Coworking spaces get serious about curation

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The number of freelancers is on the rise with estimates of their eventual numbers ranging from more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020 to 1.3 billion worldwide by 2015. All of these mobile workers obviously have to set up shop somewhere. Luckily, the coworking movement is growing at a breezy pace as well, but will supply of workplaces keep pace with demand so that finding a space remains relatively straightforward?

Not exactly, if a recent report on NPR is to be believed. The story by Kaomi Goetz for Morning Edition looks at the evolving coworking movement and suggests some spaces are getting far pickier about who they admit as members. “More companies are adopting a selective approach known as ‘curated coworking,'” says Goetz, offering Grind in New York as an example.

Joining the space is no simple matter of filling out a brief form and handing over your credit card. “If you write two words and two sentences [on your application], you’re probably not going to hear from me. But if you write two pages about why you want to work at Grind, I will bring you in for an interview,”explains Benjamin Dyett, a Grind co-founder who Goetz describes as the “company’s chief gatekeeper.”

But getting past the coworking velvet rope isn’t a matter of coolness or what you have to contribute to the networking pool, Dyett insists, but serves a nobler purpose. “None of it is to be elitist and exclusive. It is to create a strong, cohesive community,” he told Goetz. Whatever the exact reason for the somewhat arduous selection process, it’s not turning off potential members – the space has a waiting list of 100. Meanwhile, Loosecubes‘ Campbell McKellar says the app also vets potential members for fit, likening the process to dating. “There could be 10 men in Brooklyn that have brown hair that are in my age range, but I really would only like one, for reasons that are very hard to describe. It’s about chemistry,” McKellar says.

So what does the changing process for seeking admission to spaces say about the coworking movement? In one way it’s good news as it shows spaces are maturing and making money, and are able to turn away potential paying customers. Others might object that the practice is leading the movement away from its communitarian roots by creating a cool kids club, indicating a scene that’s left its heady early days and moved into a more mature, less idealistic (perhaps less fun) phase.

How does this more intense vetting of potential coworking space members strike you? 

Image courtesy of Flickr user JeffMaysh.

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