A Guide to Picking the Right Coworking Space for Your Startup in New York

The coworking transition is taking over, and New York has become one of the top global hubs for these types of spaces with 85+ shared work spaces according to one source.
07/30/2015 04:19 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2016

The coworking transition is taking over, and New York has become one of the top global hubs for these types of spaces with 85+ shared work spaces according to one source. With so many options, and new locations opening all of the time, how do you narrow down the right space for you and your team?

Last week during my stay in NYC I traveled all over the city talking to startups, checking out the tech scenes, and visiting coworking spaces I was told I must see on more than one occasion. I discovered a world of information about what it's like to work out of a coworking space in NYC, and wanted to create a guide for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startup teams on how to pick the right space from the vast sea of options, and cover 6 popular coworking spaces in depth from my personal experience touring and working from each one.

So here is what you need to do before you sign an agreement with a coworking space.

1. Answer this question: Why do I want to work from a coworking space?
No matter how much you want to convince yourself that you are being "lean" by choosing a coworking space over a traditional office that thinking is false. People do not choose a coworking space to be lean, they choose it for a variety of other reasons like a sense of community, networking, having a place to hold meetings, fast wifi, etc. Make sure you have a few GOOD reasons to begin your search.

2. Decide what you need from the space and then make a list of several locations that meet those needs.
Do you need a desk, printer, phone booth, 24/7 access, or free coffee? Will you use meeting rooms frequently? Can you get by with a community type membership? Do you need a way to make hourly sales calls? These questions and more are all important to consider. Once you have a list of everything you need start creating a list of spaces that provide those things.

3. Set up a tour day, and visit the space on a few different days.
Any legitimate coworking space in NYC offers a tour of its facilities and usually a day pass or two to get a feel for what it's like to work there. Make sure you try out the space before making a final decision, and visit on multiple days to get an idea what it's like on busier days versus less busy days.

4. Talk to the members and decide if you are a good culture fit.
Just like if you were moving into a new apartment complex, talking to your soon to be neighbors is a must to get a real scoop on the space. Ask them about the day to day, and what they like and don't like. Ask them about the culture as well. Are members finding benefits here from collaborations? Does everyone just stay to themselves? Is there a certain type of niche here? All of these questions and more are vital to ensuring your company is a good fit for the space and vice versa.

5. Make sure the contract makes sense for your budget and future plans.
You've found the space you like, and know it's a great fit. Before you go signing that contract make sure it's also a good fit for your budget, and future plans. Does the pricing make sense? How long do you see yourself in this space? Many of these agreements can be difficult to get out of once you sign so make sure you understand exactly what you are getting into.

To get you started in your NYC coworking space search, here is my experience at 6 hot coworking spots I toured and worked from around the city.

Location: In New York City's SoHo neighborhood.

Core values: Work hard and make things happen. Build a community that feels like a family. Foster collaboration.

The look and feel: The Fueled Collective is a 18,000 square foot co-working office space that make you feel as though you are in a modern London hangout. It has an open office design, and companies can rent a designated desk space or get a more casual membership working from one of the open space tables. I felt as though I was in a realm between Hogwarts and Narnia, as each of the meeting room spaces had a very distinct, architecturally beautiful, and almost magical design element (including a meeting room with an entrance that looked like a closet to the average person passing by). The space was carefully and intentionally designed by Fueled's in-house designer.

Who works there: Fueled Collective is very intentional with the startups in their space, and they hand pick each through an application process who are serious about their business and fund to be around. Companies are in great company with well known successes like Four Square downstairs and Kitchen Surfing next door.

About the founders: Fueled Collective spun from the vision of Rameet Chawla and Ryan Matzner who wanted a place to work alongside passionate, like-minded individuals to foster collaboration, creativity, and community. Their app development company, Fueled, who has an impressive roster of startup and enterprise clients wanted to share their office space with other startups who had a similar drive and passion, but were also diverse and just fun to hang around.

My experience: As soon as I walked into the space I was greeted by a team member named Eilat, who instantly made me feel welcomed into the Fueled Collective family. As she gave me a detailed tour of the space I heard lots of phone calls, interviews, pitches, and to my excitement a whole lot of collaboration. You can tell the space is not meant for the type of people who are "kind of doing a startup", and is filled with passionate, hardworking teams who are there to get serious work done. I was pretty excited about their extensive candy and coffee bar, elevator with bike access, and the popcorn machine that lured everyone over to grab some around 4 pm.

