About 6 months ago I had the privilege of writing a blog post about one of the tech startups we have at BizDojo, Transfercar. At the time, they had just been selected as the only New Zealand based startup to be accepted for the 500 Startups Accelerator program in California. This meant a 16 week intensive acceleration programme as well as a $100,000 injection into the company. Naturally, we were proud of their accomplishments and wanted to see them keep growing.
While we love our residents and want to see each of them them succeed, it can be a double- edged sword - often growth comes with outgrowth, and the need to find ones own space. It’s a great day - we’re happy for them! But there’s bittersweetness in saying goodbye to someone who’s grown with you for so long. It’s a bit like watching your kids move out of home.
Brian Karlson, Transfercar’s CEO, also lectures about entrepreneurship at Auckland University. In moving through a shared space like ours and having a knowledge base like his, he’s gained a few insights into what a coworking environment can mean for a company, and how it works. He offered these words to me, and therefore to the world (note that the following is paraphrased).
Things have changed in the way entrepreneurship is done. In the new era of business, ideas form, and directors move in a certain direction, following that idea. It can often be unclear exactly what the goals are or how many iterations the idea will take. Hence the need for pivoting, for agility, for leanness, and so on. Often when the idea and the small company based around it kick off, there’s a level of uncertainty and risk involved. Evolution occurs based on the connections you make, the doors people open for you, and an array of other factors. You network, you go to meetups, you exchange ideas and create little contra-based negotiations because you may often lack the funds or the direction to know exactly what the company will look like several years down the line. With this being the case, coworking naturally becomes an ideal scenario. Not only does it offer flexibility, ready-made-infrastructure, no need for a long term contract, and endless coffee, but it creates room for these random interactions that help the company along the way. New people with interesting disciplines allow for lateral thinking, a big pool of problem solvers, and so on. At a curated space like the Dojo, all the support and infrastructure is there - the power, water, internet, all the way through to Angel Investors.
Over time though, the company grows. Perhaps an internal culture is formed. Perhaps there’s a need for more space and a new kind of flexibility - a sort that means the company wants to do as they please rather than fit into an already existing ecosystem. But a big contributing factor is that at this point, the company has become more than an idea. It’s now a big ball of directed momentum. There’s a well rounded vision in sight, and the connections that are made no longer need to be random. Partnerships at this point need to be strategic. The meetings booked in need to have purpose rather than a simple ‘maybe we can help each other out.’ There’s less risk and uncertainty about how things are unfolding and so the actions taken need to be causal, rather than effectual. (in Brian’s words). The company is being less reactive and more active. For Transfercar, it makes more sense to connect with Avis, Jucy, and Budget than with the person sitting next to them designing the front end of a website. Interaction needs to be more intentional.
Brian feels that the company is ready to graduate out of a co-working space in order to create their own space, culture, identity, and active momentum. In his opinion, it makes sense for a company to have a Business Development Manager working in a coworking space once they move into their own office, but that the company shouldn’t rely on a coworking community as its main source of business connections.
Even in terms of their experience with 500 Startups, Brian says that Transfercar were one of the more mature companies in the program. They were willing to evolve and change, but already had a more concrete idea of where they needed to go. It appears that it really is time for the team to move on! They’ve been with BizDojo for several years, and while we’ll certainly miss their team’s presence at the Dojo, we’re excited for what the future holds for a company with such amazing forward momentum.
Good luck Brian, Bonnie, and Pascal - we still expect to see you coming round for a Community Breakfast soon!
Gil is the Community & Communications Coordinator at BizDojo Auckland.