Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


On coworking: you cannot make a profit selling community

That last one’s important. We’re not communists, we’re not anti-capitalists and we’re not running some kind of pep club. It’s just that we’ve thought about it. You cannot make a profit selling community.


I saw this via Dave Pollard on G+ and nodded my head most violently as I read through the whole thing.

(I could spend a week just posting each of the paragraphs of of Tozier’s post)

Tozier starts by talking about how different labels / terminology start getting corrupted in a mass market to mean different things. It has happened to coworking, and it is happening to startup accelerators.

I had meant to write earlier about Ben Yoskovitz’s post The Sole Purpose of a Startup Accelerator Should Be Making Money, which has similar thoughts as Tozier.

To anyone that has studied (or lived through!) the model of startups and seed acceleration, it’s a no brainer. Everyone with a stake in the accelerator needs to be making money for it to continue.

If the money isn’t there, whether it is for a coworking space or a seed accelerator, then it’s a signal that the environment / people aren’t ready for it. And you can’t artificially prop it up with government.

Thinking more about this concept of community, I feel a whole other post coming on exploring the role of money in open source communities. My own experience has been that no matter the non-monetary activities that power them, the open source communities haven’t really flourished or grown to a large degree without initiatives involving substantial amounts of money.

I have to end this piece with a tip of the hat to Bill MacEwen who founded Vancouver’s WorkSpace. I was convinced that a coworking space - which I called the Innovation Commons - needed to be non-profit, because I couldn’t figure out how to make the numbers work in a sustainable way.

I was wrong. I’ve written that before, and done my mea culpa’s to Bill in the past.

Vote to have something exist by supporting it beyond a retweet: with blood, sweat, and tears, or with cold, hard cash.

Good luck, Workantile.