July 12, 2013

Sharing offices works for Maine startups

More than a half-dozen co-working facilities have opened in Greater Portland since January 2011.

By J. Craig Anderson canderson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Fozzie Mahal waits for a game of ball Thursday while J. Sandifer of Portland works for Tide Creative, a software startup, at Think Tank in Portland.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Employees of Cash Star, a Portland-based national company, brainstorm Thursday at Think Tank, a local business that rents office-style work space shared by freelancers and startups.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Still, because they bring together a diverse group of professionals in a relatively open area, collaborative efforts tend to emerge spontaneously, said Elizabeth Trice, co-owner of Peloton Labs, a co-working space in Portland.

Most co-working spaces encourage interaction and collaboration among members by hosting social and networking events, seminars and other activities.

At Peloton Labs, members take a daily afternoon break together, Trice said. She also organizes at least one event per month for the roughly 75 members, such as a guest lecture or mixer.

Trice said she sees herself as a facilitator, not just a landlord. "It's more about hospitality than it is real estate," she said.

Casco Bay Technology Hub, another co-working space in Portland, targets high-tech startups, said manager Dave MacElhiney. It doesn't focus on floating members, he said, because it is set up primarily for those who want a dedicated office or a large, private cubicle.

Since opening in February, Casco Bay Technology Hub has rented out slightly more than half of its 23 offices and cubicles, MacElhiney said. The company charges as little as $350 a month for a dedicated space.

Most co-working spaces double as facilities that can be rented out for events, so owners can supplement their revenue on evenings and weekends, when relatively few members are working.

Casco Bay Technology Hub hosts its own monthly high-tech networking event, called Pub Hub, which is free and open to the public.

One drawback of owning a co-working space is that some members are bound to leave when they get big enough to buy or rent their own offices. MacElhiney said he will wish them well.

"I want them to succeed and move on," he said. 

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: @jcraiganderson 

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