This is the interview guide I've developed to try out at the next coworking space I visit.
Hi! I'm Dillon Carroll. I'm a traveling entrepreneur. I run my startup remotely, and I work with coworking spaces around the world to give workshops on skills for startups- agile methods, lean startup, and digital marketing.
One of my other projects is to write about each coworking space I visit. I try and understand the culture of coworking spaces, and see how the space affects the community and vice versa. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?
For some reason my photos aren't uploading correctly. Bear with me as I try to fix them!
The second coworking space I visited, and the only other well known space in Lima, is called Stars Camp.
I'll preface this article by saying that I didn't spend nearly as much time here as I did at Comunal, which I wrote about in a previous article. I spent three days at Comunal, whereas I got a quick tour at Stars Camp and later only spent a half day working there after trying to set up a workshop.
My overall impression is that Stars Camp has a different community and work environment compared to Comunal. It seems much more familial- which makes sense, as the three cofounders are all older women, and it's located in Lince, which is a more residential part of Lima. Where Comunal tries (and succeeds, in my experience) to be a fun, exciting place to be, Stars Camp's focus is on highlighting the startups in their space and trying to connect them with resources and expertise. The founders of both spaces recognize that they seek to serve somewhat distinct demographics- not to mention they're decently far away from each other in the city- so they have a jovial relationship.
Arriving at Stars Camp meant either taking a taxi, or using one of the buses that runs along Avenue Javier Prado. Though it's on a quieter residential street, it's perhaps a three minute walk from this main throughway. And 2 blocks away there's a supermarket.
Walking inside, you're greeted by the receptionist. The first thing she had me do was read Stars Camp's motto on the wall. Comunal had their tongue-in-cheek rules, and I suppose most any space like this will have a similar motto or credo that attempts to capture the spirit of the community within. I translated part of it below.
Here, dreams matter.
Translator's note- where I used the word begin, the orginal Spanish was "emprende", from the verb emprender. Emprender can literally be the verb form or the act of entrepreneurship, and it's often used more generally as well in the sense of beginning or forging something new. For example, you can say "emprender un camino" which would be to blaze a new trail. We would probably translate "emprende" in the sense of Stars Camp as the verb "to innovate" (entrepreneurship being a noun borrowed from French, we lack the verb form), but as you can see, the credo already uses the verb innovate just before "emprende". As a result, I've chosen to go with the more general meaning of the verb.
Around the corner to the right, there are two rooms of flex space. Remember, this is where the tenant pays a reduced fee to use a common space, where they don't have their own desk- they just grab whatever desk is open. You also often pay for less than a full 40 hour work week.
There's a bulletin board where they highlight and celebrate all the startup and business teams in their space, and on the opposing wall there is a big calendar of upcoming events. So one one side, you have the entrepreneurs climbing the wall to reach the top and become "stars", and on the other all the upcoming community events and resources that can help them get there.
The patio, where tenants can take a break, eat lunch, and relax. You're outdoors, in the sun and fresh air, but you're also still "inside" the coworking space. I think that's why patios and terraces are such great places to relax- you get a change of scenery, you're outdoors where you can be refreshed, but far away from traffic and the noise of the city, but you haven't left the building. Plus in Lima, which has a consistently pleasant temperature year round, you can always use it. I think a coworking or any kind of community space suffers for not having a patio or terrace!
Stars Camp's Zen Room, which is their community living room. Like Comunal, they use it for events. I'm beginning to see a pattern here with the bean bags and big cushions.
Upstairs, you can rent desks and even entire office rooms for your team. There are also several conference rooms of varying sizes that can be rented for meetings.
As a Stars Camp employee showed me around the space, they told me about some of the tenants. Many seemed to be software startups, more so than at Comunal. The recent success they're most proud of is a traffic app that helps drivers navigate through Lima more efficiently that was just beginning to get some traction.
