Posted on April 20, 2018 by staff

What are the co-working options for start-ups?


The Federation, Manchester

Offers: Flexible desk space

Cost: From £95+VAT/month

Suits: Ethical digital companies

The Federation is a co-working community set up by the Co-op for innovative companies with a focus on social responsibility and ethical values.

Based over two floors in the redeveloped Federation House in the heart of Manchester, it offers flexible desk space and private offices as well as event space and access to the Co-op support network.

Forward-thinking firms based on the other floors of Federation House include Equal Experts, ThoughtWorks, Northcoders and Big Lottery Fund, as well as the Co-op’s digital team.

“The Federation is a cornerstone in the creation of a movement for social change and economic responsibility,” says Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-op Group.

“From the outset we decided that we wanted to share this building with others, creating a physical space for responsible digital innovation, where good practice is shared and celebrated, and where digital pioneers can learn from each other.”

There are plans in place to build a user research lab called Fed Lab where businesses can take product prototypes to be trialled and tested.

Technology engagement director Emer Coleman says: “You’ve got a lot of bad behaviour in technology.

“Establishing companies as cooperatives – rather than the Silicon Valley model where venture capitalists pop in, exit and four people benefit from that – can drive us towards a more equitable and sustainable economy.”

WeWork, London/Manchester

Offers: Hotdesking, dedicated desks and private offices

Cost: From £238/month

Suits: Corporates, SMEs and start-ups

WeWork provides working space and services to over 175,000 members in 64 cities around the world. The rapidly expanding business has 32 locations across London as well as two spaces in Manchester, including an impressive fit-out at No 1 Spinningfields in the financial district.

“We don’t consider ourselves a co-working space – we’re really a platform for creators. Fifty per cent of our members have done business together and more than 70 per cent have collaborated in some way,” says Leni Zneimer, general manager for WeWork UK & Ireland.

“Our community managers make it their business to know each and every member and make relevant connections for them, almost like business matchmaking.

“Our members are also able to use international WeWork locations when they travel, take part in any event happening across the buildings and stay connected via the member’s network.”

WeWork’s members include large enterprises such as HSBC and growing companies like Brandfuel to freelance creatives such as artists, designers, writers and app developers.

Zneimer says that a collaborative environment works best with such a mix – and as a result, WeWork suits all sectors.

She adds: “Start-ups are able to benefit from corporates’ expertise, while corporates benefit from being surrounded by an innovative environment which leads to greater creativity and new ideas.

“There has been a macro shift toward a new way of working in which entrepreneurs and small businesses ditch the traditional ‘9 to 5’ grind in favour of a more flexible approach.”

The Landing, Salford

Offers: Hostdesking and private offices

Cost: From £199/month

Suits: Cutting-edge tech start-ups

Based in the media and creative development MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, The Landing is a space dedicated to growing early-stage tech businesses.

With a focus on creating a collaborative environment to test and build ideas and businesses, it hosts a Maker Lab full of 3D printers, a laser cutter, vinyl cutter and soldering equipment as well as a full-time technician – enabling the rapid prototyping of physical products on-site. There is also a cutting-edge UX lab in which products can be tested in a model living room or office.

The key sectors it supports are health, education, government, music and virtual and augmented reality, although there are exceptions. It also has a comprehensive programme of events designed to support and promote the 118 businesses and 560 people it is currently helping to grow.

Commercial director Paul Billington says start-ups should not necessarily be tempted to go with the cheapest option when it comes to choosing co-working space.

“It’s a crowded space and certain operators tempt start-ups with ‘deals’ that are focused on filling office space, not supporting growth and fuelling their opportunities short- and long-term,” he says.

“In the tech start-up world, office space is a by-product of the support for the entrepreneurs.  Anyone starting up in tech should avoid ‘landlords’ and look for a partner.”

The Sharp Project, Manchester

Offers: Shared workspace and private offices

Cost: From £60/week for a private office

Suits: Start-ups and SMEs in creative digital sector

The Sharp Project has a range of private offices of various sizes, many of which are housed in shipping containers, as well as an open-plan shared ‘Campus’ area and production studios for green screen and content creation.

