Nearly 50 percent of the US workforce consists of entrepreneurs, remote and digital workers. So it’s no surprise that with the evolution of the workforce, coworking provides an ideal solution where people are not chained to desks, entrepreneurs can connect and collaborate, and companies can grow and scale without long term commitments.
The newness of coworking spaces, however, has posed a challenge: there are very few streamlined systems that allow for: managing members of the spaces, sales, billing, room booking, resources, events and more. Prior to the creation of software like Coworks, all of these tasks had to be manually managed in separate software or in very busy excel spreadsheets.
Coworks founder, DeShawn Brown, and the coworks team, however, saw this issue, and saw a major opportunity. They were able to create a product that streamlined all of these services onto a common dashboard and also provided an app for members to book rooms, manage their billing, connect with other members and more. Coworks launched their service with HQ Raleigh in 2018 and has only grown from there. They were able to test out real time issues with HQ members and staff to learn, iterate, and ultimately roll their product out to more than 20 coworking spaces nationwide.
In 2019, however, their story took another positive turn as they got accepted into the prestigious Techstars program to explore where they can take their product next. TechStars is a well known, 13-week intensive program that immerses start-up in programming to build out their company and gain access to funding and the Techstars mentor network. Coworks was one of only 10 startups selected to participate in the program. We sat down with Deshawn to ask him about his experience with TechStars and the future of Coworks and here is what he had to say:
Why did you apply to be a part of the Techstars program?
We applied to be in Techstars because we knew that our vision and goals for Coworks involved creating impact on a global scale. We wanted a partner, program, investors that shared our vision for creating innovative products at a global scale that have high impact. With the Techstars brand and resources we knew that they would be a great partner to help us on our journey.
What was the most challenging part of the program?
The most challenging part of the program was the intensity. As someone who has been in startups as a CEO for a long time, I’m no stranger to working hard, long hours, but Techstars took the intensity to a new level. We had to move away from our friends/family for 3 months and were immediately thrown in the fire of resources, mentors, customers, while surrounded by 9 other companies that were working equally intensely. After sprinting through mentor madness, working on the business, we then went full blast to prepare for the big stage of demo day and working relentlessly on our pitch.
What was most valuable?
The most valuable part of the program was the connections and exposure. The Techstars brand carries a lot of respect and weight in the startup community. It brings a certain level of credibility and respect with both customers and partners alike. Being exposed to their plethora of resources, and mentors helped us expand our vision and goals as a company to reach for bigger heights and feel that we had the support to get there.
Where is Coworks headed in 2020 and beyond?
Coworks has big visions for 2020. Our first priority is to continue to serve our core coworking customers and make their lives better, but do it on a bigger scale. That means expanding into more markets around the globe (we’re currently in 3 countries) and significantly increasing our market share domestically. We will also be closing our seed round of investment to grow our team locally and expand into other industries. Ultimately our vision for Coworks is to become the best workplace experience software on the market and allow people to seamlessly discover, access, and utilize community oriented, flexible workspace.
What lessons learned from Tech Stars will you be applying to the coworks business model or product?
Our biggest lesson was to think bigger. When we joined Techstars we had a clear vision of our customers and market but after working with their team, we realized our reach was much larger. We’ll be applying the lessons we learned to move quicker, think bigger, and also go beyond the obvious solutions.
Why have you chosen to work out of Raleigh?
It’s such a great time to live and work in Raleigh. Our community is tight-knit, but growing at a solid pace and our entrepreneurial ecosystem is one of the healthiest and most promising in the country. I love Raleigh because we’re truly investing in supporting our entrepreneurs and innovators who want to build wonderful things. Pair that with the unbeatable cost and quality of living and it makes for the perfect place to try to do something as daunting as running a startup.
Why have you chosen to work out of a local coworking space like HQ?
We wouldn’t be here without HQ. HQ brings exactly the type of support, community, and energy that we thrive on in our company. We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the city’s entrepreneurial and innovation offerings and be surrounded by like-minded individuals. HQ provides all of those things. HQ also is part of what inspired us to build our product with Coworks and allowed us to launch our product and grow and iterate with their team. That type of support and involvement is invaluable for a startup like Coworks.