According to Wes Garnett, Delaware is the only mid-atlantic state that does not have a coworking space.
“It’s not just because no one has started it,” he says, “but because no one has even heard of coworking.”
Much like many Philadelphians, Garnett sees a northern neighbor taking technology talent from his city when there are plenty of reasons to stay home. Though Delaware is well-known as a tax shelter for large corporations, the state hasn’t exactly been rolling out the red carpet for entrepreneurs, something Garnett and his partners hope to change through coIN Loft.
“In 2007, Delaware was ranked 50 out of 50 for attracting entrepreneurs. The next year we jumped to 35,” he says. “Either way we suck.”
The life-long Delaware resident, along with business partners Pedro Moore and Steve Roettger, is leading the charge to create coIN Loft, a coworking space in Wilmington, Delaware. The trio is anticipating opening in March and the space will have 17 desks available in three tiered memberships: basic (a few times per month), part-time (two to three days per week) and full-time. Members of coIN Loft will also be eligible to participate in crowdsourced client projects.
The origins of coIN Loft – short for “community innovation” – stemmed from a October article in Entrepreneur Magazine citing coworking as an upcoming trend in the startup world. Both Roettger and Garnett saw the space as a chance to change Delaware’s lack of an entrepreneurial mindset as well as a way to attract clients to Verge, their Wilmington-based company that offers consulting services to early-stage startup companies.
The business partners began immediately looking for a space. Something that, as any of the Indy Hall founders would tell you, should come only after a community is established, something Garnett acknowledges.
“We did everything backwards, it’s in our nature to be running really fast to the things we want to do,” he says.
In researching a space, the group also came across a real estate developer shopping around a coworking space that named “Verge Coworking,” confusing given coIN’s consulting gig.
“It’s like in school when you wanted to talk to a girl you thought was hot and she turned out to be your best friend’s girlfriend,” says Garnett. “It was like the Twilight Zone.”
That coworking space eventually fell through, but that won’t stop coIN Loft’s urgency. The group just signed a year lease, and the group, using roughly $25,000 of outside investment and $25,000 of their own funds, is beginning to renovate the space as weather allows.
“In Delaware things just take forever,” he says of coIN Loft’s urgency. “People really want to see things change but most people just sit on sidelines.”
coIN Loft’s organizers say it has a handful of verbal commitments for full-time members and has seen interest in the Wilmington community as a next step for the city finding its identity. The community, which has already held two Ignite events, even created an entire neighborhood dedicated to housing creative professionals.
“If we could build the reputation of coIN up,” he says, “it will make people say: ‘These guys [in Wilmington] are just as talented as anyone else’.”
Full Disclosure: Independents Hall co-founder Alex Hillman is a current sponsor of Technically Philly.
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