Covering the tech sector in San Francisco these days is a lot like what it was like being a reporter for Rolling Stone here in the 70s – you get your mind blown, a lot.
Now we end up using the word “disruption” a lot, and that is certainly appropriate, because startup after startup among the 5,000 or so (just within the city limits) is certainly disrupting entire industries right before our eyes.
But maybe a better word for what is happening would be “renaissance,” because that captures more what we’re seeing on a broader cultural level.
Whichever term you prefer, consider the world of work – how, where, when and with whom you work – and what an important part of your life that is. Then consider this: Why do so many people still commute to centralized offices everyday, when there is so clearly and obviously a much better way to get things done?
Enter LiquidSpace, a startup that helps “mobile workers navigate the global workspace ecosystem in real-time to work when, where and how they want.”
This company literally lives its own mission statement and therefore doesn’t even have an office. I tracked down the company’s CEO, Mark Gilbreath, who was (as always) on the go Thursday, helping coordinate the city’s first-ever Mobile Work Week celebration of the rise of the collaborative workspace-sharing.
Co-working spaces have popped up all over the city and region lately, from RocketSpace to The Hatchery, but the movement Gilbreath describes is a much bigger development, really more of an ecosystem of workspaces that respond to the needs of today’s mobile, itinerant workforce of freelancers, consultants and project-based workers.
“There’s already enough built-out office space on the planet to meet our collective needs for the next fifty years,” says Gilbreath, “but it’s badly under-utilized.”
If Gilbreath and his team of 21 needed a proof of concept for the service they started building a year and a half ago, the diversity of building owners and operators who have signed on since then offers that evidence.
Companies like Microsoft are renting out their conference rooms in downtown San Francisco, as are a half-dozen hotels around Union Square, not to mention the City government itself.
In fact, progressive city officials in Palo Alto and Santa Cruz have joined San Francisco in using LiquidSpace, and a large part of their motivation is reducing our collective carbon footprint as the inescapable reality of global climate change sinks in.
The reasoning is that mobile workers will opt to work in spaces nearby rather than enduring long commutes, which is ecologically helpful in two ways -- better optimizing building use (commercial real estate accounts for 60 percent of our carbon footprint); and shortening commutes (transportation causes much of the rest).
Since launching in May, LiquidSpace has attracted over 10,000 members using 1,000 venues in the U.S., including at least 50 here in the Bay Area. It conducts around 5,000 transactions a month, and during the past month booked over a million square feet of real estate. You can locate and book space near to you, in real time, for as short a visit as 15 minutes to an entire day using this service.
When you think about, what these guys and others are doing is helping to transform the way we go about our working lives, and if the trend proves accurate, in the future most people will move office to office, like butterflies, rarely settling in for the long term, like bureaucrats.
The City of San Francisco, which already has been recognized as the greenest city in North America and has reduced its carbon footprint by 12 percent what it was in 1990, has set even more ambitious goals going forward.
LiquidSpace seems well-positioned to help make that vision a reality, both here and beyond.