Shared offices find flourishing market

The burn of the recession has caused many industries to shrivel, but the co-working space and incubator market has only swollen in recent years.

Five years after the first co-working spaces were established in San Francisco, there are now more than 20, according to The City’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development. Four of those have opened in just the past few months, and one of the largest is opening a second location.

Co-working spaces are shared working environments where consultants and small-business owners who might otherwise work from home can rent a part-time cubicle for less than $300 a month or a private office for about twice that. The spaces tend to be cheaper and more community-oriented than executive suites offered by large companies, and they offer other office amenities such as printers, meeting rooms and audio-video equipment.

Similarly, incubators offer office space for small businesses, but often provide seed money or other resources in exchange for a piece of the business’s profits.

As the recession drags on, many of San Francisco’s unemployed have become self-employed contractors or freelancers. New businesses in San Francisco are increasingly contracting with service businesses, rather than the retail and manufacturing companies that were once prevalent, according to Business Development specialist Gary Marshall of the federal Small Business Administration.

Those entrepreneurs are flocking to co-working spaces.

The Hub, a co-working space and incubator that launched at Fifth and Mission streets three months ago, already has 400 members and is at 70 percent capacity, according to founder Alex Michel. Rather than a general co-working space that accepts anyone who wants a corner to work, The Hub has tried to attract a particular niche.

“The Hub is about a purpose-driven community coming together around ideas of social and environmental change,” Michel said.

A few blocks away at Second and Market streets, co-working space NextSpace launched in June. It has an existing location in Santa Cruz and is planning to launch a third on the Peninsula next year, co-founder Rebecca Brian said.

Sasha Vasilyuk, a former Examiner reporter, and her husband launched their first co-working space almost three years ago at 10th and Mission streets. Since then, they have expanded to an “annex” across the street, a second location in Berkeley and a third near Union Square.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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