Peta Ellis General Manager at River City Labs, Brisbane Australia

Peta Ellis General Manager at River City Labs, Brisbane Australia


Highlights of my conversation with Peta Ellis

  • Benefits of working in a co-working space
  • Brisbane tech Start-ups successes
  • Various events held at River City Labs

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Heather:        Hello Peta, and welcome to the show.

Peta:               Hello Heather, thank you for that introduction

Heather:        I am so excited to talking to you about River City Labs and to hear all the insights that you have to share with us today.

But let me start with my very first question Peta, who is your favourite superhero and why?

Peta:               Favourite superhero has to be wonder women by far always has been number one every since I was little and still is today. I have just recently hired out the some re-runs of the season.

Heather:        I thought you were going to say costume.

Peta:               No, not the costume. Although I still have never made to dress up party dressed as wonder women but I have got my kids educated them on wonder woman right back to 1978.

Heather:        Old versions?

Peta:               Old versions yeah.

Heather:        I’m thinking it was Lindsey Wagner or was that Bionic Woman?

Peta:               Still Lynda Carter.

Heather:        Linda Carter, very good, sensational. Yes, I did like wonder women too and her see-thru aeroplane.

Peta:               Yes, I know. She’s got an outfit for every occasion and always looks extremely glamorous.

Heather:        Yes, always scrubs up well.

Peta:               Yes, exactly.

So back to the River City Labs, which you’re the general manager of, what’s the purpose of River City Labs, Peta?

Peta:               River City Labs is aimed as being the central hub for all start up activity in Brisbane and we actually extend further and provide that sort of centralized access to start ups within Queensland. We have a lot of members from far north Queensland and then southern regions and regions of Golf coast.

So we are the central hub of the start-up activity which means we are place where people can come to work, come to meet people, they can come and get mentored, they can attend an event and learn something new. It really is the central place that brings together all of the different types of people and activities surrounding start-ups and innovation. Basically when people come together, that’s where the magic happens and we get collaboration, which is all we’ve ever wanted to do here at River City Labs.

Heather:        So if you have people coming from the Gold Coast, for our overseas listeners the Gold Coast is about an hour away, and if you have people coming down from the north of Queensland which is many hours away, are they actually coming to the centre or are they doing that remotely as a member?

Peta:               They’re actually are physically coming. Some people do remotely sort of tap into our different groups that we have online where they can talk and collaborate. But we do have members who come down physically who they might be in Brisbane for couple of days for conference or a meeting, and they may choose to work for River City Labs at the time they’re down here or choose to as a base where they can have meetings with their own clients.

So it’s sort of evolving what it means to those regional members but we have seen a bit a growth in that area where people using as a central location when they are from out of town, yes.

Heather:        That’s interesting.

So what is the catalyst that started River City Labs?

Peta:               It all started in 2011 when Stephen Baxter, who is the founder, who is an entrepreneur himself, visited Sydney and Melbourne frequently on business and saw that they had a lot of activity in the start-up sector. It all revolved around co-working space and central hubs and that Brisbane was lacking a place like that. So he came back to Brisbane, found a great location that was centrally located, close to public transport, and went about creating River City Labs.

What sort of businesses does River City Labs suit?

Peta:               It suits Tech based start-ups, so that’s our niche. We are co-working community of tech start-ups. That means anybody who has got a start-up … is a globally scalable business based on technology. It’s not a local retail store. It’s not a brand new business that’s just starting out. It really does need to be globally scalable business. We have a niche in here, like I mentioned before, for tech based start-ups. So the platform or the application or the website obviously needs to be quite heavily tech focused because we believe that’s where growth can come from when you scale very quickly and globally.

So I should ask what is the internet connection is like at River City Labs?

Peta:               It’s amazing. It’s great. We work off a few different networks. I don’t like to think how fried I’m becoming with all the Wi-Fi networks that are floating around my head but essentially there are cable networks that residences can tap into and there are two different wireless networks here as well, so the speed is very fast. So much that I don’t even bother using internet home anymore because it’s too frustrating. When you get used to the fast speeds in here, everything else seems quite dismal.

