|STEVE MACNAULL/The Daily Courier|
Accelerate Okanagan CEO Jeff Keen shows off the new Pod co-work space the high tech organization has launched upstairs at 1334 St. Paul Street downtown.
Next was Co-Lab inside the Accelerate Okanagan offices at
1405 St. Paul St., where 12 high-tech freelancers have work stations and feed of the synergy generated.
The latest is The Pod - also an Accelerate Okanagan initiative - but at a different address upstairs at 1334 St. Paul St.
"Can you believe this space used to be a boxing club?" said Accelerate Okanagan CEO Jeff Keen.
"The boxing ring used to be right here in the middle and the walls and floors were just plywood. It was a pretty trashed place."
But building owner David Rush - a partner at the law firm Rush Ihas Hardwick, which has offices just down the street at 1368 St. Paul - envisioned a different use for the space when the boxing club moved out.
"Initially, we asked David if we could just store some excess furniture here," said Keen.
"But he said: 'Why don't we fix it up and put in a co-work space.' So here we are."
The 1,500 square feet has been transformed into two big rooms with cream-coloured walls, dark wood floors and pods of desks for rent for $250 a month.
Besides the desk, co-workers get 24/7 secure access, Internet, kitchen and bathroom and big-screen television for client presentations.
This summer, a rooftop outdoor deck will be opened, complete with barbecue.
Beside the physical amenities, the biggest advantage of co-work space is to get tech freelancers and entrepreneurs out of their pajamas and home offices and into an environment where there are other workers to share energy, ideas and the work day.
Today's co-work space differs from the temporary office concept of yesteryear because co-work is meant to be more than just a place where a sole proprietor who can't afford a full office shows up to do some work.
Co-work is meant to inspire and forge professional and personal relationships, from referrals and contracting another co-worker for a project to mentoring and friendship - all things which are important to a freelancer who might otherwise be isolated most of the week.
One room at The Pod with six desks and a big common brainstorming table has already been rented to Dramaforum, a Finnish company that produces Petra's Planet, the online world for kids to create characters and travel the world.
If the concept sounds a bit like Club Penguin, the Kelowna-based Disney company that has an online playground for kids to oversee cartoon penguins' lives, you're right.
Dramaforum has chosen former Club Penguin director of community support, Nathan Sawatzky, to be its Kelowna-based director of community.
"We're the satellite office to the main one in Finland," said Sawatzky.
"I was initially only going to be a consultant for Dramaforum, but then they wanted me full-time and to have a staff too and open a whole office here."
Rather than lease traditional office space, Dramaforum opted for The Pod's co-work concept.
"In the tech industry it makes sense to be close to other tech types for their energy, ideas and skills," said Sawatzky.
"At The Pod I can just step into the room and talk to another web developer. Co-work space is also very flexible. If we go up to 10 or
20 employees, we can grow."