Knoxified Friday Question: Work-at-Home People

CP KFQ, Popular, Questions 25 Comments

Home Office

From the porch I’m standing on, Knoxville appears to be sprouting in the right direction. Especially in the venture and entrepreneur sector.

For those in this type of market, are you working from home or maybe renting a small office? Where do you meet with your clients? Coffee shops? Restaurants?

The reason I ask is because I feel there’s an empty void in Knoxville. A void that needs to be filled with a creative workspace. Examples of creative spaces here, here and here.

In your opinion, is Knoxville in need of a creative workspace like the examples above?

Comments 25

  1. Digital Crossing downtown and Tech2020 in Oak Ridge were supposed to be helping to fill those voids. Neither did well at their respective promises/duties in my opinion.

    Boston on the other hand took an old rotting wharf, warehouse district and turned it into a booming digital incubator. Sorry no linkage, pulling from memory. That was 10 years ago so it could be drastically different (or failed) today. But look to Boston as an example of how to do it.

    For your questions, I’ve been locked in a basement dungeon for 10 years (some would say that is working from home). I meet with my clients on Skype, SMS, and email. Rarely do I see them in person and some I have never even seen a picture so if you put them in a police line up I may not even be able to identify my clients (I really hope you don’t need to put my clients in a police lineup).

  2. Great post, CP.

    We have office space at the Tech2020 building in Oak Ridge, right next to the Fairview and Tech2020 incubators. It is pretty great being in this environment, but I part of me does wish we were at least in West Knoxville if not downtown.

    Of course, we currently stay close to the laboratory due to the spin-outs from licensed technology. Maybe that will change as the UT Research Foundation gets more momentum?

    Also, I think home offices, garages, and tool sheds are great places to grow early stage start-ups and base a single-man consulting business.

    Twitter me @cmm1869

  3. I fully support this idea! So far Knoxville has 1 weekly coworking meetup at Panera on Kingston Pike, Wed. from 12-4pm.

    I’m hoping to organize another in Fountain City, at the Panera on Broadway.

    But I think something downtown would be ideal, if we can figure out parking :/
    For the folks who live downtown, and as development continues, I really think something there would thrive (and plenty of places to eat/meet when necessary, all within walking distance). As long as it isn’t in Turkey Creek.

    I meet folks at the coffee shop, but I’ve been to residential offices as well. 90% of the time I just work out of my house, however, because no one I work with lives here.

  4. To respond to Doug…

    I don’t think Digital Crossing in downtown is supposed to house businesses. It is a data storage and management company, from what I understand.

    As for Tech2020, it has a pretty narrow scope around supporting spin-outs from the laboratory. I know that excludes certain folks, but it is kind of the evolutionary product of having a mission that focuses on utilizing the advanced technologies of the lab and its denizens (for lack of a better term).

    We are missing a more general incubator environment, which I’d love to see. There is a new incubator opening at UT next to the ag campus/river, which I think will be very cool.

  5. Is this something people would be willing to pay for? Maybe some type of member fee + usage?

    @Victor – URL? Is it on meetup or upcoming?

  6. I work at home mostly, but when I have to meet up with people it is usually Panera or some other place with free wi-fi. I also tend to head there on days when I really have to buckle down and not be distracted by the home environment.

    I’d like to see some sort of web/tech-based group started here, even if it’s just a “nerd breakfast” once a week or month. I’ll gladly help get it organized if others are interested.

    I have to believe there are other people in the area who would be interested. I imagine it as a loose-knit group that’s mainly interested in brainstorming and helping each other find resources. I’m a little turned off by the traditional business networking groups that are geared more towards selling, selling, selling.

    We (those of us who would do something like this) are dealing with a worldwide market, not an ET market. There’s huge incentive to help one another and collaborate since the competition for market share isn’t an issue.

  7. “I don’t think Digital Crossing in downtown is supposed to house businesses. It is a data storage and management company, from what I understand.”

    No, it was started as an incubator for Internet startups. It got consumed by Scripps Networks (who took the top floor) and some shady deals cut by Bellsouth and some other names. I worked with a company that had a small office there and saw the way it should have worked (which was the small business I was with got to work directly with Bob Benz and his group on some projects. That was cool!). It was a good idea but had challenges (like parking). I probably have some of the original marketing materials from when the Digital Crossing was getting started. I was in some of the original meetings at Tech2020 and quoted in the News Sentinel at least once from one of those meetings.

    It may have evolved into nothing more than a data center, but that is not its original purpose. I’ll have to look it up but 10 years ago a guy named David something (I think it was David), and not Akins or Snider, was running the show and he can give you the real history (not the marketing history on the tech2020 website).

  8. Chad, there is no arguing that by putting creative minds together in a physical space that great things happen. There are times I am dying to bounce something off another person but I have online outlets for that.

    Personally, I’d pay a usage fee to have access to a conference room with a computer and projector where I could have presentations for sales and teaching. Oh, and group insurance!

  9. I’ve spoken about this point with a few people as well and think it could easily become a reality. The problem as I see it, is if it’s not at a “public” e.g. Panera, there is significant risk for someone to lease/outfit a building or floor for this venture – unless a venturing downtown/west company was willing to open up it’s doors. I’ve thought about it doing it here at Abunga, but we don’t have the extra space or the type of office most people would want to co-work in. I think the space next to Jason’s Deli looks prime for a HUGE coworking space. (The old OCI West)

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  11. @Doug – I definitely agree. Even working a “corporate” job I still work from home 1 or 2 days a week just to get outside of the office walls. The insurance angle is really interesting.

    @Gavin – I think it would have to be a new venture leasing a space. The OCI idea intrigues me. Downtown would be cool, but parking is always an issue.

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  13. After more than 20 years in corporate/office environments I quit a few months ago and joined a startup called Maroon Ventures. Very strange to be working from a loft at my house. So far, meetings have been in coffee shops and much of my contact comes via tedious conference calls. My partners are scattered from Louisville to Crested Butte so it’s important for me to be pretty wired. But I also would like more opportunity to rub shoulders with local startups. Lots of opportunities develop there, as Doug pointed out in reference to Digital Crossing in his earlier comment. While DC didn’t ultimately succeed, I think it was hunting in the right field. The idea of creating a venue where startups, established companies and capital can mix it up has major appeal.

    I wonder if a cool model would be the airport frequent flier lounges. What if you had a coffee shop/bar where people could meet, have lunch in private rooms or in a common area and rent space by the day, week or month? To me, it would need to have a cool factor and a do-business factor bundled in one. There could be a reasonable annual membership fee that allows you to take advantage of the general facilities with a guest or two and hourly fees for use of meeting space, etc.

    (And while I’m tossing it out there, would be even cooler if this meeting spot was staffed by executive assistants who, for a reasonable rate, could book travel, set appointments, etc. The main thing I miss about my corporate life is my assistant. Of course, I had the best assistant on the planet. But having someone who could handle tasks like that would be an added reason to frequent this type of place.)

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  18. Thanks Chad for getting this out there! I’m visiting family here in Knoxville from San Francisco where coworking now seems to be expanding everywhere — but so far I haven’t found anything here. So my friend Page and I are trying to put a CoworkingKnoxville interest group together to see as such if maybe down the road something could develop? Thanks for helping get the word out!

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