POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:21 a.m. HST, Nov 9, 2011
We've all seen them around town: groups of young people (or not so young people) in animated conversations at Starbucks, Coffee Talk or other caffeine-fueled gathering places. They are there for the Wi-Fi and the java, but often it's not just a social event. In the tech world it can be serious business.
Coffee shops located near high-tech havens on the mainland, such as Woodside Bakery & Cafe in Silicon Valley, became famous as ad hoc tech incubators way before Wi-Fi even existed. However, coffee shops have their limitations. As meeting places they can be distracting and sometimes noisy. What's more, management does not appreciate people monopolizing a table for hours on end for the price of a cappuccino.
So what's the answer?
If popularity is any kind of gauge, the next big thing in meeting spaces is a Kakaako-based venue with the unlikely name of The Box Jelly.
Dubbed a "a co-working place," it opened up inside Fishcake (a trendy furniture store) at 307c Kamani St. in Kakaako in September, and young entrepreneurs have been flocking there ever since.
And for good reason.
The Box Jelly has all the accoutrements any tech evangelist would want, including an 800-square-foot, brightly lit interior, high-speed Internet access, a plethora of electrical outlets, a color printer and plenty of parking. Naturally there's a coffee station that features a locally roasted Wailua blend. You can also rent a desk for $7 an hour or by the month. Groups can rent the entire facility for events.
CEO Rechung Fujihira and his partners in the startup (all products of the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program at Chaminade University) say The Box Jelly offers something that a coffee shop doesn't have: a much better possibility of connecting with like-minded colleagues.
"The whole idea of co-working spaces," said Dan Leuck, founder of Ikayzo, Honolulu's hottest Web development and social media shop, "is to attract like-minded tech and creative people for the purpose of facilitating spontaneous partnerships. Sometimes it's as simple as a freelance developer discovering a great designer to work with on her current Web project. Other times what starts as a few brainstorming freelancers turns into a company."
Said Fujihira, "We are here to learn from our peers and get things done. We are co-working."
In addition to The Box Jelly, there are two other Kakaako co-working spaces: R&D and The Green House.
Whether the proliferation of co-working spaces is a fad or a technology bellwether is anyone's guess.
Time will tell whether they can spawn the next Facebook or Apple.
Mike Meyer, former Internet general manager at Oceanic Time Warner Cable, now runs Islanda Managed Cloud Services, based in Honolulu. Reach him at email@example.com.