As I said in the article on Comunal, next time I'd like to spend more time talking to the founders and tenants about the space. Regardless, I like that Stars Camp seems committed to the success of the entrepreneurs in its space. As an entrepreneur, I can say that it is appealing to feel surrounded by the resources and support of people who want to see you succeed. It's a cozy space where Comunal is fun and energetic. Which one you might want to work in depends on the type of business you have, your personality, and of course where you're located in Lima.
Until the next coworking space I visit!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
Hello there! I hope you are all preparing for a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. If for whatever reason, you cannot be with either family or friends, I wish you a wonderful solitude that clears your mind and soul.
I would be remiss if, having returned from my trip to Peru, I didn't report on the results of my two principal experiments. In essence, I'm applying the Lean Startup cycle (Hypothesis, Test, Results, Insights) I teach in my workshops to my own life. To recap, I was testing these two hypotheses:
Hypothesis and Outcomes
Hypothesis #1: I can work remotely on my Levate to-dos effectively, efficiently, and without interruption in the amount or quality of work I can do.
Hypothesis #2: I can give entrepreneurship workshops abroad and get paid to do so.
Note that these hypotheses are in the form of yes/no statements. This lack of ambiguity is crucial- if I passed both tests, I wanted the outcome to be very clear (namely, that I would try a longer remote work arrangement in 2015). Likewise, I wanted the outcome to be clear if I failed one or both of the tests- that I would try giving workshops closer to home, or delay future travels until I had a way to work effectively on my startup.
The final question is, how I would decide if I had answered the questions one way or another.
Hypothesis #2: Test and Results
The second hypothesis is pretty clear: I had to earn income from a workshop that I organized and delivered while in Peru.
I'm happy to say that I did, indeed, validate this hypothesis. I gave two workshops while I was in Peru: the first was free, to begin to establish my network of contacts in Peru. This paid off, as it led to the second workshop, which I organized with Comunal Coworking in Barranco District. I did in fact earn income from the 15 entrepreneurs that enrolled in this workshop. I was pretty pleased about this- I validated the hypothesis, earned my first income in months, and developed a method for organizing workshops that I feel confident I could repeat in just about any part of the world. Huge shout-out to my friend Eric Morrow for getting me started on this path and giving me constant guidance!
Hypothesis #1: Test and Results
The first hypothesis is trickier to measure. The metrics I decided to use would be to self-evaluate myself as a remote worker. I'd then compare my results to the evaluation my business partner Ethan gave my performance.
In this case, we agreed that, for the most part, the remote work arrangement went very smoothly. If I did it again, I'd want to get a skype number so that I can take phone calls from my skype account. I might also look into some kind of portable wi-fi solution that runs off of mobile networks.
The issue we both identified was my inability to participate fully in face-to-face meetings. We agreed that calling in would be a decent substitute, but that there are some meetings that are best handled face to face, namely with potential investors. Thankfully, no meetings like this came up while I was in Peru. We both agreed that I would want to be in the OKC area for the beginning of 2014 for this reason, as we'll be spending a goodly portion of our time at the turn of the new year trying to finish out our first investment round.
What I loved about this trip is that it was so unique! I had a chance to be a tourist, and see some amazing parts of Cusco and Lima. I also was able to have the experience of living and working in Lima for 3 weeks, living out of a small backpack.
My first insight is that I really, really enjoyed the whole experience and that I want to do it again! It was the right mix of work, play, and really cool people.
Second, now that I've developed the workshop material in Spanish and practiced my delivery, I can give the same workshop all across Latin America and Spain. Each new workshop will take less time to set up, as the materials will already be developed, I'll get better at delivering it in Spanish, and I'll have more contacts which will facilitate setting up workshops more easily.
Speaking of which, I'm fairly certain I could ask my new contacts in Peru to introduce me to their colleagues in coworking spaces across Latin America. I have a leg up in setting up workshops in other parts of the continent, especially in Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay.
Have a Merry Christmas!