Its community of more than 60 businesses collaborate closely: Sean Murphy, owner of courtroom tech firm Evidential, told BusinessCloud last year that it has enabled him to tap into a rich vein of innovation. Other tenants include Brown Bag Films, JD Sports Studio and AppLearn, while Northcoders (SEE PAGE 36-37) began life there before moving to The Federation to facilitate expansion.

“Seeing businesses such as Degree 53 and Northcoders start out here then outgrow the space and move onto bigger premises has shown the positive benefits of co-working and we’re hugely proud of that. It’s why The Sharp Project was built,” says commercial director Rob Page.

“The office space market in Manchester is getting very congested and this can be a challenge for tech start-ups: picking the right environment to enable your businesses to develop is hugely important.

“Having an established network of like-minded entrepreneurs and creatives that will support a start-ups takes time to develop – and not all co-working spaces can offer that.”

XYZ/Old Granada Studios, Manchester

Offers: Hotdesking and dedicated/booth/studio desks

Cost: From £150+VAT/month (XYZ) and £100/month (OGS Works)

Suits: FinTech and other progressive firms

The XYZ Building was opened by developer Allied London last year in the heart of Manchester’s financial district.

The co-working development has an area dedicated to FinTech – The Vault – and is used by tech-enabled firms from a wide variety of sectors including recruitment, media, cyber security, insurance, fashion, food and digital marketing.

There is a dedicated event space, while XYZ claims to give its members valuable connections to a thriving business community. It also has links to Allied London’s nearby OGS Works, situated on the Old Granada Studios site where Peaky Blinders and Snatch were filmed, giving members access to editing suites and recording studios.

“There is a focus on businesses with a culture of positive progress and which embrace technology for this,” says Chris Reay, Spinningfields estate director for Allied London.

“Corporates are now taking desks in co-work spaces: co-working is meeting the demand from tech-driven businesses who require flexible commitments through service-led space.

“Tech is fundamentally changing the way businesses operate – how products are produced, operated, managed, marketed, sold and delivered – and is therefore disrupting traditional models in all sectors. It is also giving new companies access to market and the ability to scale up like never before.”

OGS Works also has dedicated events space available to its members while another far larger co-working space will open in Allied London’s Enterprise City in 2018, the Bonded Warehouse.

Bruntwood, Manchester/Liverpool/Leeds/Birmingham

Offers: Hotdesking, dedicated desks and private offices

Cost: From £100/month

Suits: Start-ups, SMEs and freelancers

Start-ups with connections around the North and Midlands may want to look at Bruntwood’s serviced offices.

The property company has four locations across Manchester – including Neo, the state-of-the-art tech-enabled building which opened last year – as well as The Plaza in Liverpool, Cornwall Buildings in Birmingham and Platform, a tech incubator in the renovated City House building situated next to Leeds train station.

Clients taking up dedicated desk space in one building can hotdesk in any of the other buildings while there is also the chance to use ‘virtual offices’.

“Co-working has been part of our offer for a number of years and we have been expanding as it has grown in popularity,” said chief commercial officer Phil Kemp.

“The world of work is changing and flexibility is key to co-working because of the collaboration it enables.

“It’s aimed at all our businesses but it is particularly appealing to start-ups, freelancers and small firms because of ease of access, short-team leases and flexible pricing.”

As well as the obvious networking benefits, Kemp says working alongside others can have a positive impact on health.

“Working alone can be isolating and have a negative impact on mental wellbeing,” he says. “In a co-working space you are surrounded by like-minded people, which will help you feel energised.

“Our co-working space offers a wide range of value-added customer benefits such as events and wellness programmes.”

The Colony and Colony II, Manchester

Offers: Day passes, hotdesking, dedicated desks and private offices

Cost: £20+VAT for a day pass; from £200+VAT/month

Suits: Start-ups, SMEs and freelancers

Nestled just outside Manchester’s Northern Quarter in Ancoats is The Colony, a stylish co-working space which embraces the building’s cotton industry heritage.

