Co-working is a great thing. I've used it all over the world. From WeWork, to Canopy to TechHub they all offer something in terms of flexible, on demand, office space that you can use when you want and don't have to pay for in between. In London, I have three memberships to flexible spaces that I move between when I am there. They are different vibes, in different locations and offer different things. A common theme for the spaces I go back to a lot is the food and coffee - either in the space or close to it. This is always a draw for me, particularly good cake :)
As a relatively contemporary feature of modern cities co-working is typically a home for freelancers, early stage entrepreneurs, not for profits, digital nomads and roaming workers. It's also somewhere that increasingly I find students, who use the space as an alternative to hanging out at college/university after hours. All this makes for a great blend of thoughts and ideas. In choosing a space I look for what I call the serendipity factors - that increase chance meetings and opportunities for all. It's particularly exciting to know that you could be sat next to someone really very interesting who you've never met before, and all you have to do is reach out your hand to say hello!
Just like any other co-working space, Fábrica de Startups (Fábrica) has desks and chairs and a very nice internet connection, but what else do you get when you walk through the door?
Community is key at Fábrica. We often talk about the Fábrica family and the way people support each other. You can see it every day in the way people walk around the building saying hello to each other, sharing time over coffee. Right now in the building are around 20 different startups, at various stages who call it home base in Lisbon. Teams vary from 2 to 30 in size, so there are lots of different people to talk with and learn from. Fellow founders and startup junkies aplenty.
Different zones around the building provide sources of inspiration and a variety of interactions throughout the day. My favourite place is the roof terrace, I particularly like to go there first thing on a Monday morning to start the week off with sights sounds and smells of Lisbon. Then there is the first floor with its various break out spaces and different vibes including the table tennis table which attracts plenty of attention throughout the day.
I also enjoy spending a few hours each week in the lobby at a tall desk. Here I tend to get more conversations done than work itself, and that break from the keyboard can be very refreshing. There are coffee points dotted around the entire building, so you are never too far away from a caffeine fix.
Then there are the meeting rooms, free to members, which also provide a change of scene along with the lunch/break room that has a fridge, microwaves and seats for anyone who wants to hang out. With a vending machine in the ground floor hallway snacks are available 24/7, although my preference is to step out the front door to explore the myriad of coffee shops and restaurants in what is one of the best neighbourhoods in Lisbon.
To help lower the costs for startups there are perks and link ups from Fábrica that you can take advantage of as a member. Local coffee shop discounts, Amazon web services, Facebook etc. all there if you need them. Some of the members also like to take advantage of the basement garaging we have over two floors. Parking in Lisbon can be painful and costly at times, so particularly in the summer this proves a popular perk. I like to take the metro, and there are three stops close to Fábrica providing easy access. There is also a bus route that goes right past the front door.
Where co-working first leaks over to incubation is in the mentoring. Each member of the Fábrica community has access to the founders and a group of mentors who run regular session in the space. You'd expect this of course, because we are an entrepreneurship centre, with a lot going on and some amazing talent in the building. Each Monday I host a group workshop on a key topic for the quarter. This quarter the workshops for early stage companies are focused on Product Market fit and also raising seed funds. Each takes places every other week, and the groups have some common attendees but are different. As well as coaching and mentoring in the sessions, we set goals between each session and provide mutual support as 'one big team'. I am a great believer that through helping others we learn more ourselves, which is a very powerful lesson in itself.
For more detailed or confidential issues one on one sessions each Thursday can be booked as required by the founders in the building and these are often conduct in meeting rooms or out of the building. Alongside the mentoring are various slack channels to allow continuous interactions, and there is a physical looking_for board on the first floor to help members advertise their needs and find connections.
All members at Fábrica also have the inside track to the acceleration and ideation programmes that we run throughout the year, so when the time is right to apply you are at the front of the queue. Members can also sit in on sessions as they desire, and founders are often asked to be part of the programmes, as mentors, advisors, case examples or buddies.
On top of this the Fábrica brand, which has evolved over 5 years, is a draw for press, investors, tech talent and international visitors. They come to meet the founders of various startups and to be part of the events. Our regular events platform includes: Founders lunch, Entrepreneurs Breakfast, Grid and of course (open) Demo Night each month. Between these and the other 20+ events run from the space (on topics from presentation skills training to Ruby on Rails meetups) we have somewhere between 700 and 1000 faces walk through the door each month to say hi. A well placed flyer or advert can really carry a message across the city, Portugal, Europe and the world!
So, next time you are thinking about finding a co-working space in Lisbon, come take a look at Fábrica. We are a lot more than just a desk, a chair and an internet connection. I promise you a warm welcome, a guided tour and if you choose to join the Fábrica family a host of opportunities to take your ideas forward.
P.S.: Memberships start at just 35 euros per month.