A Bot Named Sue
Posted at 11:15h, 10 May 2016 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Johnny Cash did a song a while back called A Boy Named Sue and we couldn’t resist. Our bugaboo of the week is the incessant number of calls we’ve been receiving of late, where a cheerful voice on the other side of the phone starts with, ‘Hi, I’m Sue!”

‘End.’

No you’re not. You’re a bot and if some telemarketer or politico feels that we’re valuable enough to be worth a phone call, then please do us the courtesy of having a human call us, rather than some bot or other.

And speaking of humans, Crain’s did a piece recently about coworking spaces (Is the co-working boom creating the next real estate bubble? WeWork’s growth into an office-sharing juggernaut has spawned scores of imitators hoping to cash in on a boom before it goes bust), observing that “there are 53 co-working brands in Brooklyn alone and at least 70 in Manhattan, according to an industry report,” and while there does seem to have been a sudden proliferation of coworking spaces relatively newly sprung up, and full disclosure, Coworkrs happens to be our coworking space of choice and where we host our investor breakfasts. It was not our first time at the carnival, and we will tell you that not all coworking spaces are the same – nor did WeWork invent the concept. Sunshine Suites were around long before WeWork, but as John Battelle said at the DLD conference last week in a panel on Creative Hubs Around the World, mentioning China, which in an attempt to foster entrepreneurship, converted a building strictly for coworking, sparing no expense – and it proved to be an abject failure. “It’s not about a building,” Battelle observed. “It’s about a network of people. WeWork put a keg of beer in the middle of the room – a coworking space was born.”

Actually, a community was born, as was the concept of coworking spaces as communities, and each community different, which is what defines each individual coworking space and frankly, is what we like about Coworkrs: it is very much a community and for the record, this is not a sponsored post.

The sudden proliferation of coworking spaces is due, in no small part, in our humble opinion, to the fact that not only do budding companies need an affordable and flexible office space as they’re just starting out, but also because we’re living in an economic period where not everyone is necessarily employed at a company full time: they’re a heaven sent for freelancers and consultants who want a work space away from home, where there is a community of not only like minded sorts, but also the potential for finding more work: people do talk – and share information – the kitchens at many a coworking space serving as the new water cooler. And lest we forget, given the number of bots/AI assistants out there who’ve replaced many a human, and the ease with which technology has helped us to work more efficiently (and if that really is the case, why are we all working so damned many hours?) and has obviated the need for many of us to have to go and work in an office, necessarily, humans are social by nature, and there are certain things that even tech can not disrupt. Look at the number of dating and social apps out there, if that’s any indication and as for coworking spaces, hey, coffee shops and the Ace Hotel are there, but they’re not the same. Humans have needs that just aren’t served by a Starbucks or Ace Hotel (pun intended): routine/stability. Continuity. Connectivity – and we don’t mean wifi. Even in the age of VR, AI, and bots, the physical has become more valuable, not less valuable, as tech disintermediates so many aspects of our lives. And will be even more so in the future, according to the DLD panel, contending that it’s not just about the physical space itself: it’s proximity that brings about the collision of ideas.

Facebook claims some 1.6 billion plus active users, and heads up to idea-seekers: Megacities, not nations, are the world’s dominant, enduring social structures, according to this piece from Quartz, and note to self : “connectivity matters more than size.”

Tech sometimes gets overly caught up in zeros and ones and data collection and may somewhat lose track of the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s also about brick and mortar, the one-on-one and the face-to-face. And creating an environment that fosters the free flow of ideas. This is something of a heads up to those of you who may be casting about for your Next Big Idea, or building a company that will involve hiring staff. Social may be the tech du jour and Big Data the uber rallying cry, but with new tech hubs springing up all over the country and the world, in places where life has a much more human scale than it does in Silicon Valley and New York – and coworking spaces following – at the end of the day, it’s about people. Speaking of which and despite the fact that it very well may be the hipster capital of the world, Techcrunch Disrupt NYC, we’re just not going out to Brooklyn. Even a number of investors/influencers whom we spoke with have mentioned that they’re probably sitting this one out. But you know what they say, and with all due respect to Brooklyn, and speaking of coworking spaces: location, location, location.  Onward and forward.