Indy’s Incubator Dream: What is Co-Working?

Indy’s Incubator Dream is a series of articles looking at the rise of co-working spaces and incubators around the country and the world. Economic development, community creation and city growth all await at the end of successful incubator and co-working ventures, but how does Indianapolis get there? [For more on Indy co-working, check out Pattern’s pop up design co-working space, The Bindery!]

If your first thought when hearing the word “incubator” had to do with a chicken and its eggs, don’t worry; you aren’t alone.

Perhaps the phrase “co-working” describes this new working craze better than incubator, but both of these new styles of collaborating are taking off. A challenge to white-collar jobs that corral workers in cubicles, this new style of workspace allows entrepreneurs and independent business people to drop in and out of the space when they see fit. This allows them to have an office when they need it and to bump elbows there with professionals from outside of their line of work, making for a creative space where work and collaboration overlap.

Incubators today have their roots in co-working and co-living spaces that have been around for years. In recent years, though, the industry has seen exponential growth. There were an estimated 1,320 different workspaces globally in 2012. This year, that number has rocketed up to over 2,000 different spaces that bring entrepreneurs under one roof to work and work off each other.

While co-working spaces are usually fairly flexible as far as who can rent space and work within their walls, incubators are a little more goal-oriented. Whereas co-working spaces usually allow anyone who can pay to keep their spot into the building, incubators accept applications and work through a acceptance process. Big name incubators like TechStars and Y-Combinator bring in the talent, work with them to develop their talents and business, and then grow them into full-fledged businesses.

“We aren’t reinventing the wheel, we’re just changing how the wheel is being used in a small market to make it more productive,” Caressa Brown said. She is the founder and CEO of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator, an incubator specifically tuned towards helping models and designers in the fashion industry start their careers.

The list of cities across the United States that have functioning incubators is large and growing larger. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Seattle are some of the bigger names, but even the smaller cities in terms of size can pull together to get an incubator. Cities like Dayton, Toronto and Cleveland all not only have incubators, but ones that are specifically geared towards fashion and design, two disciplines that are specialized (and of special interest to Pattern!)

Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the United States and is largely underrepresented in the incubator and co-working space. Places like the SpeakEasy that focus on space for technology start-ups are paving the way for co-working space and showing that it can be done. The problem moving forward is if Indy is willing to open its doors to other types of industries to join in on the co-working craze.

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