The Colony opened last year and is run by Alex Campbell and Aaron Ezair, who designed the interior themselves – swinging pod chairs and all – despite having no experience in fit-outs.

“Myself and Aaron are both born-and-bred Mancunians and understand the city’s culture,” he explains.

“We have a strapline ‘Thinkers Doers Creators, 24/7’ which we kept in mind even before we started designing the space.”

The Colony is host to a number of freelance creatives including Mark Johnes, a musician and UX designer. He performed his viral YouTube hit ‘Good Citizen’ for us recently – check out our YouTube channel.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from the digital and creative industry. We also have a diverse community of many types of businesses which reap the benefits of being in the same space,” says Campbell.

“It’s amazing that you can now run a business entirely from a laptop. Without that, co-working spaces of this nature wouldn’t exist in the same way.”

The duo is due to open a second and larger co-working space, Colony II, in the Piccadilly area of Manchester in early summer 2018 which tenants will have access to. That location will be convenient for the city’s main train station.

Baltic Creative, Liverpool

Offers: Hotdesking, dedicated desks and workshop facilities

Cost: From £100/month

Suits: Start-ups, SMEs and freelancers

Once a workshop and warehouse district handling global trade from Liverpool’s docks during the 18th and 19th Centuries, Liverpool’s regenerated Baltic Triangle is fast becoming a popular destination for the creative industry.

Baltic Creative CIC was set up specifically to support creative and digital industries. It is now home to a variety of innovate businesses and includes the popular co-working space Basecamp.

“We’ve seen a number of successful businesses grow from starting out at a single desk space in Basecamp, namely Living Lens and Damibu – two thriving tech businesses which now employ 8–15 members of staff,” says Mark Lawler, managing director at Baltic Creative CIC.

“We actively seek to engage with various funding programmes and platforms such as The Local Growth Hub, Tech North and Santander. We also run a carefully curated events programme where we aim to respond to our tenants and their business development needs.”

Baltic Creative’s community interest company status ensures all its profits are reinvested into its buildings, tenants and the sector itself.

Lawler adds: “Anyone can benefit from the co-working environment. It’s a way of working that can be valuable to individuals and entrepreneurs working in any field – not just creative tech.”

Innovation Birmingham Campus, Birmingham

Offers: Flexible desk space and private offices

Cost: From £118/month

Suits: Start-ups and SMEsWith a community of more than 160 start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs, Innovation Birmingham is the UK’s largest campus for digital businesses outside London.Residents can gain access to investors and commercial networks. Start-ups based at the campus have raised more than £13.3m in start-up funding to date.

Innovation Birmingham also has links to the five universities in the region as well as a selection of on-site corporate partners including Barclays (Eagle Labs), Tata Motors, London Midland, Transport for West Midlands and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network.

“Corporations across various industries have taken up spaces in our facility to get closer to the innovators,” says Cliff Dennett, head of business development.

“Co-working has been particularly adopted by tech community; however, the largest growth in the area comes from traditional corporates looking for more flexible working space and ways to access tech talent.

“Our terms are extremely flexible, allowing entrepreneurs and start-ups to take up a co-working package with no ties, move around the campus, and utilise our three different co-working areas.

“Our programme of over 140 annual events ensures that the connections are maintained internally on campus and externally with the developments in the industry.”

Mindspace, London

Offers: Hotdesking, dedicated desks and private offices

Cost: From £250/month

Suits: Start-ups and SMEs

Mindspace has opened London co-working spaces in Whitechapel and Shoreditch as the market evolves to embrace some of the world’s biggest corporations.

With locations in San Francisco, Washington DC, Germany, Israel and Poland, Midspace recently signed the second largest deal in co-working history with Microsoft for space in Tel Aviv.

It is now expecting corporate enterprises in London to join the revolution of co-working alongside start-ups and freelancers.

“Co-working is evolving as an industry – it’s not about open space for techies and freelancers anymore,” says Oded Israeli, VP marketing at Mindspace.

