What LooseCubes’ shutdown means for coworking and the future of sharing space

A lot of people were sad to hear the news that LooseCubes will be shutting down at the end of this week, myself included.

Workspace-sharing platforms began to emerge in earnest a few years ago, with LooseCubes leading the way as the largest and most well-capitalized. Off the top of my head, there’s Deskwanted, DeskTime, LiquidSpace, eWorky, SharedDesks, and at least a half a dozen more.

TechCrunch has been quick to say that this casts a shadow over the workspace sharing marketplace model.

Perhaps. I don’t think LooseCubes shut down because this concept can’t make money; they had raised plenty of capital and seemed to be executing on a plan that would get them the revenue they needed. If anything, I believe that figuring out how to properly monetize workspace sharing is just a matter of time– perhaps still a little ahead of its time right now– but there’s little question that the workspace equivalents of AirBNB and Zipcar are going to arrive eventually.

Workspace is going the same direction as our homes and our cars. We don’t need them all the time, and there’s money to be made in facilitating the sharing of them. Collective Consumption and the Sharing Economy and all that good stuff. But that’s not as interesting to me as the other major implication of LooseCubes’ departure.

LooseCubes’ departure leaves a vacuum at the top of the world of workspace sharing. 

People loved LooseCubes. It was the top dog not just because it raised loads of cash. It represented something more.

Because for LooseCubes, it was never about the physical features of the facilities. All that stuff is irrelevant now. The name of the game in the workspace sharing world is the people you have a chance to meet. Nobody ever said they loved coworking because they got to sit in a fancy chair. LooseCubes got that better than most, and was putting that first and foremost in the direction they took.

As others scramble to fill the void left behind, some will inevitably figure out how to do the best job of offering up the best platform for sharing facilities. It will be dry, and it will make good money. And there will always be a struggle among competitors over securing the most market share.

But someone out there will figure out how to make a platform that truly embraces the fact that sharing space is about the people and not the facilities.

Whoever does that will not only have an opportunity to build a truly successful business; they’ll have an opportunity to play a major role in helping to build the infrastructure that will power the new workforce and the new economy. (See my related thoughts on that here.) GoodCoworking, a brand new site that is entirely powered by testimonials, represents a promising insight into what that could look like, but it’s all still very early. There’s much still to be explored.

This is currently the top comment on the TechCrunch article:

Somebody out there must fill that gap. Someone must step up to inspire Amanda and the countless others who saw LooseCubes as a beacon. It won’t be LooseCubes anymore, but it will be someone.

Seeing LooseCubes go away breaks my heart. The memories of the laughter and energy and deep conversations they brought to my community in their early formative days at New Work City will be with me forever. I wish the best to the team and everyone affected.

  • http://tdhurst.com/ tdhurst

    I was just approved today!

    Sad to see them go before I had a chance to try things out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amandajmccormick Amanda McCormick

    Oh snap! That TC comment was me! (and I came here from Betabeat). I’m glad you point out that the fancy chair is not the reason we cowork. It took being a part of Loosecubes to acquaint me with that. Initially, I thought it was a place to grab a desk, better than Starbucks — but over time,  it represented a lot more to me. 

    While there are a number of players in the market, for many of them, the space is the main focus, not the community. I don’t doubt that the fundamental spirit LC exemplified does exist at places like New Work City. I’ll just mourn the evangelizing LC was doing for noncommittal newbies like me who were just starting out about the value of the coworking community. It was a great way to get your feet wet before settling down.

    Thanks for a really thoughtful article! 

    • http://tonybacigalupo.com Tony Bacigalupo

      Amanda, you are a blog comment pro :) Do you have a blog of your own?

      Agreed that the biggest loss has been LC’s advocacy for people new to coworking. Someone will take their place; I just hope it’s soon!

      • http://www.facebook.com/amandajmccormick Amanda McCormick

        Naturally ;-) — jellybeanboom.com