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4 perks to using coworking space

From cost benefits to collaboration opportunities, here's why startups are flocking toward coworking spaces. Getty Images

Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in a new form of loosely structured, open-focused offices known as coworking spaces. These spaces are changing the way that entrepreneurs are approaching business, proving to be a valuable alternative to the traditional office setting.

Coworking spaces differ from conventional office spaces mainly due to the fact that they are often occupied by a multiple of different companies. Usually startup and small business focused, coworking spaces can house companies anywhere from individual freelancers working solo to teams of 20, 30, or more. While every tenant has different needs and priorities when it comes to office space, there are a number of advantages to the coworking model that any entrepreneur considering a change in scenery should consider.

1. Cost effective
Startups and entrepreneurs are frequent tenants of coworking spaces, leading to managers of those spaces understanding the frugal nature of their potential tenants. Coworking spaces will often be flexible in providing a package that fits the entrepreneur's schedule and budget. While a traditional office space might force you into a long-term lease on space, coworking spaces will likely offer a number of membership packages, including day passes, open desk seating, dedicated desk seating, and private offices.

2. Collaboration
Traditional office spaces carry a stigma of individualism and private focus that can hinder collaboration among tenants. Coworking spaces thrive on the opposite approach, establishing a culture of collaboration and community. For example, imagine an entrepreneur fresh off exiting their 8-5 corporate job and agonizing over the scary new world of startups. A quick walk into the kitchen can lead to striking up a conversation with a fellow community member, potentially securing an immediate connection to a mentor, investor or service provider. While those sorts of interactions may seem impossible in office, it is common for individuals from multiple companies with multiple strengths to interact and help each other.

3. Resources
In addition to merely encouraging a collaborative atmosphere, many coworking spaces will put the idea into practice themselves by offering a number of services in addition to office space. Some will offer educational speakers and workshops to come for a period of time to inform community members on a variety of topics. In addition, many have preferred service providers who can give discounts to community members.

4. Energy
Arguably one of the most important factors when considering coworking versus a traditional office is the enthusiasm and energy of the space. While potentially difficult to put into words, the atmosphere can have a powerful impact on how you approach new challenges and solve problems. The feeling of electricity in a coworking space when a fellow member signs a major client, closes a round of fundraising, or finishes a crucial project is contagious.

The future of work is changing every day. Digital collaboration is increasing exponentially and reducing the need for everyone to be in one room. Laptops are more popular than ever, allowing the flexibility to work wherever you have fast wifi and a strong cup of coffee. As these changes become more commonplace, coworking will likely continue to be a popular solution for entrepreneurs across the world

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Jake Askew is the director of member relations at The Cannon and Cannon Ventures.

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Auburn University's SwiftSku took first place in this year's virtually held Rice Business Plan Competition, but it was the second place company that went home with over half a million in cash and investment prizes. Photo via rice.edu

In its 21st year, the Rice Business Plan Competition hosted 54 student-founded startups from all over the world — its largest batch of companies to date — and doled out over $1.4 million in cash and investment prizes at the week-long virtual competition.

RBPC, which is put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, took place Tuesday, April 6, to Friday, April 9 this year. Just like 2020, RBPC was virtually held. The competition announced the 54 participating startups last month, and coordinated the annual elevator pitches, a semi-finals round, wildcard round and live final pitches. The contestants also received virtual networking and mentoring.

Earlier this week, Rice Alliance announced the seven student-led startups that then competed in the finals. From this pack, the judges awarded the top prizes. Here's how the finalists placed and what won:

  • SwiftSku from Auburn University, point of sales technology for convenience stores that allows for real time analytics, won first place and claimed the $350,000 grand prize from Goose Capital. The company also won the $50,000 Business Angel Minority Association Prize, the $500 Best Digital Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $401,000. The company also won the CFO Consulting Prize, a $25,000 in-kind award.
  • AgZen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a pesticide alternative spray and formulation technology company, won the second place $100,000 investment prize (awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The startup also won a $300,000 Owl Investment Prize, the $100,000 Houston Angel Network Prize, the $500 Best Energy Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $1,500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $502,000. The company also won the $30,000 in-kind Polsinelli Energy Prize.
  • FibreCoat GmbH from RWTH Aachen University, a startup with patented spinning technology for the production of inexpensive high-performance composite fibers, won the third place $50,000 investment prize (also awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The company also won the $100,000 TiE Houston Angels Prize and the $500 Best Hard Tech Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $150,500.
  • Candelytics from Harvard University, a startup building the digital infrastructure for 3-D data, won the fourth place $5,000 prize.
  • OYA FEMTECH Apparel from UCLA, an athletic wear company that designs feminine health-focused clothing, won the fifth place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $5,000 Eagle Investors Prize, the $25,000 Urban Capital Network Prize, and the $1,000 Second Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $36,000.
  • LFAnt Medical from McGill University , an innovative and tech-backed STI testing company, won the sixth place $5,000 prize and the $20,000 Johnson and Johnson Innovation Prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $25,000.
  • SimpL from the University of Pittsburgh, an AI-backed fitness software company, won the seventh place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $25,000 Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize from the Pearland Economic Development Corp., bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $30,000.

Some of the competition's participating startups outside of the seven finalists won monetary and in-kind prizes. Here's a list of those.

  • Mercury Fund's Elevator Pitch Prizes also included:
    • Best Life Science $500 Prize to Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Best Consumer $500 Prize to EasyFlo from the University of New Mexico
    • Best Overall $1,000 prize to Anthro Energy from Stanford University
  • The Palo Alto Software Outstanding LivePlan Pitch $3,000 Prize went to LiRA Inc. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The OFW Law FDA Regulatory Strategy Prize, a $20,000 in-kind award went to Paldara Inc. from Oklahoma State University.
  • The Silver Fox Mentoring Prize, which included $20,000 in kind prizes to three winners selected Ai-Ris from Texas A&M University, BruxAway from the University of Texas, and Karkinex from Rice University as recipients.
  • The first, second, and third place winners also each received the legal service prize from Baker Botts for a total of $20,000 in-kind award.
  • The Courageous Women Entrepreneurship Prize from nCourage — a $50,000 investment prize — went to Shelly Xu Design from Harvard University.
  • The SWPDC Pediatric Device Prize — usually a $50,000 investment divided its prize to two winners to receive $25,000 each
    • Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Neurava from Purdue University
  • TMC Innovation Healthcare Prize awarded a $100,000 investment prize and admission into its accelerator to ArchGuard from Duke University
  • The Artemis Fund awarded its $100,000 investment prize to Kit Switch from Stanford University
The awards program concluded with a plan to host the 22nd annual awards in 2022 in person.

If you missed the virtual programming, each event was hosted live on YouTube and the videos are now available on the Rice Alliance's page.

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