Heather:        Yeah, that’s interesting. Well, that’s very exciting, isn’t it, that you’ve got so many layers of speed happening in there.

Peta:               It is but it’s also essential. When you’ve got game developers and people uploading and downloading and building applications on the net, it needs to be very fast. Any sort of lag time or anything that can slow anyone down isn’t going go down very well in this sort of space.

Heather:        Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the things that you actually think that when you go somewhere it’s automatic you get the internet speed but it’s actually not. For someone like me who visits lots and lots of business onsite, the speed is just so different, even just from using my iPhone which is wireless to what they’re doing.

Peta:               Exactly.

Heather:        This is productivity and it is actually really, really important in this day and age.

Peta:               It is important and I think unless you realize, unless you go back and use a very slow connection, you realize how much waiting we used to do just waiting for things to upload or download or connect or send or whatever they’re doing. When you get used to fast speeds you expect everything to be just instantaneous.

Heather:        It makes it a very attractive feature to actually move into River City Labs just for your fast internet.

Peta:               Exactly.

How will a business benefit from being in a co-working space?

Peta:               Well, there are multiple areas. Like we said, all the members who come in here, they’re really going to get out of it whatever they’re put it. It’s not a place where you can magically come and all of sudden you’re connected to all those people and get lots of work done because essentially it’s still going to come down to how: 1) motivated the individual is themselves, 2) how dedicated and self-driven they are because they’re still going to be working for themselves.

Heather:        Absolutely.

Peta:               They’re still working to their own agenda; however, if you get inspired working around other proactive and productive people, and also are willing to ask questions to those who have more knowledge then you or knowledge in different areas, of course you’re going to benefit and grow and evolve as an entrepreneur and as a business owner simply because the access to those people is very accessible meaning that it’s all around you.

There are people willing to help if you just need to ask the question. There are people around you doing great things and if you sort of can feed of their energy work with them or work similar to them, you’ll get lot done plus you’ve got that dedicated space to come and just put your head down, focus and get some stuff done for the time that you’re here.

Whether it’s talking to other people which may help you get over problem that you could have milled about on your own for a day or two at home where you could fast track that process and get some help along the way with somebody else who may have come against that, or get some mentoring in a specialist area whether it’s marketing, finance, accounting, legal, those sorts of people are around and are accessible to get help with. That could save you a few days. It really does depend on what you’re focused on, what you’re willing to get done and what you’re willing to ask for help with.

Heather:        It really speeds up. It’s a real accelerator for your actual business.

Peta:               It is but, again, it’s not going to happen to you.

Heather:        No, it’s not like a …

Peta:               It’s not magic and …

Heather:        Travelator at the airport.

Peta:               Exactly.

Heather:        It’s not like a travelator.

Peta:               No, that’s right but it is an inspiring place that everyone is in here having good days, having bad days. What is nice though, it’s nice to look around and realize that you’re not the only one. You’re not the only one going through the ups and down, the good days, the bad days or whatever it maybe. That it’s just a part of being in business and other entrepreneurs … I mean sometimes it’s a curse as much as blessing to be an entrepreneur, pretty much because you don’t have the luxury of turning off your brain or your ideas. It’s happening all the time.

It can get really tiring being that sort of a person, so it’s nice to associate with likeminded people who are also just the same and get the pace that you normally work at or think at or speak about because other times, a lot of entrepreneurs can feel quite isolated just simply because their friends aren’t the same. They’re used to just going to their normal jobs and doing their Monday to Friday, 9-5. The life of an entrepreneur is extremely different from that.

Heather:        Yes, so you come there just to feel normal.

Peta:               To feel normal, that’s right.

Heather:        Yeah, I completely hear you. I think once you’ve actually gone down that route, it’s really hard to go back to the concept of working 9-5 and being told what to do, etc., and answering to people.

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When does a business know it’s ready to join a co-working space?

