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(Q&A) Entrepreneur Journey: This Millennial Built A $12M Coworking Platform In 3 Years

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According to various reports, the number of global co-working spaces is expected to grow from 14,411 in 2017 to over 30,000 in 2022.

We all heard of WeWork, the most “hyped startup in the world.”

Contrary to popular belief, WeWork isn’t the creator of an industry, they’re merely a market leader.

Below the surface of the all-encompassing WeWork, other players have emerged, looking to take a slice of the multi-billion dollar pie.

One of them is Coworker.com, built by Millennial wunderkind Leanne Beesley.

Since launching in 2015, Leanne’s built a $12M company, sold out her seed round in record time, and is now running a 19-man remote team looking to make a dent in the gazillion dollar co-working market.

Here’s her story.

How did Coworker come about?

I started Coworker to solve my own problem.

Yes, do tell?

Back in 2012 when I started working on my own e-commerce projects, I didn’t know co-working spaces existed. I worked alone from coffee shops every day. And even though I loved the freedom of working independently, I hated how isolated it made me feel.

Almost every day I’d need to change coffee shops at least once due to WiFi instability, crying babies or a dubious choices of background music — the moment 80’s pop creeps onto the playlist, I’m outta there. (Laughs.)

What did you do?

So when I finally discovered co-working spaces in 2013, it was like a ‘come to Jesus’ moment! Suddenly I found myself surrounded by a community of awesome people who were all working on interesting projects. The WiFi was stable, the decor was cool, they held meetups and events where I made tons of new friends, and most importantly, I finally had a place that I was excited to wake up and go to in the mornings.

But then in mid 2015, I moved to Hong Kong for two months and needed to find a new co-working space. So I turned to Google, expecting it to be a relatively simple process.

I guess that didn’t help?

It didn’t. I wasted almost a week sifting through 50+ websites of individual co-working spaces and reading blog posts, trying to figure out which one had the kind of people and atmosphere I wanted. Eventually, a friend recommended a co-working space she was a member of. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

I sense a “but” coming here…?

They didn’t accept credit cards, only cash, and I had to immediately pay two months deposit on top of one month’s membership fee. Cue me frantically trying to get over $1200 out of an ATM, maxing out the daily withdrawal limit on every debit and credit card I owned.

Then there was yet ANOTHER hurdle: Paperwork.

Pages and pages of membership contract paperwork that I had to initial and sign—all just for a simple one month hot-desk membership. I might have signed away my kidneys in that contract, and I definitely wasted about 20 minutes of my life while they prepared it all.

On top of that, they could only return my deposit — in cash — 30 days after the end of my membership. Although the co-working space was great, it bugged me that the entire discovery and booking experience was so inefficient.

How did all this lead to the idea itself?

While the hotel industry has Tripadvisor and Booking.com, nothing existed like that for co-working spaces. I couldn’t understand why in such a fast growing industry, there was not yet a global platform to find, book and review co-working spaces.

So together with my friend Sam Marks (serial entrepreneur & investor), I decided to build it.

Coworker went live in October 2015, and has been growing ever since.

What problem are you solving?

It’s still early days, but we’re pretty far along in solving the “discovery” problem so far.

There are currently over 9200 co-working spaces in 158 countries on Coworker, with around 300 new co-working spaces joining each month. So instead of having to sift through tons of websites on Google, you can now find them all on one marketplace.

Depending on what features the co-working space has activated, you can schedule a tour, book a free day pass (to try it out for a day), send a message, or make a booking request for a hot-desk, dedicated desk or private office.

Over 12,000 people have posted reviews of co-working spaces on Coworker too, which is why media publications often describe us as the “Tripadvisor or Yelp” of co-working spaces.

Now that we’ve built the foundation and captured the market, we’re moving onto tackling the next problem, which is solving the inefficiency and problems people have when booking co-working spaces online.

We’ll be launching online payments soon so people can easily pay for short term memberships on Coworker, and due to popular demand we’re expanding inventory types to include real time availability & booking of meeting rooms at co-working spaces.

I’m really excited about this next stage of growth — we’re solving a major problem for a lot of people —myself included.

Entrepreneurs

[INFOGRAPHIC] How To Start (And Grow) Your Business With $10,000

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Today, starting a new business is easier than ever. With Fiverr, Upwork and social media, you can get started in a weekend—and for very little money.

(What you’re reading right now was created in a week, by the way…)

But if you actually have a little nest egg saved up?!

