Is Co-Working Played Out? Bamboo Detroit Report Shows Otherwise

Co-working spaces may be old hat in places like San Francisco and Boston, but in Detroit, they can be a vital gateway into the local startup ecosystem—particularly for women and people of color. That’s one of the takeaways from a new report released by Bamboo Detroit, the city’s first co-working space located in the heart of downtown.

Since Xconomy first profiled Bamboo in 2013, the year it opened, the shared space has grown from 18 members to 250, and has moved to a new 10,000-square-foot location at 1420 Washington Blvd.

Amanda Lewan, Bamboo’s co-founder and the person who makes sure the trains run on time, says the idea to canvas members for a report came about after a particularly fruitful year. The survey was anonymous and voluntary, and Lewan says it’s the first of its kind, as far as she’s aware. (It is the first of its kind locally.)

“We moved into a new space, doubling our size and our footprint,” Lewan says. “So we wanted to see what kind of impact our members were having on the local economy, and how they’re spending their money and working together.”

According to Bamboo’s impact report, 51 percent of respondents consider themselves part of a woman-owned business, with 65 percent saying their startup has a female partner or leader with an equity stake. Forty-seven percent consider themselves to be a minority-owned business. Members’ companies span industries, and the top sectors represented are professional services, marketing and communications, and IT and technology.

“Our mission is always to be inclusive,” Lewan says. “I want Bamboo to be like a welcome center where new people can land while still empowering current members.”

Sixty percent of Bamboo companies are early-stage and the remaining 40 percent are at least three years old; Lewan says the mix of newbies and veterans helps stoke meaningful cross-pollination. Seventy-five percent of Bamboo’s members use the co-working space as their primary office, and 28 percent say their companies are pulling in between $500,000-$2 million in annual revenue. To date, Bamboo members have generated $74 million in revenue.

As far as economic impact goes, Bamboo members hire an average of four people per year, and 80 percent have hired, partnered with, or referred business to a fellow member. Seventy-five percent say they prefer to hire local talent and do business with locally owned companies.

Bamboo’s report also uncovered some challenges. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they lacked access to capital, an ongoing problem in Detroit. When asked what they needed to help their businesses grow, 41 percent said marketing support, 39 percent said business development support, 33 percent said mentorship, and 35 percent said access to talent.

“We still have some challenges in the market, and this report will help us hone in on what they are,” Lewan says. “We wanted to get the pulse of our members with this impact report, and in the future, we’d love to measure how our companies scale over time and the gaps in the ecosystem.”

Lewan says Bamboo’s membership has evolved over time to include more tenants from corporations and established businesses, and membership is almost evenly split between city and suburban residents—43 percent are from Detroit, and rest are from the surrounding communities.

Bamboo hosts tons of events that are open to the public, and anyone interested in a tour of the facility can request one anytime. (For information on two upcoming events, click here and here.)

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