8 Spaces in 31 Days

8 Spaces in 31 Days

When I founded DXZ, our first office was a coworking space. As we've grown, we've relocated spaces and moved to our own offices, but DXZ has stayed the same. Our passion for creating the good, true, and beautiful through design thinking has pushed us to new possibilities in the work we do for our clients. Entering 2015, we wanted to push ourselves further. 

This meant breaking out of the norm and exploring new places and ways to work. Our creative and entrepreneurial community in Dallas is strong, and we wanted to get in the thick of it all.

We decided a tour of coworking spaces in Dallas was in order. We would take the month of December 2014 and visit eight coworking spaces in Dallas, stopping at each one for two days before moving to the next. Our goals are to: meet new people in the Dallas coworking environmentestablish new relationships and partnerships for our workget involved in community and coworking events ("An attitude of 'give before you take'" - Trey Bowles), and kickstart our inspiration and idea building.

We're calling it 8 spaces in 31 days. Follow us on our coworking journey.

What?

  • We are going to work from eight different spaces over the 31 days of December in the Dallas area.

Why? 

  • Meet new dynamic, entrepreneurial people
  • Create new partnerships
  • Highlight the accessibility and value of the coworking community
  • Tease out our own ideas of work and community

Where?

  • We are fortunate enough to get to tour 8 awesome spaces in December:
  • The Grove
  • The Garage
  • The DEC
  • Addison Treehouse
  • Common Desk
  • NōD Coworking
  • The Joule
  • Dallas / Fort Work

- John Backes

On the Third Week of Coworking...

On the Third Week of Coworking...

The Joule Hotel Lobby

There are two blocks of downtown Dallas that immediately transport me to another place. A scene of what Dallas could be in its most urbanist, utopian envisioning. And yet, here it is. A giant eye, inaccessible behind a wrought iron fence, though it draws like a magnet and points the way into one of our community's most organic third spaces - the Joule hotel lobby.

What intrigues me about the Joule is that the space is organic. No events, no mentors, no day-passes or membership fees. There's no wider business model or plan beyond creating a place where creative-class professionals want to be - good coffee, craft beer and cocktails, communal work spaces, lightning-quick internet, creative inspiration, local orientation, global perspective. High ceilings allow a heated phone conversation without worrying about inquiring ears, and a central location means that executives, creatives, college students, technologists, and entrepreneurs all find a common space to congregate.

NŌD

When I think of the word “coworking," I see it as shorthand. It's not really about the work- it's about the context of the work. More than that, it's the complete integration of work, play, and life. 

At NōD Coworking, in far North Dallas, the message is to embrace community and collaboration. The most notable thing as you walk through the door, is the chess and ping-pong tables, an augmented reality installation, a place for kids to learn robotics. The people at nod are not just there to launch a company, they are there because they truly care about technology and creativity, having a progressive, forward-thinking, unjaded eyes wide open world of technological possibility. All with an air that it's not your idea that matters, it's getting your idea done, and the community at Nōd will help you execute.

The conversations at NōD do not center on big launches, fundings, and IPOs, but are inspired by the idea of enhancing life in small but meaningful ways. As we sat at NōD, the founder, Chirag Gupta, was busy at work planning a holiday party not only for NōD, but for the entire Dallas start up community, and all of its other color working spaces. What strikes me about that, is that one would think that he would see these other spaces as competitors. But this relates back to something that I've heard Trey Bowles say about the Dallas entrepreneurial culture – that our culture is based on give before you take.

So each coworking space has its own identity, geography, culture – each space points and leads in a direction, and sets a tone not only for work, but for all of life. The architecture and interior of nod doesn't have the minimalist sensibility of fort work, or the prepared hipster vibe of common desk. It sits in an unassuming office building like so many others in North Dallas. One that I’ve driven past many times, neighboring an insurance agent, travel planner, and staffing agency. There's nothing external to the building that would seem to indicate something special is happening there.

And I think that's what makes nod so unique. Is that it's not about flash, it's about people. Connecting people and enabling their visions and encouraging them to work together in meaningful ways.

THE GARAGE

The tagline of The Garage is "Capital. Collaboration. Coworking." It is the place "Where deals get done," carefully crafted to help and empower entrepreneurs, partnering with them to help them grow their businesses and sell their products.

The Garage was the smallest of the spaces we visited, and it is geared toward work. The interior is reminiscent of many renovated buildings in Deep Ellum - raw brick, unfinished wood. A balanced mix of private and public space. A sense of common purpose, even as everyone there is working on their own projects.

The people of The Garage were friendly and accessible. Michael Gilbert, co-founder of The Garage, has been engaged in Deep Ellum for decades, and waxed of the growth and change of both the neighborhood and the creative, entrepreneurial, and investment communities in Dallas.

