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.
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 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.