Peta:               Look, again, like I mentioned before, it comes down to the individual and what stage you’re at. If you’re feeling a little bit uninspired working on your own and you sort of know you could be doing more but you’re not, maybe it’s time to start working alongside some other people. Also, finances have to come into some stage. Some people would love to work in a co-working space yet still don’t have any income from their business, so that’s not going to be an option for them.

We’re talking about $100 a month is the starting point for a membership here and it can go up to $450 a month and there’s option in between. Sometimes reaching that $100 a month to handover for rent is still too much. Other people find that it’s no problem at all and that’s a great start.

I think being clever about it and not committing to something that’s not going to be sustainable, is something you have to be mindful as well. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have a rent to pay when there’s no money to pay it. Then you lose all productivity and all inspiration and you sort of … your creative juices flow out the window. So I think you do have to be smart about some of those choices.

As far as a business is concerned being ready, it really does vary: one, in what industry you’re in, how far you can take it on your own before you do need to get some help or some mentoring. Those sorts of factors may come into as well.

Where are they coming from? Are they coming from home officers or are they sitting as employees deciding, “I need to start a job?”

Peta:               We get about 50-50. Yeah, we do get the individuals who have already left their job and have started something and they may be working from home, and then decide, “Right, I need to go and make this real business as such and get a desk and get a professional, and really give it a hundred percent.” So they come in and take a desk and rent a space and become part of the community that way.

Other people have come in in their spare time. They still have a job and they come in the evenings or the weekends to dedicate that time to their business and starting out, and when they have enough money to leave their job, I suppose they will, some do and some don’t.

Others have left their corporate jobs and then gone out on their own and then need a place to work because home is just not suitable, whether they have young children or there’s just no dedicated space or they just aren’t the type that can successfully work from home.

Yes, so as well as renting for whole month, you also have a rent a desk concept, is that correct? That someone can come in and rent on a daily basis?

Peta:               We do, day drop-ins. Every other membership is monthly and there are no contracts because start-ups are very transient and you never know where your income is coming from, from one month to the next. We don’t like to have long contracts tying people in. The most that you will ever be asked to commit is one month which like I said starts at $100 a month for casuals and it goes up to $450 month for a full time desk. But there are day drop-in passes, so that’s $33 a day to just come in and work here for the day.

That still gets you a seat at a desk. There are people around you that you can chat to which is half the bonus of going somewhere else to work, you’re talking to other people. But, again, you can just come here per day depending on how much time you actually need.

I presume the rent-a-desk option is open to our overseas listeners?

Peta:               It is, it’s open to anybody. All of the memberships are actually open to anybody. But we do have a lot of travellers who come into town and they may be staying here for a little while but might want to get some work done, so drop in day rates are perfect for those internationals.

Heather:        It must actually be so much cheaper than going and doing it in a hotel?

Peta:               It is and often in hotels, they’re just seeing other people sort of travelling and at least if they are keen on this sort of industry, at least they can come to Brisbane and connect with likeminded people. We’ve got a lot of international people working in here anyway from other countries, so we already have that good international flavour or such of a good mix of people.

Heather:        And $33 probably equates the one day of Wi-Fi at a hotel.

Peta:               Exactly.

Heather:        And you’re getting it a lot faster with you guys.

Peta:               Yes.

Heather:        So you’re too cheap.

You do run a lot of events at River City Labs, what events have worked really well and what events have perhaps unexpectedly bombed?

Peta:              We run a lot of events, probably between three to five a week, and that is a combination.

Heather:       That is a lot.

Peta:              Yes, so it’s a combination of meet-up groups to events that we host where we get a panel speaker in or a guest speaker or an entrepreneur’s story or a basic residence gathering, like a social lunch for us in here, so there’s a range. Really successful events are obviously the bigger ones, so Lean Start-up Machine, which is a three day event on validating ideas between businesses.

