Collider Coworking provides spark for Rochester's entrepreneurial community
As Rochester leaders begin to dig in on the first phase of Destination Medical Center's Discovery Square district, one local business is already laying the groundwork for what could turn the city's downtown into a hub for entrepreneurship.
Located on the second floor of the rehabbed Conley-Maass-Downs building, Collider Coworking offers a space like no other in town. With desks scattered across an open floor plan, Collider serves as home base for entrepreneurs and startups across numerous industries, many in technology and creative services.
Because of its emphasis on collaboration, the space is often touted by Mayo Clinic and DMC officials as an example of how Rochester can cultivate the startup culture needed to stimulate innovation.
"I have seen a number of amazing collaborations happen just because people were in the same room," said Jamie Sundsbak, community manager of Collider Coworking. "We call these interactions 'random collisions,' which is made possible by the density and diversity of tenants in Collider."
Amanda Leightner operates the Rochester Rising blog and podcast, which covers entrepreneurial activity in the region. She has been at Collider since the space opened last year, and has witnessed first-hand the synergy created when so many different minds come together and bounce ideas around.
"On the surface, it's a desk," she said. "But it's more than that. It's a community."
For Leightner's line of work, the constant "collisions" have proven especially useful. Through her reporting, she has helped tell the stories of dozens of local entrepreneurs, many of whom she met through her connections at Collider.
"It's essential to keep my finger on the pulse of the entrepreneurial community," Leightner said in a recent interview. "There are so many people who come in and out of here."
Collider memberships range from $30 to $325, depending on how often a tenant needs access to the building and whether they want a permanent workstation or a "hot desk." The plans all include two must-haves in the startup world — a fiber Internet connection and access to conference/quiet rooms.
Chris Peterson and a small team run PayGo, a software company that provides solutions to independent retailers. He told us Collider provides him the opportunity to remain nimble. It gives him the professional workspace he needs without the long-term commitment of leasing a traditional office.
"That's the good thing for an entrepreneur; you don't have to sign up for a 12-month lease," said Peterson, noting that startups often have to react quickly to periods of growth and setback.
Reflecting on the past year, Sundsbak said Collider has managed to bring much-needed awareness and entrepreneurial density to downtown Rochester — not just by providing physical space, but also though events such as Global Entrepreneurship Week, Startup Weekend and 1 Million Cups.
It's a culture that Sundsbak, a former Mayo employee, hopes to see continue to grow in Rochester. Already, he said, the Collider team has begun actively exploring ways to expand to other locations.
"Going forward, I believe that there will be a greater demand for collaborative spaces in Rochester," he said. "This includes coworking spaces, but should also encompasses a broader variety of spaces like commercial kitchen space, wet laboratory space and arts spaces."
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Cover photo by Madison Conte