“We have the world’s leading brands and some well-funded start-ups locating entire departments and large teams at Mindspace.

“What started as a solution for entrepreneurs who wanted a place to work outside their homes and away from coffee shops has become a working model that is changing the office market.

“The new era of co-working also fits the needs of large companies across all sectors, and global enterprises that want their teams to think ‘outside the box.’

“A growing number of enterprises are moving their innovation and product teams to Mindspace’s offices around the world and other large co-working providers. This shift is increasing the size of the pie and also the co-working market’s stability.”

Members have access to any Mindspace office 24/7 and can also benefit from discounts to services from the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft as well as local restaurants, car rentals, hotels, gyms and spas.

Ziferblat, Manchester/Salford/Liverpool

Offers: Hotdesking, meeting rooms

Cost: 8p-per-minute or £149/month

Suits: Start-ups and freelancers

A rather different co-working environment can be found at Ziferblat on Edge Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Customers pay 8p a minute to use the sitting room-style space, which comes with free unlimited tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits and snacks plus access to Wi-Fi and newspapers.

Charging stops after four hours, capping the daily rate at £19.20, while businesses such as two-man web design agency Bamboo Digital have even set up shop there for a reduced monthly rate.

A further venue was opened in the tech-focused Tomorrow building at MediaCityUK in Salford last year while there is also a Ziferblat in St Paul’s Square in Liverpool as well as in several locations across Eastern Europe.

“Compared with other co-working spaces, we’ve got a far greater churn of people coming through here,” says Ben Davies, head of marketing at Ziferblat UK & Ireland.

“A lot of people use it as an alternative to a cafe which has more couches and nooks for people to sit and have a private meeting in.”

Davies says that a lot of tech businesses use Ziferblat as well as freelancers such as ethical hackers, videographers, digital marketers and translators. Many of these collaborate to share skills.

“We also have meeting rooms which are hired out to much bigger businesses: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, the NHS, John Lewis and the BBC are among those who use us,” he adds.

“Large companies with a more progressive remote working policy have been looking to use us: BUPA send their people here when they don’t need them in the office, for example.

“It’s a more attractive proposition than booking a meeting room: it’s nice working when they are other people pottering around.”

Ziferblat is hoping to expand to Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham and Cardiff in the future.

ONE TO WATCH: FastForward, Manchester

A new 30,000 sq ft incubator space is planned for the newly expanded campus of cloud hosting firm UKFast.

Greater Manchester’s tech start-ups will benefit from subsidised space with zero business rates whilst plugging into Tech Manchester’s network of mentors and links with existing incubator and accelerator projects.

Facilities include TV and recording studios and an events auditorium with room for 500 attendees.

“We’ve been in UKFast Campus for a few years now. We couldn’t have imagined how quickly it would fill up,” says UKFast CEO and co-founder Lawrence Jones.

“We purchased the building next door [and] we don’t need a further 45,000sq ft of office space yet, although we will in the coming years.

“Rather than leave the building lying unused until we need it, it makes perfect sense to share it with the Manchester community.”

Lawrence and Gail Jones set up UKFast in a back bedroom in 1999 before moving into a serviced office, where they were joined by current IT director Neil Lathwood. They have since developed it into a £300m-valued company employing more 400 people.

“Deciding to move into an office space was a truly terrifying and daunting prospect for us. It’s a huge commitment and there are no guarantees it will work for you, which is why we’ve ensured that this new space in UKFast Campus will be as flexible as possible,” explains Lawrence Jones.

“There won’t be any long-term contracts or commitments.“

A space like our new tech incubator would have been absolute heaven for me and Gail. We had a tiny space; we could barely fit the two of us in there, never mind Neil when he joined the team!”

He says it is often the simplest of services which can make a difference to a fledgling business.

“Having someone to answer the phone and take messages elevates the profile of your business immensely to potential customers and ensures you never miss a potential lead,” he says.

“There’s a great value in collaboration and building your own network: we’re still working with some of the businesses that we shared office space with in the early days.”