Illustrating the important role that coworking spaces play in fostering innovation among entrepreneurs, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) announced it has closed on a loan to Cowerks to help the shared workspace and tech hub expand its footprint in Asbury Park.
Coworking spaces like Cowerks enable entrepreneurs from different companies to work side by side, sharing ideas. They are often located near mass transit routes, reflecting renewed interest in urban living and working arrangements. For entrepreneurs and startup companies with limited access to immediate revenue, coworking spaces do not require members to sign long-term leases and also offer mentoring networks for their members.
Cowerks currently has approximately 250 members, with a high concentration of software developers. Founded in 2010, Cowerks has outgrown its current office space of 1,600 square feet in Asbury Park and plans to use the loan to occupy and build out another facility in the city, close to its existing location and near the transit center. Cowerks also anticipates expanding its existing location.
“Funding provided through the loan will help us quadruple our available space for startups and entrepreneurs to run their business,” Cowerks Co-Founder Bret Morgan noted. “With the expanded facility will also come opportunities for us to hold even more classes and workshops, enabling us to become the go-to resource for technology and entrepreneurial activities in the area.”
Morgan and fellow Cowerks co-founder Danny Croak are already heavily involved in the Jersey Shore’s technology scene, and Cowerks regularly hosts tech-related events and workshops focused on startups, software development, internet marketing, business development and legal/accounting advice for small businesses. Cowerks is also home to the Jersey Shore Tech Meetup. The group, which currently has more than 1,600 members, is ideal for those looking to network, learn, and grow their businesses.
“Danny and Bret exemplify New Jersey’s entrepreneurial spirit,” EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen said. “Growing the State’s innovation ecosystem remains a top priority of the EDA, and we are thrilled to support an organization that shares this commitment.”
Cowerks routinely hosts Coffee and Coworking events, which provide an informal setting for entrepreneurs, developers, designers, and investors to network, as well as lunch and learns, during which industry leaders are available to answer entrepreneurs’ questions. Beginning on Monday, August 15, Cowerks will partner with the College of Robotics in Oregon to offer Monmouth County students a five-day robotics curriculum. Students can choose to participate during the week of August 15 or August 22. More information can be found online.
Cowerks is also a co-producer of this year’s Asbury Agile, the Jersey Shore Tech Meetup’s largest gathering of web and mobile professionals, startup entrepreneurs, designers, developers, small business owners, and tech enthusiasts. More information can be found at http://www.asburyagile.com.
Cowerks has also established strategic partnerships with Rutgers University, NJ Makerspace Association, NJ Tech Meetup and WithumSmith+Brown. Specifically, these partnerships expand the scope of industries with which member companies have access to resources and helpful information. For example, tomorrow, August 12, an accountant from WithumSmith+Brown will be on site to answer accounting questions for tenant companies and the technology community at large.
@NJEDATech asked Morgan about Cowerks’ experience in New Jersey and its plans for the future:
Why did you choose to establish Cowerks in New Jersey?
Whether you consider yourself a musician or artist, a mobile app developer, a startup, a maker, or any combination of the aforementioned, Asbury Park is an incredible melting pot for creativity and talent.
We are quickly approaching a positive inflection point for technology and entrepreneurship in both New Jersey and at the Jersey Shore. What we are building is bigger than any one individual or business and that is evident in the community that has grown in and around Cowerks these past six years.
On a personal note, Danny and I are both Asbury Park residents, so it’s only natural to want to work where you live.
What do you consider Cowerks’ biggest success to date?
I’m particularly proud of the grassroots community we’ve built here in Asbury Park. Over the past six years we’ve completely bootstrapped a tech and entrepreneurial community in an area where there was very little culture of entrepreneurship. We were in Asbury Park when it just started to make its comeback and now since that revitalization has arrived, you’re really starting to see this culture start to transcend our space and community – that’s something we’re extremely humbled by and proud of.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out in New Jersey?
Don’t wait – start building today! Far too often people come to us with ideas, yet there seems to be a fear of the unknown that holds them back from starting. If you don’t know how to code, hire a developer or, better yet, learn to code – there are plenty of affordable online tools or classes to get started. If you don’t have money, start with something small, try and build a customer base, and take it from there; even the tallest skyscrapers are started by digging a hole. I feel that tech and entrepreneurship have gone from the fringe to the forefront – it’s hip and prestigious to run a startup. Just make sure that you’re an entrepreneur and not a “wantrepreneur” and remember that the first step to making the leap is to just build something and ship it.