For the tech startup ready to move out of the founder’s dining room or a freelancer tired of meeting potential clients at the neighborhood Starbucks, there is a growing local presence of coworking offices in Fairfax County.
More than just a way to make having a physical office space affordable, coworking tends to be about creating a sense of community for the business people sharing the space.
“We didn’t see a lot of that happening in Northern Virginia,” said James Quigley, CEO of the Reston-based technology company Canvas.
Canvas got its start in a small coworking environment in Reston, and Quigley believes that maintaining that aspect of startup culture is essential to keeping tech companies from heading west to Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
He was involved in launching a new coworking space in Reston Town Center called Refraction, which will hold its official grand opening April 30 but is already 40 percent full.
Refraction is a curated space, meaning that companies are hand-picked to ensure diversity and a good fit. The mix includes technology companies, artists and nonprofits.
“What seems like three pretty eclectic groups actually comes together in really cool ways,” Quigley said.
Coworking spaces also meet the practical needs of a small business that doesn’t have a lot to spend and doesn’t want to get locked into a traditional multi-year commercial lease.
“As a small business owner, it is important to be able to reflect a professional demeanor,” said Peg McDermott, a member of the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and a small business owner working in shared office space. “It puts them on more equal footing with some of their larger counterparts.”
Companies like Regus, UberOffices and Teqcorner are now offering a variety of shared office space options in Tysons Corner — from a “virtual office” that essentially consists of an address and occasional meeting space to a suite that can house a handful of employees.
Teqcorner, which at 13 years old is one of the oldest shared spaces in the county, offers virtual offices, suites and the more collaborative “I-Lab,” for those seeking more of a community environment. It is now home to more than 60 companies.
Teqcorner is in the process of expanding its space, adding a different type of workspace it is calling the “I-Lounge” on the first floor of the building, which will include a “Starbucks-like environment” as well as more private space and a meeting room, said director of sales Joel Cisneros.
With the Silver Line opening this year and planned redevelopment around the stations, Cisneros and McDermott said they believe that Tysons will become an increasingly attractive environment for new tech companies.
“Every indication is that this place is just going to light up,” Cisneros said.
Companies seeking more flexible workspace options may not be the best thing for the county’s bottom line. During a recent Board of Supervisors budget meeting, some supervisors noted that this trend might make it harder to shrink the county’s office vacancy rate, which now sits at nearly 15 percent.