Location: Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Core values: Reach your potential by running with the top dogs. Get things done. Foster creativity. Inspire and be inspired by others.

The look and feel: Projective Space has a very modern, industrial feel with beautiful Thomas Edison-style lighting. The space has a very open and collaborative feel with lots of big windows that allow plenty of natural lighting into the space. Teams can be found at chic, designated desk areas in an open, collaborative space next to other top notch startups, and individuals have the option to have a designated space or have a more community type membership working from an open desk space.

Who works there: This space hand curates its members through an extensive application process who fit within their culture, keeping their community in control of the community. They have an impressive list of current and previous members including companies like Indiegogo, Uber, Buffer, Stripe, Frank and Oak, Beast and more. The space has a heavy focus on technology, design, fashion, and media. Members at this space are serious startups that want to take their venture to the next level.

About the founders: Projective Space was founded by James Wahba, Timmy Wahba, and Johnny Wahba who are all investors and entrepreneurs themselves, and run their own ventures out of the space alongside the Projective community. One notable venture founded by Timmy Wahba is the Columbia Angel Group which invests and champions the upcoming generation of startup companies in the NYC area.

My experience: As I walked into the space I got a warm welcome from one of the team members, and was offered a beautiful space with a great view of the city to work from while I waited for my tour. I felt this contagious, productive type of energy as I walked through the space, and noticed companies there were working hard and making things happen. I was also intrigued by the caliber of events happening at the space which are open to members, and connect the space to the vast NYC startup community. An example of a recent event was guest speaker Shama Hyder, who made Forbes 2015 list of movers and shakers who are under 30.

Location: Midtown in Manhattan.

Core values: Build a true, collaborative community of passionate entrepreneurs. Be authentic. Work hard. Have fun.

The look and feel: AlleyNYC feels like a family of passionate entrepreneurs with a hint of quirkiness, nerdism, and fun. Their colorful "Win Wall" caught my eye where each of their members write down one win that they are most proud of. The space has options for both open and private offices, with sleek meeting spaces, and fun phone booth rooms. The space even has a designated rest area called "The Couch Room" when you need to get in a quick power nap.

Who works there: Entrepreneurs and startups in the space are diverse in industry. AlleyNYC's core team chooses companies not so much on vanity metrics, but place high value on other factors like "Would we hang out with you?" and "Can the community help you grow?". Notable startups in the space include RocketHub, Entrepreneur Magazine, Partender, and more.

About the founders: AlleyNYC was founded Jason Saltzman and Nsi Obotetukudo to create a space to work with brilliant minds, and foster a place for a collaborative, creative community that would result in innovative products and services. Saltzman is a serial entrepreneur, who has pioneered the space to make sure entrepreneurs are consistently bringing value and offering support to one another. One thing that really stood out to me was that he is constantly working with and helping other "competing" coworking spaces around NYC, and fosters the idea that every space serves it's own types of entrepreneurs.

My experience: I received a warm welcome from Leah at the front desk, who introduced me to the community manager, Tyisha, who would be giving me the tour. I instantly felt very comfortable, and fed of off the great energy of the people like my tour guide and other startups at the space. I loved the community feel with the space's "Win Wall", and was also impressed by the offering of community events like free yoga, and experts in fields like venture capital, legal, and other spaces offering talks and advice to entrepreneurs. I was excited to learn that AlleyNYC also recently raised a large amount of funding led by Vandewater Capital Holdings, and as a result will be opening a second space in Chelsea.

Location: West Chelsea area in Manhattan.

Core values: Create the change you want to see. Connect diverse, passionate change makers to nurture collaboration. Work productively. Transform projects through mentorship and strategic connections.

The look and feel: Centre for Social Innovation is a large, stunning, and vibrant space that radiates the excitement of its members. I was instantly drawn to the lounge area which feels like a rustic, yet magical and majestic kind of cabin getaway, and the kitchen area which I found out was an old apothecary, with kitchen tables made from old freight elevator doors. Much of the architecture and decor is crafted from reclaimed materials, and each meeting room and classroom space has its own unique feel. The space has open desk space, private offices, and part-time desk (called "Hot Desks").

