Techies like to share

I read recently that if you work from home you should never look out of the window in the morning – because then you’d have nothing to do in the afternoon.

An even bigger danger though is the distractions on offer in a home office…by the time you’ve put the kettle on, done the washing, fed the cat, had an in-depth conversation with the cat, read the paper and nipped out for milk, the day’s half gone. You might not have left the house or had any contact of the human kind at all.

And who’s to know if you’re still sat tapping away at your keyboard at 3PM in your PJs?

And so it is that co-working spaces for freelancers, start-ups and small businesses to meet, work and network are becoming increasingly popular for those in the tech industries.

They often offer cheap hot desking and room hire while being relaxed, flexible and a place to swap ideas and get support.

In the UK, there have never been so many shared workspaces for geeks.

In Brighton, East Sussex, one of the most popular co-working areas for techies is The Skiff, which aims “to take the best elements of a coffee shop (social, energetic, creative) and the best elements of a workspace (productive, functional) and combine them to give independent workers the chance to have their own, affordable space.”

According to those behind The Skiff, an open plan space in the trendy North Laine area of the city, it was built on the co-working philosophy developed by Citizen Space in San Francisco.

Prices vary, but it’s free for the occasional drop-in, whereas £160 a month gets you your own key and storage.

Down the road in Hove, there’s The Werks, a similar concept attracting creatives and new media types.

In London, there’s TechHub based at “Silicon Roundabout” in the Shoreditch/Old Street area. It’s designed to be a central meeting place for visiting entrepreneurs and investors as well as a venue for tech events and networking and shared workspace.

Elizabeth Varley, CEO of TechHub, says they are seeing lots of young people, start-up companies and tech entrepreneurs coming through their doors.

She says: “It’s so exciting to see more and more students coming out of university with a strong plan to start their own businesses, and many begin their start-ups while they’re still studying, which is great.

“It’s good too to see serial entrepreneurs starting again after the first or second (or more) business and providing excellent role models for the new generation of entrepreneurs.

“One of the things I love seeing at TechHub is people who previously didn’t know each other helping with advice, contacts or specific skills. Every day there are people huddling around a screen to talk through ideas and solve problems – entrepreneurs are really very giving of their time and expertise.

“We’re hosting a lot of events at TechHub, from technically-focused sessions run by Google, to themed events such as the Learning by Playing event on immersive games in collaboration with Pearson.

“Founders of tech start-ups are also telling us how much they love opportunities to meet each other and see what everyone’s working on at our Demo Nights and social events. It’s a great vibe and we’re always keen to hear from tech entrepreneurs regarding what they want.

“Co-working and co-location for the tech community are what we’re all about and have seen strong demand for drop-in desks and office space with flexible terms. Entrepreneurs want to be around like-minded people and it’s hugely helpful with focusing on your business and for knowledge sharing.

“The first TechHub has been created here because London is Europe’s hub for tech investment and there’s great creativity, innovation and an excellent skills base. As the tech cluster has grown very organically around Old Street, it made perfect sense for TechHub to be based here to help bring all these companies, and those further afield, together.”

A similar idea is the OpenCoffee Club, which organises informal meet-ups at different locations for people interested in technology, the web, business and the startup culture. Started in London in 2007, it’s since gone global with more than 80 around the world, from Bangalore and Budapest to Vancouver and Vienna.

OpenCoffee Huddersfield, in Yorkshire, for example, describes itself as “a melting pot event attracting entrepreneurs, hackers and software developers, designers, innovators, animators, techies, film makers and geeks as well as the investors, mentors, business advisers who support their efforts”.

There are plenty of other co-working spaces around the UK. Among them, Manchester city centre has FlyThe.Coop and Leeds has Old Broadcasting House – frequented by digital entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Edinburgh has screenWORKS – aimed at those working in the digital media and screen industries, and Birmingham has the Moseley Exchange.

TechEye’s very own techie James Crowley is a member of TechHub and an advocate of co-working. He says: “It’s great to be in a space like this with loads of people working on completely different things but with plenty of opportunity to share ideas and contacts across all sorts of things.

“Beats working from home or in a random office any day.”