Start-Up Weekends are another three day event, that’s a big one where we can get to build a business in 54 hours and team up with other people who you’ve never met before but who are into the same thing. Basically come along with an idea and pitch it and form a team and build it by the Sunday. Those sorts of things are great. They give off great energy, get to make some great friendships. They’re the bigger ones and then coding Rails Girls, which is a weekend of learning to code for women, which is free.

Heather:       Okay, for women?

Peta:              Just for women, yes. We’re encouraging lots more women to get into the tech space, so that’s their motivation.

Heather:       What age?

Peta:              Any …

What age are you finding coming along to that?

Peta:              We have an average … I mean look, it’s open from 18 and over. Although last one we did have an 11 year old girl come along, which was great but then we’ve also had women in their late 60’s come along.

Heather:       Sensational.

Peta:              It really is open and we do get that broad range every single time. I couldn’t really say we’re getting just 20 year olds or 30 year olds, it really is a mix and they’re all coming for very different reasons.

As far as events that have bombed out, look generally events just on basic … it’s not great saying this to you but accounting and bookkeeping, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t say they bomb out, they just don’t appeal to everyone because unless you are interested in that topic at that time, you’re not interested in leaving your desk to come along for a lunchtime session.

For the people who are really need to know about bookkeeping that week, those people will come along. It doesn’t appeal to the broad range of people. It’s really just to a small number. They’re our lowest attendance ones. We have never really bombed out and had nobody rock up to anything, which is …

Heather:       No. I just thought it was an interesting question, from my perspective I wanted to ask it because I’m sure other people are listening to the show and thinking, “Our city needs a co-working space,” and it would give them some insight into what sort of events that they should look at running.

I’ll put in the show notes links to your events and your meet up events so people can have a look at what you’re actually doing because I think you’re doing it really well and I think you’ve got a large coverage of some really in depth people coming along, and then perhaps some lighter topics coming along and fun sessions. I think you’re even running a boot camp there at the moment as well. Not that that’s fun.

Peta:              Every Tuesday and Thursday we do a free workout in the basement. Yes, exercise is important.

Heather:       It is important. It just might not be fun.

What are some of the key successes for River City Labs? Maybe you can talk about some of the current sponsored … I know you have a current sponsored entrepreneur programme. Maybe you could talk about some of the key successes that you see.

Peta:              Since opening two and half years ago, our aim is … because we’re being personally … the whole venture is personally being underwritten by Steve Baxter, and we’re very lucky to have somebody like that in Brisbane willing to put up their hand and go, “Right, I’m going to fly the flag for this industry on my own,” and with no government support or anything. A lot of other co-working spaces are often tied to some corporate or government industry bodies or universities.

River City Labs has been a standalone independent operator up until recently and we have recently just put a call out to some corporates to get on board with this space and to do more than just sponsor the odd event, which is the most engagement we’ve had to date.

We’ve had the Bank of Queensland come on board as a corporate sponsor which has enabled us to give some desks to some start-ups, some worthy start-ups who have applied for the privilege of having their desks sponsored.

It’s called the sponsored entrepreneur programme and it means that entrepreneurs can come in with their desks sponsored, so they’re getting a free desk for three months thanks to the Bank of Queensland. What it means is start-ups who, like we mentioned before, have identified the need to work in a co-working space, the desire to do, and highlighted that their company would benefit from being in a space like this yet just do not have the funds to pay for the fulltime desk.

They have applied and then we went through some criteria to select some companies that we felt would be of benefit to being here for three months on a sponsored desk, and we have those five companies starting on the 22nd of September, which will be great.

Heather:       Wow. Five all in one go.

Peta:              Five different start-ups, yes. They will be in here for three months and, as part of that programme, they will get to have a weekly touch base meeting to make sure that … it’s still not a programme but there is funding involved. They are pretty much in here for three months to focus on their business and have the flexibility to meet with mentors, get some guidance, meet people along the way, attend all the events that we host here and really get some quality work done on their business with that full time membership. Hopefully we will see them in a different place in three months’ time.

