Coworking

Coworking spaces provide entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs with an environment where everyone is working on their own thing, but doing it together.

When you choose to ride the lonely roller coaster of entrepreneurship, coworking can provide a cooperative, fun, and supportive environment. Coworking spaces are
built to energize your work and provide a professional location to host meetings as well.

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International Coworking Day is August 9th.

As you might imagine, working around others naturally leads to more interactions. A good coworking climate offers more than trendy office space. It provides members a sense of community. With so many good people in one place, coworking spaces often become a prime location for a variety of events as well. This allows you to get more involved with less effort required. Whether it’s educational sessions, random conversations throughout the day, impromptu happy hours, or larger community events, coworking connects you to more people who “get it.” The home office or local coffee shop is still great, but joining a coworking community allows you to focus on your work while enjoying a communal experience with more people who share an entrepreneurial spirit.

Incubators

Incubators warm you up until it’s time to hatch.

They are similar to coworking spaces, but incubators often focus on entrepreneurial education. This developmental focus attracts newer entrepreneurs and has incubators most often found in educational environments, with semester or year-long programs. Incubators can also be found outside educational environments. Public incubators may have less rigidity, but there’s still urgency that most entrepreneurs benefit from. The timelines of an incubator are not as compressed as accelerators, but there is usually a beginning and an end to these programs.

This rotational nature of incubators provide a cyclical, yet stabilizing effect within startup communities. Entrepreneurs working through incubator programs become stronger founders eager to stay connected. As founders transition out of an incubator, they add human, intellectual, network, and cultural capital to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their departure also makes room for the next class of entrepreneurs eager to develop a business within the incubator.

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Wondering how your business should evolve? Work around other entrepreneurs.

Another common draw of an incubator, is less expensive office space. Low rent alone attracts early tenants, but here lies the motive for many unhealthy incubators. If an incubator is only about cheap office space, the lack of heart will suck the cool right out. A fixation on cheap rent leads to less interest in helping entrepreneurs. This leaves floundering tenants starving for community. As cultural starvation occurs, entrepreneurs migrate and programs fail.

Incubators must be safe cocoons for less experienced entrepreneurs. They should allow entrepreneurs to repeatedly test, fail, and improve alongside their peers. With a supportive space dedicated to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, incubators allow connected entrepreneurs to hatch fresh ideas ready to fly.

Accelerators

Accelerators are incubators on steroids.

These programs recruit scalable companies that have shown early promise. They coordinate dramatic transformation within a compact timeline.They are like early-stage investment firms, as they provide seed funding in exchange for equity. Accelerators hedge bets by connecting entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, customers, investors, and community allies.

The rise of the accelerator model is interesting. Accelerators help entrepreneurs build stronger companies, but they need money to function. How do they support the financial investments in each company? What about staff salaries, community events, and all the resources they provide? There’s usually an initial fund raised to start these programs. Some accelerators also have financial infusions from sponsoring organizations. With this financial foundation in place, accelerators then depend on the performance of the companies in their portfolio. When a portfolio company is acquired or exits, the accelerator’s equity converts to cash or ownership options in more successful businesses.

As an accelerator’s portfolio performs, its reach widens and the program prospers. This motivates program directors to pick the right companies. It also gives founders the confidence that the experience is built for them to succeed. These complementary relationships are how accelerators make a lasting impact in less time.

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Accelerators vs. Venture Studios vs. Incubators

For entrepreneurs, so much potential makes it easy to fall in love with the idea of being an accelerator-backed company. As business owners consider applying to accelerators, it’s important to understand the terms. When startup accelerators first started in 2005, they were industry agnostic. As this collaboration-based investment strategy has evolved, industry-specific accelerators have also emerged. This means there are more accelerators than ever and not all of them will be the right fit. The educational, networked, and cultural experiences matter. Entrepreneurs must vet accelerators like they would other equity investors. Do terms of the accelerator align with the long-term goals of your company? Will the implied results outweigh an intense time commitment? Even if it’s temporary, will the team be required to relocate? How deep is the network of fellow founders who have worked through the accelerator? Do portfolio companies stay connected? If so, how does that connected landscape support your work beyond the program?

The accelerator experience can be life changing for a startup. Based on a deep understanding of each company, these action-packed programs #GiveFirst and help build on what’s working. They also quickly identify areas for improvement. This empathetic support combined with a shared mission to grow allows accelerators and their portfolio companies to be more successful as everyone collectively builds to go big.

Listen

Listening is louder than it sounds.

