How to start a co-working space: like @inspire9

Ok, disclaimer – I’ve never started a coworking space myself. But I’ve now been around three separate spaces as they’ve launched and seen them move through the various stages of development and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on what has seemed to work in those places and perhaps take some guesses at why.

So over the next couple of days I’m going to write about what I have seen of the spaces Inspire9, Hub Melbourne and Home/Work as they’ve launched and gone on to various kinds of success.

Of course; Nathan, Brad and Josh – if you think I get it wrong at any point jump in and let me know!

Today, I’d like to talk about Inspire9.


Inspire9 was my first foray into working at a coworking space. I can’t remember exactly how it all happened, but Nathan emailed me one day with this link and told me to drop by. I normally make a habit of listening to what Nathan says, so dropped by.

Nathan had just moved his business, Inspire9, out of his home office and into a small terrace office space in Dover St, Richmond. It was beautiful. It was small, but it was homely and most importantly it was accessible. You can see the first space in the photo below.

"Check this thing out..."

That’s probably the first thing about beginning to run a coworking space. Nathan made the experience one that was incredibly accessible. There was no fee involved, nor was there any need to sign up to anything. You simply would drop in and work with whoever else was in the space at the time. I was never a regular, but dropped in most weeks throughout 2009. I co-preneured from there too when I was doing that.

Of course now, Inspire9 has grown into a large and beautiful converted warehouse space in Stewert St, Richmond. But Nathan’s ethos has remained the same. Inspire9 is an incredibly open place to be. You can still drop in without paying, but there are also numerous tenants now contributing to the rent by paying their way for permanent desk space.


Multiple people have a key and the community owns the space. You can see people tweeting on the weekend asking if anyone is going to be dropping in, and on most days I see responses from people saying they’re already there! Everyone has some sense of responsibility in the success of the i9 space and there is now a thriving community of start-ups from the AngelCube program in residence, as well as a good smattering of Ruby on Rails people.

Things Inspire9 did well

1:Made coworking accessible.
2:Dissolved responsibility by allowing the community to own the space
3:Targeted specific types of people like those from the Rails and Startup scene to ensure people found something to resonate with in the early days.
4:Expanded when it made sense to, after they had a vibrant community of people using the space in Dover St.

It’s a beautiful place to work and a beautiful group of people. You should drop by sometime when you’re next in the area.

6 thoughts on “How to start a co-working space: like @inspire9

  1. Awesome. Thanks for sharing Steve. Inspire9 looks amazing and congrats to Nathan and co for doing what he’s done and the way he’s done it. Dissolving ownership is a strong way to embed responsibility.. The way I’m running H/W is definitely organically and ‘as it comes’. The difference in sizes no doubt lends itself to slightly different usage modes… I read this article the other day too which had some great insights about coworking. 

    1. Awesome mate. I like how you’ve dissolved a bit of ownership as you’ve headed off to SF. It’ll be interesting to see what the vibe is like without you in the space. 🙂

      You’re right about the size, but I think that’s what I like about it. H/W is not undersubscribed, and like Inspire9 before it, it’s set itself up to grow from it’s initial roots by having a strong community initiate it. 

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