Heather:       Yes, sensational. I guess you’ll get a lot of nice coverage with the bank from doing that as well to tell their stories?

Peta:              Yes, exactly. They will come and tell their stories. They’re allowed to talk about the businesses through their marketing channels. Plus, we’re also tapping into the Bank of Queensland network. They’ve got a lot of clients and they will be able to help us promote those start-ups through their channels to their clients, and we can also tap into the expertise within the company and get some mentoring out of the Bank of Queensland as well. It should be a good partnership.

Heather:       Yes, definitely. It should be a win-win. You’ve spoken about that as one of the key successes for River City Labs.

Can you name any business perhaps that people will know that have come out of River City Labs? I know you’ve only been around a couple of years so that may be difficult.

Peta:              Yes, I think it will be difficult for people to know who they are. There are some …

Maybe the concept of some of what they’re doing? Maybe an example of what some of the businesses are doing?

Peta:              Yes, sure. We’ve got Uber. Most people have ridden in an Uber car hopefully around the world. At the moment … Uber are in here at River City Labs at the moment. They launched their Brisbane team earlier on in the year and they’ve grown to a team of eight at the moment and they’ll be leaving River City Labs in November and going to their own space. Things like ride sharing, like Uber, are proving to be …

Heather:       What size did Uber have to get to in numbers before they decided to leave?

Peta:              There are six at the moment and they know that they’re being … it’s difficult for a company to create their own company culture when they’re in a co-working space. It does get to a point where they do need to go and create their own identity and have their own location for their own company’s benefit, to build the culture in the team and that sort of thing. Most people get to about four or five desks and realise that co-working then takes on a different meaning for them, and they do benefit from getting their own space after that.

Heather:       I guess that’s really the goal for everyone that’s going through, isn’t it? That they get big enough that it’s going to …

Peta:              It is and that’s all we’ve ever wanted. Just to be that place to come before you have your team and then you get your team and leave. Grow wings and fly.

Heather:       Kind of sweet and sad at the same time.

Peta:              It is, sweet but sad. Other than that, we have Ollo Wearables, they started off in Brisbane as just an idea and Hugh Geiger is the founder. He was at River City Labs when he was just pitching his concept of a wearable emergency device and is since now based in the States and has some funding from various … from some Australian investors and also some US investors.

It’s an emergency device for the elderly, which they now wear. It’s now morphed into a product which looks nothing like the original concept which we saw back here in Australia. It’s a necklace that the elderly wear. It’s an emergency button but it’s also a 4G phone which they can press and speak to four of their emergency contacts.

It is also a GPS tracking device, so if you don’t notice that grandma hasn’t moved in the last 24 hours, you can be alerted, or if she has gone off track of her normal area where it’s considered a safe zone, you can be alerted as well to know that grandma may not be where she’s meant to be or things like that. They’re kicking some great goals in the states at the moment. That’s been a project which is about two years old and only just coming into its own now in the States.

Heather:       I want a GPS tracking device put into my children’s school hats.

Peta:              I know, I want them too.

Heather:       For so many reasons.

Peta:              So many reasons. I want them for my children. I would love to have my kids to be able to wear in a watch or something so that I can tell that they’re going to and from school safely and that sort of thing. There have been quite a few of those things since, at least along those lines, so I think that’s a very active space, the wearables. Hugh and his Ollo Mobile is just one of those. I think there will be a lot more activity in that space.

As far as other businesses that are in here, we’ve got everything from an online platform called Mothers Groupie, which is a platform to find other mothers groups, which currently you can only do that on Facebook, right through to an international student portal where you can access and pay for international student fees without having to pay the international rates.

That was started by some ex-bankers who have now gone out on their own and have created a few different businesses off the back of that but it’s all tailored towards creating this suite of services that are going to help international students when they come to Australia, accessing a range of services from international health cover to various insurances and fee paying and all of that sort of thing.

They’re on a good thing at the moment and, again, we won’t hear about those until … I would say in the next 12 months you will get some more releases coming out of those people.

