AUSTIN — While masses crammed the South by SouthwestInteractive tech show over the weekend, a spacious home on the east side of town housed a thriving new techie trend.

"Co-working" businesses, like Conjunctured here, offer homey environs for people to work, brainstorm and drink as much free coffee as they like. Conjunctured's 22 members pay a monthly fee of$250.

The concept is not new. Such facilities surfaced acouple years ago, but they are thriving because the economy has forced companies and non-profits to use them as a practical way to save money. They are especially appealing to one-person businesses, which grew 8% in2008, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Small Business Administration.

Despite a rise in vacancies, office rentals remain pricey, at $27.80 per square foot nationally, says Reis, a New York firm that tracks commercial property.Co-working services are sprouting in Austin, San Francisco, Boston and New York. There's even a business district in Paris that is a hub to such spots. There are dozens of such businesses popping up in the U.S., says David Walker, co-founder of Conjunctured.

"Who can afford office space?" says Natalie Petouhoff, an analyst at Forrester Research.Satellite offices, she says, have displaced coffee houses, bookstores and libraries to study or work.

Where: Meet, Mix, Mogul, an open-loft space in Los Angeles run by Danielle Nicoli, has become a fashionable destinationfor writers, start-ups, sales people and non-profits. It's also home toa weekly cooking class. Customers can pay monthly or per use.

"It's a new thing for entrepreneurs," says Nicoli, who noted several co-working businesses are coming to Los Angeles. "It signals a socialized and economic shift in how people do work."

Many freelancers need nothing more than a Wi-Fi connection, but some independent contractors or people who work remotelywant to bounce their ideas off others. A new study of 3,600 telecommuters commissioned by Microsoft revealed their No. 1 complaint was lack of face-to-face interaction.

"Our biggest selling point is as a community," says Daria Siegel, director of Hive at 55 in New York. Since it opened in December, more than 50 people have become regular members.

Graphic designer Brad Istre has collaborated on several website projects with people he's met as a member of Conjunctured. Another half-dozen places are about to open in Austin.

Cool Press Release from the Daily Journal of Commerce: 


By MARC STILES Real Estate Editor,

Last summer two Seattle entrepreneurs launched an online company called eVenues that helps landlords generate at least some income from their empty space.

It is built around the concept of co-working. Here's how an eVenues' press release defines it: "a global movement of... remote work communities that allow professionals to come together to share their independent work experiences." The company connects landlords and prospective tenants who want short-term space, as in by the hour or day.

The company operates now in 56 cities across the country, offering what it says is one of the only online platforms for finding and booking co-working, meeting and event space. Spaces range from a loft for two workers in Chicago - yours for $5 an hour or $20 for the day - to a San Francisco conference room that goes for $119 an hour or $700 a day.

It's free to list properties. If they're rented, eVenues takes a 13 percent cut.

Co-founders Nic Peterson and David Jennings initially wanted to go national. Now, Peterson says, they're taking a step back. "We want to focus on our home town, Seattle, and hone the model before branching out."

They have a handful of venues locally, including Meadow Creek Professional Center in Issaquah, where customers can rent a four-person office by the hour for $10 and a boardroom for $30.

The goal is to go from eight to 100 venues here in the next couple of months. The challenge, according to Peterson, is finding fully equipped offices.

"The way eVenues works is we provide furnished rentals... Who pays for furnishing it? We are in the midst of talking and trying to trouble shoot that," he says. "It's a huge opportunity" for commercial office space owners.



Last night I saw a commercial by Priceline that made total sense to our business and industry. The concept is that your unused space is a perishable item and leaving it empty is not helping with your overall bottom line. Fact is that by pricing your venue to move, you'll immediately contribute to creating an additional source of revenue that can help pay administration costs and add substatially to your bottom line.

Always remember, a few $$ is much better than no $$.