project on the platform.” Thus, backers got free time as the coworking space and used the platform as a pre booking system.” Also, goodies such as T-shirts and bags are excellent rewards that promote the space at the same time.

Hitting two birds with one stone, the campaign allowed the project to catch a second wind and fill in the gaps. The project collected around 3,248€ thanks to 51 backers, which was a real surprise for this UX designer, since she initially asked for only 2500€ and it was her first crowdfunding experience. “I could have been more ambitious. If I knew it would work so well. I would have dedicated much more time,” she said.

Thomas found out about Ulule while the company headquarters were located near her place, and also during the time when crowdfunding in France was still in its inception stage. The project had the chance to be liked by the Ulule team and was instantly put on the website’s landing page. The Laptop founder confesses that she doesn’t know all the 51 backers, but the professional network helped to spread the word. “One gave me some successful examples... It allowed me to structure the project and start a marketing approach,” she added.  This experience was so affective for Thomas that the space is now organizing some “crowdfunding nights” to help other entrepreneurs.

Promote the space and the values of coworking

In September 2012, Industry in Charlotte, NC collected 7,800 USD on Kickstarter to fund the design and purchase furniture for their coworking space. Tyler Ford, co-founder of the space, explained how he started a campaign by using regular capital investors in parallel.

“We did not do crowdfunding for our project because we had to have the money necessarily. We thought it would be a relatively easy way to let people partner with us and get the community involved, while at the same time, get the opportunity to raise a bit of money.”

Ford was already familiar with Kickstarter, and explained that one should take advantage of the existing community when running a campaign. “Because our coworking space has already been running for years now, we had the benefit to reach certain people who were already familiar with the idea of coworking.”

Around 80% of Industry’s funds raised during the kickstarter campaign came from the local community, current members and people who already knew the space. They also offered free desk memberships and many members took advantage of that. “You pay a few months in advance through Kickstarter and then you get a free membership in exchange,” said Tyler Ford. One should also note, that because the business model of this space allowed for free memberships to be given out, it became an effective strategy to get new members who will become valued customers over time. 

Finally, if the marketing aspect is considered just as important as the money raised, crowdfunding platforms are also excellent tools to get the coworking movement widely known, by spreading its philosophy and mobilizing existing communities.To all the people still working at home or in coffee shops: take a moment to look at the numerous crowdfunding platforms. Your community already exists and might be right in your city, waiting for you to join. If not, here is a perfect opportunity to start your own!


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