Most entrepreneurs like to talk and the more obsessed we are, the more vociferous we seem to get. Idea machines must be willing to share compelling stories, but listening is a key part of any transmission. This may seem obvious, but with precious air time up for grabs and knowing so much about our own interests, listening can devolve into feeling like a required distraction.

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Hearing is passive. Listening is active.

As we guide people through the layers of understanding, active listening forms a bond much faster than forcing yourself to be heard. The fear of not having time to deliver your message will linger, but when we truly tune into what another person is saying, it shows we care. It also helps us better harmonize our thoughts within the moment and counters the common mistake of overloading others with too much numbing details all at once. Knowing each conversation is part of a broader relationship and community-building journey, good listeners are almost always given a chance to make a bigger impact.

Ready for an experiment? The next time you meet someone new, embrace your inner scientist. Set your introverted/extroverted mindset aside and focus your attention on asking as many thoughtful questions as you can. The less you talk, the better. This will feel awkward if you just fire question after question, so be concise with each response, then return to more thoughtful questions for a more natural interaction. Consider expanding this social experiment by purposely doing this throughout an entire networking event. Remember who you talked with and track how the listening-focused conversations evolve. Over time, how do these relationships built on listening, compare to others where you’ve been more outspoken? Here are a few tactics to support your practice.

  • Center your internal attention.
  • Stay engaged with eye contact.
  • Use jarring questions to dodge small talk.
  • Don’t interrupt or jump to conclusions.
  • Occasionally paraphrase what was said.
  • Avoid the urge to make it about you.
  • Ask curious questions to go deeper.
  • Exit gracefully, without a sense of rush.

This type of active listening will extend your ability to hear more, but also make your responses more in-tune with what others are thinking, versus always trying to prove your point. Selflessness may keep a conversation from landing exactly where you want in that moment, but as you move from one topic to the next, you’ll learn how others work. When done well, an unspoken bond forms. This synchronization creates space to explore more directions you’d like to take future conversations, but now with the priceless ingredient of shared enthusiasm.

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Listening within a support network ignites optimism, connection, and motivation. A healthy balance is to also listen to your challenge network, which keeps us intellectually humble and rooted in reality.

Online Event Management

Live event management is a handful. Virtual events should also be well thought out. How can we create a memorable experience when everyone is participating online? Let’s teleport into this topic together.

First, consider what must be accomplished. What cannot be achieved without this time together? Determine how long the virtual experience should last. It’s usually less than you think. Next, line up the right technologies to ensure it fits the needs of your virtual experience. As tech is selected, use security tactics to avoid unwanted distractions. With objectives and logistics in place, it’s time to flesh out the experience.

While our connected era has unlocked the next level of efficiency with these virtual interactions, a drawback to online gatherings is the lack of time before and after a meeting. This means there’s less serendipitous interplay. Stay efficient, but it may be wise to weave in random value through manufactured moments that still feel natural for participants.

As attendees arrive, use your opening remarks to set the tone. Generate cohesion with jolts of genuine energy as any rules of engagement are quickly confirmed. If there’s a meeting agenda, run through that and connect it with meeting goals so attendees know what to expect.

After a welcoming attendees with a concise, energizing, and clarifying introduction, have fun unpacking the primary discussion. Stay on task and try to avoid distractions, but leave time for interactive dialogue. With less open dialogue due to the limitations of a virtual experience, this is one way to create space for those manufactured moments of serendipity. These conversational buffers help to avoid having the loudest voice be the only one that’s heard and invites an inclusive environment with deliberate space for everyone to participate.

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The term “hybrid” is hard to define. There’s value in weaving tech into in-person events so that others are able to virtually feel the experience. There’s also value in keeping things simple so the focus remains on your attendee’s engagement. Experiment with what works for you, but one interesting combination is to go all-in with live events, and then add strategic online events into the mix. This avoids fragmented coordination, eliminates the hollowness of virtual content within an in-person experience, and creates ease for organizers who benefit from both types of environments.

As you bring your online events together, you want interactivity so it’s not talking heads with attendees pretending to listen. Do this by including icebreakers, musical moments, pop-up polls, breakout discussions, scavenger hunts, doodling exercises, physical activities, and scheduled breaks. Encourage note taking and grab screenshots as artifacts to share later. Leave time for questions before wrapping things up.

As you bring things to a close, it’s important everyone feels a sense of accomplishment. If ramblings drag on before the meeting abruptly cuts off, people will leave feeling empty. Keep the virtual energy juicy, review key takeaways, and encourage action to tie a bow on the efficiency of all your online events.