Awww, man, you are off to the races! SO without further ado, here’s how you can kickstart—and grow—your business with $10,000, courtesy of this oh-so-pretty Infographic from Intuit.

Source: [Intuit]

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Entrepreneurs

VIDEO: Warren Buffet Bets Big On These Traits To Become Rich

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With a net worth that crosses a whopping $100B, it’s hard to question Warren Buffett’s investment moves. Here are the traits that the super investor believes can get one to be financially independent and significantly rich.

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Entrepreneurs

[Q&A] This Entrepreneur Founded A $50B+ Company—And Then Helped Startups Raise Money From The Crowd

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Howard Marks is one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the modern, digital age, a rare founder who’s actually innovated before said innovation truly mainstream.

And not just once, but twice.

As founder of Activision, Howard helped kick off a gaming bonanza that’s become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, birthing an entire new industry known as eSports.

Largely driven by Fortnite—a gaming franchise owned by Activision—eSports is expected to top $1.1B this year in global revenues, according to Forbes. Today, Activision is worth over $54B, trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

(In fact, had you invested $10K in Howard’s IPO, your investment today would be worth well over $700K.)

JOBS Act IPO revolution

Later on, as founder of Startengine, Howard helped kickstart the equity crowdfunding trend, opening an avenue for early-stage startups to raise money and redefine public offerings.

Back in 2012, President Obama signed off on the JOBS Act, allowing companies to go public, taking investments from non-accredited investors (essentially anyone without a net worth of $1M), without having to go through the tedious process of listing on New York Stock Exchange.

As head of Startengine, Howard’s built one of the market leaders in the equity crowdfunding space, with $43.72M in total investments in 2019 alone. 

More recently, StartEngine made a coup, joining forces with one of the most influential investors in the form of Shark Tank’s “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary, as reported by Crowdfund Insider.

Crowdfund Insider, the online authority for all things crowdfunding, recently did an exclusive Q&A with Howard, touching on the new deal with Mr. Wonderful, his business and the future of crowdfunding.

Here’s what he had to say.


Challenges of crowdfunding…

One of the biggest challenges we face as a company is that equity crowdfunding is not well understood by the general public. If you walk down the street and ask a stranger if they know what equity crowdfunding is, odds are they say they’ve never heard of it before.

Doing a deal with Mr. Wonderful…

Over the past few years, we’ve had several Shark Tank alumni raise capital on StartEngine, and we eventually got connected to Kevin. When we learned that he had been following the equity crowdfunding space for a few years and wanted to help inform others about the opportunities for raising capital using equity crowdfunding, it was an easy decision to form a partnership with him.

Mr. Wonderful’s role…

Kevin O’Leary is StartEngine’s strategic advisor and a StartEngine shareholder. His focus will be on creating more awareness about StartEngine and equity crowdfunding in general. Kevin believes in the equity crowdfunding model and our business and is helping to spread the word. He is even encouraging the companies in his own portfolio to use StartEngine for their next funding round.

Deal flow during the COVID-19…

Our entire team is operating remotely and staying safe during the pandemic, and our business itself is thriving. We’ve seen a good increase over the last 30 days in the companies applying to raise on StartEngine.

From both the company and investor side, StartEngine’s business has proven to be resilient to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

On the SEC and raising the cap for what startups can raise…

We support the changes wholeheartedly. It’s clear that $1.07M is too low a ceiling for Regulation Crowdfunding [Reg CF], given the average size of seed funding rounds today, and it’s time that we increase the limit to help small businesses achieve their goals.

In fact, we encouraged all 10,000+ of our shareholders to write letters to the SEC a month ago to encourage them to increase the limit of Regulation Crowdfunding from $1.07M to $5M to help small businesses today when they desperately need access to capital.

Accredited investors vs. non-accredited investors…

Howard Marks: Our business, and the business of equity crowdfunding, is bringing investment opportunities to non-accredited investors. We do not focus on accredited investors. An expanded definition may encourage those new accredited investors to feel more confident making investments on our platform, as well as increase the amount they can invest in a given year, which would be beneficial to the investing space. However, I don’t believe this would have a large impact on equity crowdfunding.

On changes he wants to see…

Howard Marks: The change we are most excited about at StartEngine is the proposal to increase the limit of Regulation Crowdfunding from $1.07M to $5M. Of all of the proposed changes, I believe that one will have the biggest impact for small businesses and will encourage more entrepreneurs to turn to equity crowdfunding.

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