Heather:       Yes, its mind blowing, the variety.

Peta:              It is and like I said, it goes from the mothers’ groups’ right up to financial institutions and everything else in between to wearable health devices. The range is really broad. We also had a company in here, a Bitcoin company, so that was quite exciting having anybody dealing in that space.

Heather:       What do you mean a Bitcoin company? A company that deals in Bitcoins?

Peta:              A company that deals in Bitcoins. They were still in their infancy in terms of establishing what they were doing with Bitcoin but however, still having somebody playing in that space was interesting. It’s all very new and, again, still yet to be established on what their service actually is.

Heather:       It does seem that sometimes you’re in that space and you’re like, “I’ve got this passion and I’ve got this idea and I can run with it but how do I monetise it?” which sounds like what you were suggesting there.

Peta:              Yes, that’s right. Then of course we’ve got the games developers as well. Right Pedal Studios is a games accelerator that operates out of here and they’ve got some great games which have just been released. One of them, Ninja Raft, is going to be released on international talk like a pirate day, which is, I think, next week or the week after. It’s got publicity purposes wrapped around that but they have some great games.

Heather:       Oh, it’s on International Pirate Day? It’s not just a regular pirate day thing.

Peta:              Yes.

Heather:       Okay, sorry, International Pirate’s Day. You should have Captain Feathersword there!

Peta:              We probably should.

Heather:       That’s really cool. Brisbane does seem to, from my perspective, be doing an awful lot in the games area, which is very exciting for developing tech space.

Peta:              Yes, right. It is exciting and there’s a lot of activity and there’s a lot of very, very smart people, very talented programmers in the gaming industry and the gaming space doing some very cool things.

Heather:       Yes, exactly. To me it just sounds like the place you actually want to be. What have been some of the obstacles the co-working space has faced along the way?

Peta:              Co-working, it was and still is a newish concept. It’s getting more widely known now what it is. I think education in the area has been a challenge, basically just explaining what it is that we do in here and what’s on offer. Also, funding in terms of … like I mentioned, we’ve just had Bank of Queensland come on board. Funding from a government level in terms of enabling places like this to be able to be open and offer any sort of services or assistance to start-ups has always been very few and far between.

The budding entrepreneurs grants, which have just opened up again in Brisbane which are a small grants … which entrepreneurs can apply for and they can allocate what they use those funds for, one of those funds is to be used in co-working spaces. Those sorts of things help keep us ticking along. In terms of obstacles, it really does come down to funding and access to people with the money able to pay rent to keep us going pretty much.

How strong is the start-up community is Brisbane would you say?

Peta:              I think it’s quite strong. It’s definitely still very much in its infancy if you were to compare it to any other start up ecosystem around the world. But it is also very similar to some of the great ecosystems that are booming now, three to four years on. I think we’re at the start of something that’s going to be very good and very well known.

Anybody who we’ve had … we’ve had some visiting entrepreneurs come to Brisbane and they’ve all mentioned the same thing, that we are a very, very strong, cohesive community that are doing all the right things in early stages, it’s just a matter of time for the rest to then grow on top of the foundations that we’re laying now. I suppose that’s really nice for us to know that we’re doing the right things to attract the right people and get that activity happening and then have lots of growth on top of this.

Heather:       Yes, it is exciting to hear that and I know that … I’ve travelled extensively and worked in lots of different countries and I just love Brisbane. Brisbane has got so much going for it but I don’t think that you should come. Stay where you are. We’ll have Brisbane to ourselves.

Peta:              It’s got all of those things. I was in Sydney last week for SydStart and you only need to look around to see the amount of people to realise how different we are, purely because of the population. We don’t have the people but we also don’t have the congestion, which is awesome. However, to be able to reach that critical mass and that growth, you need to have a lot of people doing the same thing, similar thing in similar industries, especially in the start-up space.

You need to have a lot more people doing this to have some success come out of it. You can’t have a small amount of people doing some great stuff. You need to have a lot of people doing great stuff because it’s a numbers game. Only through lots of people trying are you going to get some people push through and succeed at the other end. It’s a matter of time for us, I think.

