Bo Pierce is a co-founder of The Hum. When he isn’t tracking down amazing entrepreneurs to work with and conducting interviews, he works as Community Director at the Worcester CleanTech Incubator (WCTI), a co-working space in downtown Worcester, MA. Bo shares his thoughts on the benefits of working in an incubator and the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded, passionate people.
Entrepreneurs seem to love complaining about working 16-hour days. For some, that means spending all day every day grinding on their startup. There are those that can avoid taking a “real job” after graduation and work on their hustle 100% of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone. Others, like myself, have to take a day job.
Admitting to myself that I had to get a real job was difficult. It felt like I was abandoning the masterpiece that we were just beginning to put together.
Thankfully, the team was incredibly supportive and the unforeseen benefits of working in a co-working space have helped The Hum in ways we did not foresee. Working at the Worcester CleanTech Incubator (WCTI) has opened doors that we didn’t even know existed.
Hats. Many Hats.
Some of you may have noticed that WCTI is the same incubator that houses The Hum. (No, we do not have anything to do with cleantech. Yes, we managed to get the hook up anyway.)
I anticipated wearing many hats as a co-founder, but adding to the complexity by wearing hats from multiple organizations throughout the day is its own adventure.
My job as Community Director for WCTI involves interacting with startups, gathering the resources they need, and designing programming around the issues they don’t know they’re about to face.
Supporting startups and creating an environment in which they can thrive has been a crash course in entrepreneurship. It has also taught me the value of working in an incubator and, more specifically, of working with the types of people that work in an incubator.
Coffee is good. Feedback is invaluable.
Grinding away in a coffee shop paints an iconic image of entrepreneurship, but in reality, it’s lonely and not conducive to pumping out your best work. One of the most common advantages to operating in a co-working space is consistent access to outside opinions.
“Hey, does this email make sense?” “What do you think of this new logo design?” “How is your company getting traction on Instagram?” You can ask these same questions to fellow coffee shop patrons but they are generally… less enthusiastic about helping you than your peer entrepreneurs. We know. We’ve tried.
Your fellow entrepreneurs also become your first board of advisors. They get familiar enough with your business to help you through the pivots and pitfalls. They are your network brokers. Need a graphic designer or a video editor or legal advice? Each “advisor” you work with expands the network you can tap into.
Even the big kids are doing it.
Major companies, like AT&T and GE, are working to include open, innovative spaces in their corporate offices. They are even going so far as to invite freelancers and entrepreneurs to work alongside their employees.
Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, made the same decision. He says it was an easy one, thanks to the “intangible benefit of being around like-minded, energized entrepreneurs who bring in perspectives and ideas that wouldn’t occur naturally if it was just us.”
Collaboration and Energy
These business leaders know there is real value in creating this type of environment for their employees. One unexpected benefit I have found is the collaborative nature of working in an incubator.
Instead of ferociously climbing the corporate ladder or battling other startups for survival, I have found a collaborative environment in which everyone is genuinely invested in seeing you succeed.
This sense of community is another incredible advantage to working in an incubator. Building a community makes people comfortable and, without having to watch their backs, entrepreneurs feel free to propel each other forward.
People that do not fear competition are allowed to be themselves and that freedom fosters creativity.
Another incredible benefit? The energy brought to work by entrepreneurs every single day.
Entrepreneurs are passionate about their work. It is what they have chosen to do in this world when they could have chosen anything else. The energy and excitement associated with that are powerful, and they spread.
The best part? We actually see the tangible benefits of working in this space. We make connections that matter all of the time. Just 2 days ago we met a potential contributor just because we happened to be working in the office.
As we were typing away at our desks, another member of our startup cohort walked by. An ambitious guy himself, he took the time to introduce us to his friend. It turns out this guy is a podcast host, working to conduct interviews with entrepreneurs to share their passion with his listeners. Sounds familiar, right?
It was a matter of seconds before we were diving way too deep into collaboration plans — articles, podcasts, sharing companies we’ve worked with, a cross-country interview trip.
The energy was instantaneous and incredible. One of the guys even said aloud, “This is why people like us need to be around each other.”
It doesn’t have to be an incubator.
The takeaway here is to spend as much time as possible with the people who share your passions, no matter the field.
These are the people who will push you to be better at whatever it is you choose to do.
It doesn’t matter what you are passionate about. Sports. Reading. Software development. Quidditch. Competitive eating.
No matter what it is, there is a league or club or meetup or networking group where you can find people who share your passion.
Whether it is every day, once a week, or once a month, make the time to build connections with people who will inspire and challenge you.
Go find the like-minded individuals that will fuel your fire, boost your energy levels, provide you the feedback you need, and collaborate to expand your network and lift you up.
Can you afford not to?