Troy Innovation Garage co-working space in Troy, NY

Sharing Spaces: How the Capital Region is helping startups thrive

Say so long to that impersonal, crumb-filled table at the busy neighborhood coffee shop. Co-working spaces designed for business and collaboration are fueling startup innovation Upstate.  

While co-working spaces cater to a range of freelancers and other “solopreneurs,” they also offer startups an advantage, matching like-minded entrepreneurs with technological and community resources unavailable in noisy coffee shops or isolated home offices.

In New York State’s Capital Region, co-working spaces are attracting young companies eager to leapfrog the huge overhead costs of leasing traditional office space and gain access to incubator-class experts, shared multimedia conference space and networking on a regular basis. While the ongoing events and business-class digs and services draw members, it’s the rooms full of equally motivated entrepreneurs chasing a similar goal that keeps them there.

Here are some of the co-working spaces—and the startups they’ve launched—defining this trend worth watching. Two additional co-working spaces, scheduled to open this year in Albany, will give area startups even more options.

Troy Innovation Garage
Once a showroom for selling Pierce-Arrow cars in the 1920s and 30s, this 14,000-square-foot loft-like space in downtown Troy currently houses some 80+ members and accounts for more than $4 million of the region’s wages. Celebrating its one-year anniversary in March, the Garage regularly hosts business lectures, networking events, presentations and even product design exhibits.

Startup members can tap into a host of on-site amenities at the space, not to mention the Garage’s Spark Exchange incubator and its co-sponsor Innovate 518, one of New York’s designated Innovation Hot Spots that is a joint effort between SUNY Albany, RPI and the Center for Economic Growth.

Simplecast, a startup based at the Garage, recently attracted $1 million in venture capital to further develop its subscription-based podcasting and analytics tool. Simplecast’s Recast, an embeddable audio player, lets anyone, not just podcast producers, share custom audiograms of their favorite casts on social media.

Capital District Digital, a full-service marketing agency offers enterprise-class Web design priced for small business owners like themselves. After joining the Garage in early 2018, they’ve saved on overhead costs and found a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

The downtown Albany co-working space was the third “Hive” to open in March 2012. Some 23 members include Dan Fitzgerald, who previously worked at two software startups and helped develop and build a wind farm in northern New York. Fitzgerald saw a growing need to help the state's electric grid respond faster to fluctuations in electricity supply as more renewable sources enter the supply chain. Fitzgerald works with Jeff Bishop’s startup, Key Capture Energy, to regularly identify, prospect, develop and deploy utility-scale battery storage projects, including one that could power as many as 50,000 homes.

Member John Doran is using the co-working space to launch PlugIn Stations Online, a startup that is mobilizing the effort to bring ChargePoint electric vehicle charging stations to locations across New York State. Cities, towns, villages, counties, colleges, hotels and major corporations have already used the startup to give their residents, students, employees and guests access to EV charging stations. A map of the startup’s customers throughout the state is a clear indicator that electric vehicle use  is gaining traction.

Troy Innovation Garage co-working space in Troy, NY

The Business Hub
This Saratoga Springs co-working space features 25 private office suites and emphasizes offering “business concierge service” to its 40 current members.

One resident startup, SolarPark Energy, was able to jump swiftly on an emerging business opportunity without being sidelined by usual startup costs. They formed in 2016 to build, own and operate utility-scale solar arrays under the New York State Public Service Commission’s Community Distributed Generation (CDG) program. The shared community solar panels will expand the use of solar energy to a much larger group of consumers and commercial users in urban areas as well as multi-family buildings that  wouldn’t otherwise be able to install them.

The founders of Tone Creative, a marketing and design agency whose clients include the Girl Scouts and the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, have found similar benefits as part of the Business Hub ecosystem. The firm helped a fellow startup and client, the Saratoga Tea and Honey Company, scale from an idea to a viable brand with a retail and online store.

With a new name and expanded office space in downtown Schenectady, URBAN CO-WORKS can now accommodate companies with one to 50 employees. A dozen companies are currently based at the co-working space, including Magic Digital Media, a brand agency providing graphic design, sponsored ads and managed services like social media for emerging companies selling on Amazon.

CEO Derek DeMeo says, “In the past, the only option we had was to either work in a coffee shop or secure an expensive long-term lease. URBAN CO-WORKS provides our new startup with an affordable, flexible and professional work environment.”

The range of startups and maturing businesses co-located with Magic Digital Media vary across multiple industries and sectors, including genetic counselors, attorneys, engineering consultants and human resources practitioners, to name a few. Despite each company's unique business goals, at StartUp Town Square, URBAN CO-WORKS’ regular entrepreneurial networking and programming series, they are reminded what they share: the desire to connect and make great ideas a reality.