CoWorking and Hacker Space Event at Library — Our Panel Rocked It!
Last Thursday evening was the kind of night that caused me to feel all kinds of gratitude to the citizens, business owners and City staff who have received me so warmly since arriving in February and who have generally embraced my “wild and crazy” ideas. San Leandro is a great city in which to be a Chief Innovation Officer and I want you to know I don’t take this opportunity for granted.
So what happened last Thursday evening? We welcomed to San Leandro a great mix of people from San Leandro, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, Berkeley and other parts of the Bay Area to find out more about San Leandro and its interest in collaborative working spaces.
The visit to San Leandro started early for a group of people from the City of Sacramento: Jim Rinehart, Director of Economic Development brought a City crew that included IT and Transportation Department heads. They were joined by Eric Ullrich, Co-Founder and COO of Hacker Lab in Sacramento, Alan Ware, a Hacker Lab member, and San Leandro resident and innovator Derick Lee in a morning meeting with Dr. Patrick Kennedy, CEO of OSIsoft and Jim Morrison, CEO of Lit San Leandro. Why? Turns out Hacker Lab and other Sacramento businesses would LOVE to have access to the type of high speed broadband services offered in San Leandro through our public/private partnership. They joined us at the OSIsoft headquarters to learn more about how the partnership works and to get insight into how to move down the broadband path themselves. Dr. Kennedy’s advice was pointed — public/private partnerships are an easily understood and viable way of building fiber optic infrastructure and staying under the radar of the incumbent ISP providers. (For more information on how Lit San Leandro is structured, read my blog post Lit San Leandro: A Tutorial)
The tour for the Sacramento visitors continued with Derick Lee at the helm, taking the group to San Francisco for a tour of Tech Shop (maker space on steriods!) and back to San Leandro for a tour of our own developing maker space and Center of Innovation at Westgate (more about what’s happening at Westgate in a future blog).
Back at the Library, Eric was the first panelist to present. Hacker Lab is a Sacramento maker space — a 10,000 square foot downtown building with 3,000 sf of coworking space. Eric and his partner Gina Lujan built the space on a dream and a shoestring budget. By leasing offices within the space, they were able to bring in enough revenue to build community, events and the coworking/maker space. Eric was very open with the intention of Hacker Labs to expand into other cities, and told us that he was intrigued with the potential for maker space with access to the Lit San Leandro fiber optic loop. He was also impressed with our City’s budding transformation into becoming a center of innovation, the people he’d met in San Leandro and their determination to make this change happen.
Sudo Room was represented by Eddan Katz, who I’ve known for some time because of my work in the Oakland’s tech and open data space. Sudo Room is a hacker space — it’s about creating projects and finding like-minded people who want to work with you to develop the project. Eddan emphasized that this type of sharing space is a direct outcome of the new “sharing economy“, an economic and social system that enables access to goods, services, data and talent through shared resources. Eddan engaged those present through making connections to San Leandro’s past — the Ohlone Indians, who clearly engaged in a shared economy where there was no ownership of land; Daniel Best, San Leandro resident and entrepreneur (Daniel, whose name still graces one of San Leandro’s oldest commercial office buildings at Estudillo and E. 14th Street, built the first steam tractor in the late 1890’s, leading San Leandro’s transformation from an agriculture-based economy to an industrial economy and whose company later merged with another to become the Caterpillar Tractor Company); and the sharing of resources in a public/private partnership that led to the creation of Lit San Leandro.
Erin Griffin entralled us with a virtual tour of NextSpace, an office coworking space recently opened in Berkeley and powered by a 1 gigabit fiber optic connection provided by Lit San Leandro. One of 9 NextSpace offices that expanded out of an original space in Santa Cruz in 2008, CA, Erin emphasized the importance of building community — the opportunity to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs, to spark innovation, is the reason workers are drawn to NextSpace. Her recommendations for San Leandro include the requirement for a walkable downtown — one that includes housing opportunities for people to live downtown (apartments, condos) and ability to easily access good food, business and personal services (like coworking spaces!) and entertainment options. (for more on San Leandro’s Transit Oriented Development plan for the Downtown, click here.)
Rounding out the panel was a presentation by Joel Pool, co-founder and co-developer of the Port Workspaces in Oakland’s Jack London District. Joel pointed out that, as with every business venture, the coworking space has to make financial sense. All of these spaces ultimately have to be able to pay the rent, and it takes time to build the membership and community required for a successful coworking space. So — success requires the real estate property owner to partner in the development of the coworking space. Partnership can mean a lot of things, including the sharing of startup tenant improvements costs and minimal rent for at least the first 12 months. This allows time for the community — and memberships — to build!
What will it take to make coworking spaces happen in San Leandro? Well — it’s already happening. The 10 Dads from San Leandro High School who are planning to lease space at Westgate and build their own maker/coworking space there; San Leandro Coworking at 400 Estudillo; SOGO Creative at 1728 E. 14th Street. If you’re looking for office coworking space, check out these two places in downtown San Leandro and stay tuned for more development at Westgate!
A huge thanks to Derick Lee, who introduced me to Hacker Lab’s Gina and Eric and who brought a lot of of his San Leandro (and former San Leandro) friends and entrepreneurs to this event — and who took the photographs of the event I’ve included here. To my Oakland and Berkeley friends who showed up — stay tuned, more to come! I have to give a plug to our caterers, Four Seasons Cafe, who delivered an amazing array of colorful and delicious lavosh rolls and baklava that was crunchy, flaky and sweet and not overly sticky! Bill Knowland of Direct Images Interactive (located in Westgate) filmed the entire event just ’cause I asked him to — THANKS BILL, and we’re looking forward to seeing your final cut!
A final HUGE thanks to our panelists and guests who chose to spend time with us at the San Leandro Library Thursday evening. You could have spent your time anywhere — and you joined us in San Leandro. THANK YOU!