Heather:       Yes, and I think from what you’re saying there, we also need to see it coming through from the schools, both in terms of coding …

Peta:              Learning to code but also just a general interest in business, in being an entrepreneur. Instead of our kids saying, “I want to be a fireman when I grow up.” We need to say, “What would you like to create when you grow up?” Not, “What do you want to be.” “What do you want to create?”

I’m always telling my son, he’s only seven. He’s getting it drummed into his head a lot that he can create anything and just to think entrepreneurially. Just to believe that there are other ways to create income and to create opportunities and that’s purely by doing it. By actually creating it and going out and starting something. Not always just going and following, it’s to be more of a leader.

There is a place for everybody and there are always going to be opportunities to be an employee and we do need those people who want to be employees. We can’t all go and create stuff otherwise we’re going to have all of these leaders and no employees and that will be dismal as well.

In terms of coding, yes, we need a lot more quality skilled engineers, technical engineers, and also we do need our gaming people to want to sit behind computers and just create cool stuff. They’re the kids who through school didn’t go out and party but sat down and played computer games, they’re the ones who are creating the brilliant stuff now.

Heather:       Yes, and doing well from it as well. Hopefully, yes but I think it comes with … which you’ve tied back all the way through this session, they need to come back to the finances even though they’re not coming to the bookkeeping and the admin/finance/accounting talks.

Peta:              Exactly, they do. It’s just basic accounting, basic business knowledge, the basic thing of creating something for X amount and you sell it for Y. Those basic principles if they were taught in primary school would help us all when we get a bit older.

Heather:       Absolutely. I have one more question for you Peta.

What have you learnt from managing River City Labs?

Peta:              What have I learnt from managing River City Labs? I have learnt that it’s not about the space, it’s about the people. One of the mottos that I like to stick by that is “A club can survive without a clubhouse but a clubhouse cannot survive without a club,” and purely, if you don’t have the people in a space, the space is nothing. You can have the prettiest furniture and the funkiest fittings and this, that and everything else yet if there are no people sitting in there, it’s completely useless and nobody can grow or expand or learn anything from nobody sitting next to them.

Really, to nurture those individuals, make sure that they’re having their needs met and their expectations exceeded in terms of what they thought they could get out of something but also never to underestimate the power of just being social, in person. We have a lot of technical people in our community who are not naturally social beings and something as simple as putting food on the kitchen and getting people to come and eat it does wonders for a community because people actually get to see each other face to face and speak.

It means they take off the headphones, they step away from the computer and they go and be a human being and have a human interaction. That can do wonders for anybody’s day, more than any sort of interaction online, which is a very difficult, contradictory type of thing because in here we’re all about the online world and creating these amazing businesses online, yet they need to learn how to be good humans first in person to have that really well rounded experience.

The number one lesson here, I would say keep bringing it back to the people and that’s what the events do for us. They create that social opportunity for people to have a drink or have a piece of pizza and speak to another human face to face and then talk to them online, however they want to afterwards. It’s the events that bring the people together, and that’s where interactions and connections happen.

Heather:       Yes, and it’s actually good that the events are quite short in terms of you can just go into them …

Peta:              Exactly, we’ve had a lot of requests to put our events online or to live stream them, which I understand that and yes, it would be great and you could reach a lot more people. However, the content delivery is not the number one driving factor here, it’s the ability to bring people together. Even if we were to live stream it, we could have people tuning in from wherever, which would be great but it’s not helping us in terms of building that physical community. I think our decision to stick with being a physical event has been a good one.

Heather:       Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much Peta for all of your insights and information about managing a co-working space. I appreciate it so much and I’m sure our listeners will have gained lots of information and hopefully a few of them will drop in and say they found out from Cloud Stories.

Peta:              I hope so.

Heather:       Thank you very much Peta.

Peta:              You’re welcome, thanks for having me.


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Peta Ellis River City Labs