*I'd like to note the fact that I don't actually use the word 'lyf' and it's merely a play on the startup bubble attitude...
It was early 2014 when I finally decided that the desk at the end of my bed was no longer a productive enough space to work, and so began the process of looking for a suitable place to move my business operations in the everlasting search for greater productivity and higher success. The problem was, working in an environment that distracting was getting me nowhere. Bed was less than two feet away, and in combination with the television mounted on my wall the temptation to slack off and "think about ideas" was just too great.
I found some really great options. In all honesty, for a micro business, Melbourne is a really great city to be in. Not only are there some great full fledged coworking offices, there are a number of opportunities to share a smaller more private space with another business or two, plus the extensive community of support found in program's such as General Assembly or Startup Victoria.
Eventually I settled on Inspire9, one of the most established coworking offices in the city. It had everything I was looking for, great meeting room facilities, a truly amazing space and a workplace culture that was second to nothing I’d ever experienced. It truly was a productivity boon. I was getting through four times as much work in one hour than I previously had, and being able to invite clients into your own office proved extremely beneficial. Not to mention the benefit this kind of move does to your own perspective and opinion on work. Maybe it’s just my opinion, but after moving my work to an entirely separate space to my bedroom, my attitude toward everything I was doing dramatically improved. I envied the work lives of my friends at this age, being able to leave McDonald’s and their job behind at the end of a shift. But I knew that I was never going to be cut out for that kind of job, that I had to find my own way, not just for the money but for the satisfaction of my dreams and ego. I had to find another solution, which eventually was Inspire9.
My time at the coworking office was truly wonderful. I had a great bunch of guys on my table; Marin and Troy from Caremonkey, Matt from IT Wire and a number of others who came and went over time. On top of this, the culture was pretty excellent. For a space that has this many people working in it, it’s often going to be very hard to setup a proper community feel and good culture amongst people, who often come from very different backgrounds but share certain things in common. The team at Inspire9 did a great job of this, with Christmas parties, Friday night drinks, lunches and so much more. This really helped add to the friendly atmosphere enjoyed in the office.
Inspire9 is one of the central elements of the startup community in Melbourne, providing one of the largest and most used physical locations for a myriad of events and up and coming businesses. The startup scene has often been thought of as almost secluded. Maybe not explicitly thought of like that, but there seem to be a lot of barriers about it. Think about Silicone Valley and Silicone Roundabout, regions known for their geographically exclusive startup scene. Obviously startup companies exist in so many other places, but this is just one example of an exterior wall of what some would call the startup bubble.
There are a lot of benefits to this. The kind of mass scale incubator provides a really good opportunity for small businesses to knuckle down on things and get everything done at once. The bubble also allows them to easily meet new people, make connections and even reach angel investors and venture capitalists. This is really great. It means that people who never previously would have been able to get to the level they are now can, through the use of simple technology and good social skills. However, there is unfortunately quite a lot of fluff around the edges.
Parts of the ‘startup bubble’ are after a certain amount of time just completely sickening. Events about totally ridiculous topics, job titles that don’t really mean anything and social conversations that make you cringe more than anything are abundant. I’m not trying to sound like some kind of hard ass, old fashioned business man but there’s only so much oxygen inside the startup bubble and energy you have left to keep breathing it in. There are certain people that you can encounter who really don’t have any idea what they’re doing, but fool themselves and others into believing that they do. There are people who believe the only valuable market they should target is the startup market. And there are people who believe that every single possible field of work needs to be ‘disrupted’ or ‘revolutionised.’ The truth is, calling yourself the chief awesome officer doesn’t really come across as professional to anyone, and developing a business to business marketing strategy targeting an industry full of broke or nearly broke companies isn’t really going to get you anywhere. And don’t even get me started on the so called catchwords. The truth is the startup bubble can be one of the most incredible places you can experience, or one of the most soul suckingly depressive places you can experience.
I’m not saying there’s good parts to the system. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Inspire9 and it was one of the best career moves I made. However the hard truth of things is, there’s not always as much room to grow, and the protective environment made me personally feel restricted.
As a high school student, work is one of my many respites from the mind numbingly boring education system. Work is exciting, constantly motivating me to do even better, completely driven by me and pays me. It is my hobby really. I’ve always been someone kind of obsessed with growing and building something by myself, and I’ve done it all my life. You could almost bring it back to my obsession with lego at a young age, the cities I’d build were nuts. Then it was onto new things, and this is where I am now. This idea of growing something is what I really am passionate about and want to keep doing. However when I moved into the heart of the Melbourne startup scene, I felt kind of restricted. I wanted to do more than just school, to grow something without the lingering presence of something or someone else over the top of me. But Inspire9 still felt like someone else. There were still things in the way, a sort of vague social hierarchy surrounding the environment and obligations felt by working in such a communal environment. Not that any of these were even the slightest of a problem, it just didn’t satisfy my need for complete autonomy. It felt like moving from one institution to another, and that’s not what I wanted.
You have to be really careful when you’re making these sorts of decisions as they’re what will really help you decide on exactly how you want your business to progress. Working out of Inspire9 was a really good decision for me, as it’s what allowed me to take my first big step of business growth, and it was the place that really showed me what I wanted out of a work environment. A tighter knit community and space that complemented my more down to work nature. The space at Inspire9 is perfect, but for me there came a realisation one day, that the biggest businesses, the most exciting, high paying clients, are all doing their own thing, working out of their own offices, making their own decisions and growing themselves, without needing the direct, constant, screaming startup advice in your ears. Don’t be that guy at SXSW saying he’s the next Zuckerberg because of his app that helps connect pastry chefs with consumers. There’s only so many ping pong games you can listen to directly behind you. There’s only so many old fashioned hipster scifi themed events you can attend. Only so much kool-aid you can drink. Make a smart decision.