The Garage has transitioned away from an open coworking model, and toward incubation - the companies that locate there have full access to industry resources and experience provided by the team. The advisors have a stake in these companies, as The Garage takes a percentage of every company that enters their incubator program.

Speed chess competitions

Speed chess competitions

Winners:

  1. John Backes
  2. Sean Caho
  3. Chirag Gupta

(dis)honorable mention: JR Gramentine

 

On the Second Week of Coworking...

On the Second Week of Coworking...

The Grove

The Grove was our third stop on the tour de Dallas, or more affectionately, “8 spaces in 31 days.” It’s not far from our offices in the Brewery Building in the West End, so we walked there.

The West End is an interesting place. It’s teeming with start-up life and expansion. It also houses some of the oldest and most iconic architecture in Dallas. Housed on 501 Elm Street, The Grove is directly across from Dealey Plaza and the John F Kennedy museum. The Grove is a space built for open coworking and private offices, and features a presentation room, several conference rooms, and booths complete with soundproofing for making phone calls. The Grove sprawls across the entire floor in two major sections - An open hallway breaks the coworking side from the private offices. The exposed brick and wood beams that are common to buildings in the West End give the space a classic feel while the tall glass doors and countless dual-display work stations remind you that this isn't your father's law offices of the 1970s. 

We walked in and were quickly greeted by a Grove "Animator" - a Grove community member who works as a manager. Justin Nygren, one of the founders of the Grove, hustled us over to the coworking side and whispered to us about the WiFi, coffee and private phone booths (really the only things a coworker needs to know about) before quickly surveying the room and returning to the front desk.

The Grove is a community of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Start-ups, research groups, consultants, video production agencies, even a chef. The feeling of community is strong at the Grove, and in the two short days that we spent there, I saw tons of interaction between Grove members and Animators collaborating on a problem or larger project. The Grove helps its members make introductions and connections to the right people for their work and so it caters to both the individual work-horse and the small business. The Grove calls itself "A New Kind of Social Space," and I understand why.

Common Desk

Common Desk was our second stop during the week. The Common Desk is situated in Deep Ellum, off Commerce and Malcom X. It houses over 150 companies and is designed as a coworking and private office space. The Common Desk has a large footprint now, having recently expanded with a new back area that has more bench seating and several private offices. Founder Nick Clark has his roots in real estate but now presides over the recently expanded coworking zone. 

Within the space there is a large area for open coworking and members can roam and work freely at large tables, benches and couches. A second story lines the perimeter of the space and looks over the common desk area. The environment is busy but the modular space design, large desks, and high ceilings make for a conducive work environment where you can really focus and get detailed work done. For members, 24/7 access means that work can get done at any time. 

The space makes available a broad swath of events and get-togethers for its community. Everyone seems to be well connected to each other and very supportive and respectful of each otherThe space is also a frequent host of start-up and community events of Dallas and Deep Ellum and recently hosted Re:Tech, which connects the real estate industry with the start-up community. 

The staff there is friendly and helpful and the industrial sized fridge means there's enough room for your large from Serious Pizza - what more could you ask for in a coworking space?

Treehouse Addison

This week we took a detour. Our original goal had been to visit only spaces in Dallas, including the new Deep Ellum coworking space / incubator Commerce.Lab - but he was not open yet. So we asked our friends at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center if we could visit their space in Addison, Treehouse.

In Startup Communities, Eric Ries says that cities are vital partners in building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but the entrepreneurs must take the lead. This concept is demonstrated in splendid array at Treehouse. The Addison Economic Development group is prominently situated and available - and completely integrated into the Treehouse experience, officing alongside those who are taking big risks and (hopefully) creating big value. The Collide Village accelerator is up and humming, with each member company working shoulder to shoulder.  IBM served lunch and gave a seminar on developing cloud applications.

Like The DEC, Treehouse is designed to get you off the ground. A partnership with the city, accelerator program, corporate relationships, flexible workspaces - it presents a strong model for what the future of work might look like.

On our first day at Treehouse, we set up shop in the kitchen. I always like to be in the center of activity, to meet everyone in the space. One of the things I most appreciate about coworking is meeting people - I met a veteran of the Afghanistan war who advises the president on Middle East policy. He started plugging in to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Dallas and he is whirling with the possibilities.

And I saw old friends - RealTech graduate Daniel Black of Glass Media has staged himself at Treehouse, as he rolls out his solution to regional retailers and real estate owners. I spent some time with Trey Bowles discussing the intersection of real estate and the startup movement. It reminded me that the coworking ecosystem is based on and thrives under connections with like-minded people.

The Community Gave To Me...

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ON THE FIRST WEEK OF COWORKING…

ON THE FIRST WEEK OF COWORKING…

We knew getting back into the Dallas coworking community would be a breath of fresh air. But the injection of life we’ve experienced goes beyond anything we expected.