Who works there: This space is filled with startups, founders, nonprofits, and artists with a common goal of changing our world for the better through social entrepreneurship. The space has an application process that requires your company to have an element of social good as a fundamental part of your business plan. Here you will find companies like Drive Change, Be Social Change, Humanity in Action, and KickStart International.

About the founders: Centre for Social Innovation was launched in 2004 in Toronto, Canada by a group of visionary social entrepreneurs who wanted to catalyze social change through business. Inspired by the space and seeing great opportunity for New York innovators and social do-gooders, entrepreneur David Gise (now Managing Director of the Starrett-Lehigh location), convinced the Toronto CSI team to collaborate with him to open the New York location.

My experience: I walked through the iconic Chelsea area, and saw dozens of art galleries on my way to the Starrett-Lehigh building where the space is housed. Elizabeth gave me a wonderful tour of the space, including lots of information about the space's history, mission, and the calendar full of presentations available to members to grow necessary entrepreneurial skillsets. I then spoke with Managing Director, David Gise, who is truly inspired and passionate about social change through business and ensures the community is instilled with this core driver. What was most memorable were the endless interactions amongst members, and an unwavering feeling of inspiration throughout the space.

Location: Park South Location in NoMad District in Manhattan. (The company currently has 17 locations throughout New York)

Core values: Try new things and challenge convention. Be persistent and get things done. Do what you love to make a life, not just a living.

The look and feel: I checked out the WeWork Park South location in NoMad, and the space was beautifully designed with chic furniture and light fixtures. The space also has conference rooms and large phone booths bookable via their mobile app. There was a definite difference in this space compared to the others I visited, which was that the common area was one of the only parts I saw interactions amongst members happening. The rest of the space consisted of beautiful private designated spaces for teams.

Who works there: WeWork has a truly exciting mix of movers and shakers in their community. As a member they give you access to their over 25,000+ WeWork members to connect with. At the Park South locations you can find companies like Code Climate, Little Bee Books, Graze, and EmPowered.

About the founders: WeWork is one of the most successful coworking and community services founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. After a $400M round this past June led by Fidelity Management & Research Co. with support from existing investors, WeWork is now valued at $10B according to the Wall Street Journal.

My experience: At this particular WeWork location, it felt less like a coworking space and more like a shared office space. The location is great for teams who need privacy, have constant sales calls, and want to work in a beautiful office space with other movers and shakers. With so many locations it made me wonder about the problem franchisees often have in maintaining consistency and the core culture in every location, and if WeWork's quick growth has made it difficult to maintain the culture of each space. I was impressed by the beautiful decor, open windows, and many benefits to its members. In this particular space I didn't feel a true sense of community during my visit, but I did witness a lot of talented companies and individuals getting things done.

Location: DUMBO in Brooklyn.

Core values: Foster new ideas and connections. Spark collaborative work between independent professionals and startups. Build innovative companies, products and relationships.

The look and feel: DUMBO Startup Lab has a cozy, industrial feel with plenty of windows, natural lighting, and great views of DUMBO overlooking the East River. The space has all open desks and work spaces, with cozy couches, a fun red telephone booth, and lots of other decor radiating startup energy throughout the space.

Who works there: There are lots of developers, designers, and entrepreneurs working out of the space, along with small startup teams, small businesses, marketers, and freelancers. It's a really great space for solopreneurs and those with remote teams, offering flexible membership options to meet the needs of these individuals and small teams. DUMBO itself houses many successful media companies and startup including Etsy and HowAboutWe.

About the founders: John Coghlan and Freddie Pikovsky founded DUMBO Startup Lab in 2012 with a mission to foster a collaborative community that fostered more interaction. The launch of the space was in sync with the momentum around the growing Brooklyn tech industry, and offers a place for innovative individuals and companies a great option without the commute to Manhattan.

My experience: Co-founder of DUMBO Startup Lab, John Coghlan, graciously welcomed me to the space at a last minute request, and gave me a bonus mini tour of DUMBO along with some of it's tech history. The founders are very passionate about the Brooklyn tech scene and being an integral part of the community. The space had a great mix of both companies and independent professionals, and it was great to see everyone working hard but still talking and collaborating with one another. The space is a fantastic option for events as well, and lectures, professional events, panels, happy hours, and more have been held in this beautiful corner office loft.