By Cindy Atoji Keene
Collaborative workspaces are not so much about start-ups and freelancers being under the same roof as making meaningful connections, said Olga Akselrod, administrator of NGIN Workplace. This Cambridge-based shared workspace opened its doors last winter in Kendall Square with the aim of attracting an international business community of entrepreneurs. Lately NGIN, which gets its name from its homophone and motto, “Get your NGIN started,” is also focusing on drawing crowdfunding launch parties, offering its large conference space free of charge to early-stage companies. With its “boutique” multi-functional offices and global vibe, NGIN has already attracted over 15 different nationalities to its member community, including an audio technology company, social media app start-up, web-based marketplace, and material science company.
Q: NGIN recently asked members to share their recent accomplishments, both work-related and personal. What were some of these?
A: ‘Made first video,’ ‘released new software,’ ‘perfected my smoothie,’ ‘ran 80 km in a month,’ were just some of the achievements scrawled on sticky notes pasted to a common bulletin board. These collective milestones were celebrated with an ice cream party, and this is just one example of the strong sense of community in our innovation hub. We also do a ton of other community-building events, like yoga classes, Thirsty Thursdays at a pub, and ping pong tournaments.
Q: Recently NGIN shared a link on Facebook, ‘Only an entrepreneur could understand an entrepreneur.’ What do you see among entrepreneurs that make them a breed onto themselves?
A: Entrepreneurs work long hours which can mean a crazy schedule; many of them are cash-strapped and very busy. They also have lots of ideas and the ability to get up and try again even when a venture fails. Starting a company can be lonely, so the furnishings and design of our space create a lot of intersections where you naturally run into different people. The layout is based on a European plaza model; a communal kitchen bistro is in the middle with six neighborhoods revolving around it.
Q: Coworking spaces have boomed in the Boston area lately – although coworking is associated with tech start-ups, why does it also make sense for telecommuters, temps, independent contractors, and others?
A: We are located in Kendall Square where it is virtually impossible to find anything less than 20,000 square feet if you are looking for an office space – which most small business don’t need. Coworking makes sense for companies with limited staff and resources because it’s extremely flexible and affordable. You don’t have to sign a complicated long-term commercial lease or worry about perfect credit history, which some young companies might not have. It’s a great way to find like-minded individuals potential clients, employees, partners, and mentors.
Q: If you were to give five tips on how to be a better coworker, what would they be?
A: Wash dishes after yourself; be respectful to members around you; and if you need to make a phone call, we have plenty of spaces to do it – phone booths, tucked away nooks, and meeting rooms. Be friendly and introduce yourself to new members. If you see that someone is looking for help, offer your assistance.
Q: You’re known as being NGIN Crossfit enthusiast, right?
A: I’m a huge fan of Crossfit; I guess I’m a bit kind of a crazy about it because I do it six to seven times a week for one and a half to two hours, Crossfit has a big component of working together as a group; for NGIN as well, community is the single most important factor. So I definitely think there is a lot of correlation and irony there.