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Coworking in Washington DC, the Nation’s Capital.

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Coworking in Washington D.C. may sound a bit unnecessary. Don’t all the lobbyists and lawmakers already work in giant blocks of grey concrete on Capital Hill? While you may think of D.C. as a city of politicians, policy wonks and paper-pushers, it is actually home to a surprising number of coworking spaces. What’s more, they are increasingly modern and innovative. Perhaps the city that is home to the most powerful government in the world is learning that it needs an army of freelancers, entrepreneurs and designers to continuously oil the creative gears of the United States’ capital city.

Including the outlying areas of Northern Virginia and Maryland, Washington D.C. ranks 7th on the list of metropolitan areas in the country, although downtown D.C. itself consists only of 68 square miles. In this intricate web of diagonal streets and traffic circles, beautifully designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791, you will find most of the city’s pioneering coworking spaces.

Public transportation is accessible and easy to use, making it simple to visit the city’s abundant parks, monuments and free museums. Though government jobs are the order of the day, it takes countless supporting industries to round out the rest of the economy. The service sector is booming, as tourism is the second largest employer in the area, and entrepreneurs are finding ways to service the growing demands of both the industries and the consumers in this bustling town.

In Northwest D.C., Dupont circle, know for its bars, restaurants and coffeehouses are now home to an interesting concept called Canvas.co. A well-designed space, nestled in a large 6,000 square feet, Canvas.co treats coworking with a serious level of attention and amenities. For a monthly or daily fee you can get 24-hour access, a permanent desk, conference room use and a mailing address.

They pride themselves on inclusion of different types of clientele and on the potential collaboration between them. Posted on the website: “Membership is about being a part of something larger than ourselves. We don't believe in shared office space, incubators or closed doors, we believe in community.” And this being Washington D.C., they host and facilitate events using one of the principles that make the city what it is today; the power of networking.

Another interesting concept in the U.S. capital city is called Affinity Lab. More of a environment for growing businesses than simply a coworking space, Affinity Lab aims to help small businesses and entrepreneurs by providing them with the atmosphere, services and resources to succeed. It is an understated space but they harbor an almost divine belief in the power of their community, as the website clearly states: “Over the last 10 years our community and culture has helped launch over 200 businesses, 83% of which are still in businesses today. That is the power of a collaborative community. We are here because we all want to succeed — and have fun in the process.” 

Affinity Lab offers programs, seminars and other educational opportunities to ensure their workers are getting the most from the space and it’s community. For the entrepreneurial foodie, Affinity Lab is located on the popular U Street Corridor not far from great restaurants, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, famous for fresh and homemade chili they’ve been making since 1958.

Because it serves as the home of U.S. government, Washington D.C. naturally attracts activists and interest groups of all stripes, each trying to improve the life of America’s citizens. So it’s no surprise to find coworking spaces that are focusing on more specific goals for their members.

PunchRock, for example, is a collaborative community for social entrepreneurship. Located in hip Adams Morgan, known mostly for the throngs of young people who move there after college for the culture and nightlife, PunchRock is bridging the gap between social activism, education and innovation. They provide a place for the like-minded to gather, learn, and collaborate. Although they do furnish a traditional coworking space with amenities and the like, the main goal remains to foster the growth of sustainable, community-minded businesses that create a positive social impact. Offering education specifically for practical business skills and allowing access to cost prohibitive technology, such as 3d printers, PunchRock has certainly set itself apart from the pack.

Work District is another innovative entrant into the coworking sector in downtown Washington D.C. that provides the same benefits of collaboration, space sharing and networking but with one important extra component. They will help you crowdfund your business idea. Sure they have the cool, open workspace bedecked with graffiti from local artists and free local coffee, but through a partnership with Crowdfund Capital Advisers, Work District is able to provide physical capital in addition to the emotional and creative capital of the office.

Work District is the first and only coworking space in the country to utilizes such resources, and in addition to the initial help, they can also introduce startups to select venture capital, if they should require it. This unique aspect of the space showcases just how much ingenuity and inventiveness is being developed in today’s coworking sector and how the concepts and offerings are progressing with every passing day.

Among the other new ideas in the growing field of coworking, comes Fosterly. Merging the entrepreneurial aspects of coworking with the social aspects of networking websites, Fosterly has created a one-stop shop of collaboration, innovation and community building.

Their goal is to connect entrepreneurs to others in the community through an online social network, live events and offline coworking spaces. Users can join the Fosterly website and gain instant access to over 2000 other entrepreneurs in Washington D.C. Members get special access to sponsored events, business resources, coworking spaces and more. The idea behind Fosterly is to grow the connectedness of freelancers and other entrepreneurs, which in turn will foster the growth of workspaces, events, and the community as a whole.

With the growing number of spaces and other interesting resources for businesses, Washington D.C. is currently steeped in ingenuity and innovation. So even if politics are not your game, perhaps it’s time to give that idea for a startup it’s due. There are plenty of energetic coworking companies with specific attributes that can help you start that dream business, get you connected with other entrepreneurs or help you find those much-needed funds.

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