An Interconnected and Open Boston through Resource Sharing

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What if we used every square foot of office space in Boston to bring great things to the world?  We’d be a better, stronger, more productive city, right?

open boston

Boston is an innovation capital. Everyone knows that. The city’s academic institutions incubate new technology, new management strategies and new methods to address problems. Our investors provide the capital to bring that innovation to market. And our highly educated population is the perfect workforce and the perfect testing ground for new ideas and new products.

Boston is also a city with strong fundamental underlying industries, like finance, health care, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. And, thankfully, Boston did not get caught up in the building boom that precipitated the crash in the US housing market in 2008.

All of this adds up to an office market with comparatively low vacancy rates. In March, Boston’s vacancy rate was at about 9.7% - putting the city much closer to Downtown Manhattan (8%) than to the nation as a whole (17%). Such a tight market drives up prices and pushes tenants into longer term leases, both of which hurt emerging companies who can't necessarily afford the downtown prices or the risk of signing a lease.

After 8 years of working in economic development, I can’t help but see a threat to our well-being and an opportunity to make Boston even stronger.

We started OuterSpaces as a very simple concept. Match startups with flexible, short term, affordable space in host companies that are willing to share. Find them a home, collaborative opportunities, and a strong community at Workbar and they will succeed. And so it started: with just two simple Google forms. One for startups looking for space. The other for established companies with a few extra desks that they’d like to rent out.

Almost two years later, OuterSpaces has grown into a full-service matching and marketing service that has found homes for 19 (and counting) small and growing companies all over Boston and Cambridge.

In addition to making it easy for startups and remote employees to find space and for established companies to place tenants in their extra space, OuterSpaces provides its member companies & hosts with access to Workbar’s two coworking locations and all of its member programs and events.

Our Hosts and their member tenants both recognize the value:

Winfield Peterson (whose 3-person startup, Input Factory, makes a polling app for the iPhone called Polar) says, "OuterSpaces gives us the flexibility of coworking but the stability of sharing space with [only] 2-3 other startups. And we have easy access to Workbar's community and events."

On the other side, we try to help the hosts do what they do best: focus on their own work. New Leaf Legal's Jessica Manganello, a long-time OuterSpaces Host, finds that the program does just that: "Between finding us great colleagues to share our space [with] and handling the administration, it has been a load off our minds and frees us up to focus on our business."

As I look at Boston, I see an opportunity to change the face of how we do office space. If we can activate all the leased but unused space that exists here in an inexpensive way, we will provide a new, flexible platform for Boston’s innovators to use to change the world.

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About the Author: Devin Cole is the Director of Special Programming & Outreach and currently spearheads the OuterSpaces initiative at Workbar. Contact him via email devin@workbar.com or Twitter @devincole.