Launch Pad: Co-working spaces help innovate Utah startups

While Utah’s fertile business climate has allowed local startups like Qualtrics and Pluralsight to become major international players, it has also ushered in hundreds of other ambitious startups that are competing for resources and market share. It’s a rapidly evolving and growing world, and for fresh-faced entrepreneurs, the competitive climate can be extremely intimidating. Luckily, Utah is also a place that values its up-and-coming companies, and that value is demonstrated through several co-working spaces that are designed to offer workspace, resources and networking opportunities for startups looking to get their feet off the ground.

A catalyst for innovation

Co-working spaces provide an affordable place for smaller companies to call home. For a monthly rental fee, entrepreneurs can use these facilities—which are typically decked out with high speed internet, open floorplans and stocked breakrooms—to help their startup grow. While the workspace alone is valuable for these startups, the underlying value of these organizations is the ability to bring passionate and motivated people together under one roof.

Both Salt Lake’s Impact Hub and Ogden’s Startup Ogden, for example, are designed to help entrepreneurs collaborate with like-minded individuals.

“Entrepreneurs wear so many hats,” says Dustin Haggett, co-founder and CEO of Impact Hub Salt Lake. “If you’ve got this community that can help mentor or provide support, it just accelerates the process.”

Aside from the wealth of material resources that co-working spaces provide for startups, the reason that they are becoming so attractive is because they foster a real climate of collaboration. “During business hours, the doors are unlocked and anyone can come to work for the day or a few days,” says Alex Lawrence, vice provost for Weber State University and chairman of Startup Ogden.

Not only does his organization encourage participation in the workplace, but it also hosts events like Hack Ogden, a weekly meetup for software developers and designers. This mixture of work and social space often becomes the catalyst for innovative collaboration among different disciplines.

In addition to fostering an environment where entrepreneurs from all walks of life can work comfortably together, co-working spaces also strive to connect their members to the larger world of business. “A lot of the solutions are going to take public and private partnerships,” Haggett says, “so we like to be this middle ground for entrepreneurs and public leaders to come together to brainstorm and work together.”

Co-working spaces like Impact Hub and Startup Ogden are typically designed to help passionate entrepreneurs quickly introduce their solutions to the market. These spaces offer an alternative for those who want their ideas to hit the ground running rather than face the uncertainty of going it alone or taking their solution to a larger corporation.

With ties to universities and colleges along the Wasatch Front, both local co-working spaces are in prime positions to make themselves available to upcoming talent. Impact Hub sponsors the Utah Entrepreneurial Challenge, an annual competition that rewards innovative university students with memberships to its space. Because Startup Ogden is part of Weber State University’s Research Foundation, it is a very active presence on the WSU campus.

“I think kids coming out of college now have a big interest in working on meaningful projects that create a positive impact,” Haggett says.

Another benefit provided by Impact Hub is its partnership with Boom Startup, a business accelerator that is also housed within the co-working space. Boom Startup can begin to help that company get off the ground quickly and efficiently by guiding them through the red tape of starting a business in Utah. From there, Impact Hub’s staff will work to put team members in touch with other entrepreneurs and specialists that are able to help with any subsequent growing pains.

“If you need an attorney that specializes in telecom or somebody to build you a website, it’s so helpful if you can just go and ask someone and quickly get help with it,” Haggett says.

The type of collaboration that Startup Ogden and Impact Hub promote is what will ultimately help local companies meet the unforeseen demands of the business frontier. Through their provision of affordable workspace and a highly collaborative atmosphere, the companies that take advantage of these co-working spaces will have resources and networking opportunities that will take their solution to the next level.

Join the team

Co-working spaces benefit from client diversity, so their doors are typically open to anyone that wants a collaborative and professional work environment. Both Startup Ogden and Impact Hub offer monthly rates, which include more than just the workspace. For example, membership with Startup Ogden includes use of the 18,000-square-foot Weber State downtown building, fiber internet speeds, security and weekly catered events.

“We are seeing a lot of software, app and internet-related companies,” Lawrence says. “The culture seems to attract them because of the open area and the internet speeds. We do have several non-technical service businesses that also work here.”

At Impact Hub, members have access to fiber internet, meeting rooms, coffee and snacks, and events ranging from inspirational talks to networking socials.

Ongoing Events at Salt Lake Impact Hub

  • First Friday Open House – a day-long invitation to try out co-working at Impact Hub
  • Impact Hub Workbench series – educational events on subjects like website creation and venture funding
  • Mindfulness Tuesdays – weekly opportunities to learn the benefits of mindfulness as well as simple techniques
  • Jumpstart – bi-monthly morning conversations with social entrepreneurs and change makers