BLACKSBURG — The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is planning to open a new coworking space later this year in order to offer early stage startups a place to call home — albeit a small one.
The facility, called COgro, will have enough room for 75 people mostly working at their own desks.
The cheapest membership costs $175 a month for access to unreserved seats on a first come, first served basis each day. For $250 you can get an assigned desk to set up as your own.
COgro will also have separated offices for those in need of a little privacy. Two-person rooms cost $750 per month and there will be one four-person suite for $1,300.
The idea is to fill the space with a bunch of different people working on their own projects. They’ll get some of the perks of working in a larger office setting, but at a cost small teams can afford.
All of the memberships come with access to a full kitchen, break room, five conference rooms around the building and all the normal Corporate Research Center perks, like walking trails, athletic fields, coffee, snacks and networking events.
But one of the most valuable assets, CRC Chief Operating Officer Dawn Myers said, may be a business address and facilities that lend a little extra credibility to entrepreneurs just getting started.
“It needs to be a cool vibe,” she said. “We want prospective members to walk in, see the vibe we’ve created and realize this could help them grow their business.”
COgro will be Blacksburg’s second coworking space. The other, TechPad, has been downtown since 2011.
Its owner, James Creekmore, previously operated another coworking space on Blacksburg’s Faculty Street, called Studio2.0. But Creekmore said he has closed that facility and consolidated all of his coworking tenants into TechPad.
Roanoke has its own cowroking space, called CoLab, and Lynchburg has Momentum.
It’s not a new concept, as companies like WeWork have popularized the business model in most urban hubs across the U.S. WeWork’s parent company, The We Company, is valued at $47 billion and advertises 786 coworking spaces in 124 different cities.
In New York City, for example, WeWork has more than 50 different locations listed on its website.
Mary Miller, director of Roanoke’s RAMP startup accelerator, said the personality of the office is going to be key. She said it shouldn’t feel like a library, but rather a place where people communicate, work together and share ideas.
Cheap office space is helpful, but Miller said the comaraderie — if executed properly — can be the real selling point.
“Coworking space is really a powerful idea, especially if the companies have something in common,” Miller said.
COgro plans to be open for business in October. The 5,000-square-foot space is inside 2200 Kraft Drive. It has been a CRC office for years, so it won’t require major renovations.
But Myers said her team will need to put up walls for the new private offices. The CRC also plans to install soundproof compartments that look like phone booths for private conversations.
All of the meeting rooms will be named after various hiking trails in the region, including McAfee Knob, Carvins Cove, Dragon’s Tooth and Peaks of Otter.
Myers said the CRC has enlisted consultants with experience in larger coworking markets to make sure they get it right.
“This will not just be a physical space,” Myers added. “We want to build a community. I think that’s important.”