Yesterday I had the privilege of spending 9 hours working from The Hashtag (@Hashtag_Fresno), a co-working/collaborative workspace located in Fresno. It was both enjoyable and stimulating, and I came away with the sense that I had just spent 9 hours looking at a blueprint for the eventual standard workplace of the 21st century gig economy.
A few off-the-cuff impressions:
- The atmosphere of the space itself was exactly right – just the right amount of hippie, just the right amount of funky, just the right amount of geek, just the right amount of “sssh-people-are-working” and just the right amount of “feel-free-to-socialize.”
- The founder, Irma Olguin Jr. (@irms, also founder of 59 Days of Code and web development firm Geekwise), is both a gracious host and a true believer in the power of the open, collaborative workspace.
- The members that I got to meet were uniformly bright folks with sharp ideas and a friendly disposition. Like Irma, they too are believers that they’re participating in something vital – and they’re absolutely correct.
- The internet speed was fantastic. There is absolutely no comparison to using the free wi-fi at a place like Starbucks or Panera; at the Hashtag, you get your internet brutally fast. It’s like drinking from a firehose. Loved it.
- The movable furniture (all the desks are on casters) is a brilliant touch, as it allows the space to be easily re-configured for different purposes. Last night, everything was moved around to suit a bunch of people watching a speech being delivered by Fresno local Rob Walling (@robwalling) and it took all of 5 minutes.
I have referred to the Hastag twice now as a “workspace” but that’s not exclusively true; people play there as well as work (I’m told you can find the occasional game of D&D being played there late at night). They host art events and speeches along with productivity events. If your dream is to write the Great American Novel, you could do a lot worse than to visit a place like the Hashtag if you need a quiet place to write. If you feel like hacking away on a labor of love project, again, this would be a great place to do it. This could be construed as “work” of course, but I want to make it clear that this is not merely a replacement for day-job office space; it’s a space for doing things. More to the point, it’s a space for doing things in the presence of other people and having a chance to socialize, share ideas, and meet new people.
The Hashtag bills itself as “the best third space ever” and I’m inclined to agree. Co-working has exploded all over the country in the past few years, and what I saw in Fresno is more than just a worthy addition to the ever-growing ranks of such facilities on a macro scale; it’s a vital addition on a micro-scale to a Central Valley landscape that desperately needs to escape the confines of last-century ways of thinking about and executing on business, creative and social endeavors.
Today, reflecting on my 9 hours at the Hashtag leaves me a) thankful for the new faces I had a chance to meet, and b) with a renewed conviction that the mobile professionals/gig economy workers/creatives of Visalia need to follow Fresno’s lead and get a co-working space opened ASAP. It will be good for everyone, and will help to push the Central Valley (kicking and screaming, if need be) one step further into the 21st century in terms of how & where we work, create and socialize.