Back in 1999 there was major buzz about a high-tech incubator being developed by divine Interventures in Chicago.  This, as we now know, was a bit ahead of its’ time, considering the grand success of 1871.

I joined the firm in March, 2000 and worked with a division of the portfolio called “dotspot, Inc.”  There, I met several incredibly intelligent and dynamic people, including Ryan Evans.

I recently circled back with Ryan to catch up on life-after-dotspot and to get his perspective in the current trend in collaborative, open-plan workspace.  Ryan is Founder and President of, a web portal that allows you to track who are your prospects and and how they found you.  He is also a member of Grind coworking space in Chicago, so he has witnessed how collaborative space has evolved.

Here is the digest:

Q: Ryan, we experience the precursor of 1871 back in the day.  What do you see that has changed most dramatically since 1999 in the collaborative workspace arena?

A: The biggest change over the last 15 years has been that technology has enabled people to work in different physical locations and coworking has become a normal thing. When it first started, there was no way to do video chat and it was pretty tough to collaborate. Because working remotely has become so common, the number of tools that help people work together in different places has exploded. I think in many cases having people working in different places is not only desirable for employees, but it can actually lead to more productivity. Jason Fried has a nice TED Talk on this .

Q: There is still a great deal of debate about open-plan for sizable companies.  Are there benefits to collaborative space for corporations and larger companies?

A: Bigger companies need to be educated on the benefits of collaborative spaces. There is still resistance from some companies that having people work in a collaborative environment isn’t a good thing. There is this leftover idea that you need to have an office “presence” that impresses people with a dedicated receptionist and a big sign at the entrance. But people don’t really care about that any more.

For companies with small regional offices, employees would generally rather work in a space with more people that is larger and more active than be crammed into a small office with 2-3 of their coworkers.

Q: How would you go about working with a larger business to ease them into creating collaborative workspace?

A: Individuals need to be sold on the benefits of being in a collaborative space instead of working at home, especially since it adds a commute and a cost that they currently don’t have. Being around other people increases your connections, opens you up for knowledge sharing and is simply better for your mental sanity. Humans are social creatures and weren’t meant to be alone all day long. There is a reason solitary confinement is used as one of the worst forms of punishment.

Q:  What can for-profit coworking and collaborative workspaces do to attract members?

A:  Collaborative spaces need to foster the huge selling point of bringing with common interests and personalities together. Many people who run collaborative spaces don’t think much about the culture of the space they are creating or the type of people they are trying to attract. They are so concerned with filling the space, that they are happy with anyone who will come into the space. I think that’s a mistake. If you build even a small group of people that really enjoy being around people, they will not only be excited about the space and stick around longer, but often they will recruit their peers to join them.

Q: Can you please share what marketing strategies would look like?

A: The marketing tools that space owners need to use, are the ones that get in front of the type of people they are trying to attract and showcase the feel of a space. Social media is a very powerful tool for this. Space managers can not only post pictures, videos and blog posts, but they can encourage people in the space to talk about it to their friends online. Also, the advertising capabilities with social media is getting much more sophisticated and, when executed well, managers can get in front of the exact people they want in the space.

Many thanks to Ryan Evans of  To get more intelligence on your prospects and customers, link to and connect with Ryan on Twitter @ryanevans

September 30th, 2014

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