I hope to post a write-up about my family's adventures on the Inca Trail soon, so that you can see the other side of the work/play equation while I was in Peru!
Light kindles light,
Dillon Dakota Carroll
Comunal Coworking is the first of my series on coworking spaces. It lies in the Barranco District of Lima, which is the hip part of town according to my sources.
I spent three days working from Comunal as I prepared for the Lean Startup workshop I gave there. Overall, I'll say that I enjoyed my time there. It's a bright, fun, and energetic space, and everyone I met there seemed like great people.
Ernesto, one of the three founders of Comunal, told me that the coworking space was born when the three of them realized that there wasn't a single coworking space available in Lima. At some point they visited some of the more famous coworking spaces in the United States to get an idea of how they could craft their own in Lima. They launched about the same time the other big coworking space in Lima launched, Stars Camp. I'll be writing about Stars Camp in another post.
Let's take a look at the individual components of Comunal.
I must say I was quite impressed by Comunal. It feels cool, modern, and unique. There's a clean yellow, black and white aesthetic in the interior design and in the logo. When you walk in you see the reception desk and a small meeting room.
To the right, there's two stories of "flex space". More on that below.
There are typically two membership plans in a coworking space, from what I understand. You can pay a higher monthly sum to have your own desk (about $320 at Comunal), where you can leave your things and you know you can always come work any day and that desk will be yours. Or, you can pay a lower amount to use the flex space, where you don't have a set desk and you just grab a space that's open. These plans are more flexible too in that you can buy a part time membership, say, 20 hours a week, which saves money if you know you're not going to be there all the time. In Comunal's case, they offer 15 hours of flex space per week for $60. I imagine flex plans are good for the coworking spaces as well because they can capture a wider variety of customers.
I like how there are a lot of nooks and crannies in Comunal's flex space, along with a couple big desks.
Here you can see that they're in the process of remodeling the upstairs part of the flex space.
From the front door, if you proceed straight back you'll run into, in order, 1) stairs to more office space, with tenants that pay to have their own desks:
2) the community kitchen. Comunal provides soda, coffee, and beer as part of the membership package.
and 3) the community living room and outdoor patio.
I gave my workshop in this living area. I love this space, even if it wasn't the most practical arrangement for what I was doing. It's hard to get up and squeeze past everyone else, and not the best for breakout sessions and taking notes. The advantage is that about 18 people can fit in the stadium style seating. And who doesn't like bean bags?
The "rules" painted on the wall are worth translating:
In Comunal it is prohibited to:
That takes care of the main part of the coworking space.
Comunal is even bigger than this, though. They have several of the top floors in the same building that they rent out to larger groups. For example, there's an entire office for about 20 people rented out to a marketing firm that's doing consulting work for Coca-Cola in Peru.
I get the feeling that Comunal doesn't host a lot of events, because the staff member I worked with to organize my workshop told me that they were only just beginning to make regular programming a priority. At least my event was timely if nothing else!
And what of the people of Comunal? Here is where I wish I could have spent more time meeting tenants and learning about them and their business. Still, from the people I did meet, there was quite a variety, all very friendly.
This kind of variety is one of the cool parts of a coworking space: you find people from all over the world, in all kinds of fields.
Next time I visit a coworking space, I want to really achieve a greater knowledge of how the tenants and founders use and view the space. Still, I'm very happy about my time at Comunal. From what I've seen, the community lives up to the happy-go-lucky rules they've codified on their walls. Everyone I saw working there was enjoying themselves, and didn't hesitate to say hi and smile. Successfully capturing the essence of coworking is paying off: they're at 90% occupancy (in the absence of other data I'll assume that's very good for a coworking space) and are looking at creating branches all across Lima.
It's hard to draw too many conclusions, as this is one of the first coworking spaces I've ever been in. But for what it's worth, I'd happily return to Comunal and work there!
Stay tuned for an article on the other major coworking space in Lima, Stars Camp!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much