16 Jan 2013

How a Coworking Space Ruined Me

A little over a year ago, I was happy. I had a decent job, I had a good group of friends, and I had hobbies and interests outside of work. I did, however, work from home, and it was boring. Sure, I talked to people via IM or phone conversations throughout the course of the day, but it wasn’t the same as real human interaction. I didn’t want to become the stereotypical developer who stays holed up in his basement writing code, so I decided to see what I could do about this problem. It just so happened that I stumbled upon an article about coworking and a subsequent search for “coworking in Guelph” brought me to ThreeFortyNine. I sent an email, came in to try it out for a day and ended up with a desk in the building. Now I do all my work in an environment where I have other people to talk to, bounce ideas off of, and fulfill my daily quota of human interaction. My life got a little better, end of story.

Except… that’s not quite what happened. I thought I was paying for a desk, but that’s not what I got. Instead, ThreeFortyNine ruined my life. You see, the people there have this funny preoccupation with startups.

Creating a startup, for those of you who don’t know, is the process of finding problems that don’t exist and charging people to fix them. Or at least that’s what I used to think. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, puts it a little differently. According to him, startups are "a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty". It’s that uncertainty part that gets me. Why would I want to leave my comfortable job and attempt making something out of nothing in “conditions of extreme uncertainty”?

Slowly however, my feelings towards startups began to change. I started checking out ThreeFortyNine events like Founder’s Club and DemoCampGuelph. What I found was a bunch of people who were passionate about what they do and why they’re doing it. Looking at my own job, I couldn’t say that’s how I felt about it. Did I like my job? Sure, it was acceptable. But after seeing these people who were involved with their own projects, acceptable wasn’t good enough anymore. Pursuing my own ideas started to seem more appealing than showing up and being told what to do. So I got involved with a startup.

I didn’t initially jump at the offer to join a startup. I actually said no. I felt I didn’t have the time to commit to my regular day job and something extra. At the same time, I was starting to feel like I wanted to do something that wasn’t my normal routine of building a site for a client, passing it off, and moving to the next project. After some convincing, I reluctantly joined Printchomp. In a few short months, my technical ability and business knowledge has easily doubled. I work with a great team of people who are personally invested in the results of our project. That sense of ownership makes the work different. I’m not just passing it off to clients who are then going to use my work to make money for themselves. What I do has a direct effect on my future. It’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

As I got more involved with the startup world, I started to see things differently. I don’t think that these companies are finding problems that don’t exist and working to fix them. A lot of them are looking for the inefficiencies in our everyday lives and looking to solve them. That’s what I identify with. I like solving problems. Now I want to solve problems and get paid for it. And if I got rich while doing that, I wouldn’t complain. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Before I came to ThreeFortyNine, everything was fine. I was perfectly happy with my job, as long as I had enough money left over at the end of the week for wings and beers with friends. The people I’ve met since then have made me unhappy with my normal day-to-day job. They make me want to do something I’m passionate about. They’ve ruined me.

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