By GREGORY ZELLER //
Long Island’s intriguing co-working marketplace is growing again, in more ways than one.
Bridgeworks founder Graham Beck is already an entrepreneurial innovator in the regional co-working game: He’s the founder of the Long Beach shared-office campus, a 2016 startup for early-stage business owners (and established professionals) looking to mix surf and sand with their sporadic workspace requirements.
Now, Beck – who’s already doubled Bridgeworks’ size and is deep into planning a North Shore expansion – has launched another startup focused on the co-working world: DropDesk LLC, a software maker offering digital solutions for on-the-go businesspeople and the managers of shared professional spaces.
Officially incorporated in August, Long Beach-based DropDesk (one of Bridgeworks’ 200-plus clients, naturally) has been about three years in the making, according to Beck, and was greatly influenced by the entrepreneur’s own experiences running his beachfront co-working space.
“I knew there would be issues in managing co-working spaces in general, and we perceived them firsthand,” he told Innovate LI. “Building this space from the ground up, a lot of the software we used was clunky – it had been out for a while, it wasn’t that user-friendly and it didn’t really resolve the pain points of operating a co-working space.”
So Beck, the son of Planet Payment founder Phillip Beck, tapped his innovative spirit (and his pre-Bridgeworks background as a mobile-app developer), enlisted some programmers and got busy.
Step No. 1 was to reach out to expert consultants who could speak to the management of workspaces for transient professionals, including “hospitality consultants, co-working consultants, even real estate developers,” according to Beck.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with people who can help facilitate this,” he noted.
For the manager of a co-working space – or the property owner who might like to become one – DropDesk offers a number of useful tools to create “Drop Zones,” including protocols for scheduling, billing, lead-generation, even keeping communal kitchens stocked.
“It covers every operational process,” Beck said. “Everything the manager of a co-working space needs to handle, we run.
“It’s really an all-in-one toolkit for co-working spaces.”
For the consumers of co-working resources, the nomadic professionals themselves, DropDesk offers a different set of bells and whistles, starting with access to the entire network of DropDesk member spaces – allowing users to book desk, office or conference room time at multiple locations convenient to their wandering ways (including non-Bridgeworks incubators or co-working facilities that choose to join the DropDesk network).
Beck, who likened the consumer-side software to “the Airbnb for office spaces,” described DropDesk’s networking functionality as ideally suited to the here-today-there-tomorrow professional – increasingly, a staple of the 21st Century workforce.
“There are thousands of individual freelancers working on Long Island,” Beck said. “We’re giving them the means to connect and further facilitate new collaborations.”
Bridgeworks provided the perfect proving ground for the DropDesk programming – “It definitely helped us fine-tune what could be better,” the innovator noted – and is now ready to both synch up itinerant professionals and help meet what Beck sees as a growing need for shared-office environments.
“We can help turn underutilized real estate – like a Class B building, or an underutilized restaurant – into spaces that facilitate all these up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” he said. “We can create the business-friendly environments where millennials, freelancers and other remote employee can work and network, without having to go into the city.”
Beck will be putting that to the test with the forthcoming Bridgeworks expansion, which will use the DropDesk system as both a user-level reservation tool and the new space’s operational backbone.
Noting a keen interest in “high-quality spaces with lots of opportunity,” the entrepreneur is “in discussion with a few places,” including some in the Garden City area, and predicts that Bridgeworks will hang its newest shingle early in the New Year.
DropDesk, meanwhile, is already catching on. It recently earned a “Top Product” spotlight on user-powered product test-and-review site Product Hunt and has made inroads with out-of-state co-working-space managers, according to Beck, who said he’s “currently onboarding six to 10 clients” – including New Jersey’s Mission 50 Coworking and a pair of early-stage New York City co-working spaces commencing their beta runs.
The innovator, who estimates that he invested roughly $300,000 getting DropDesk ready to fly, also noted “discussions” with a potential Long Island-based partner.
“I think this is a huge opportunity,” he said. “This is a really cool industry to be in, and we’re in a great niche: a tech partner that does all the marketing and operations, so a co-working space can focus on what it wants to be.
“Now that the technology is ready, it’s as simple as partnering with a venue and expanding the concept,” Beck added. “And we’re going for as many locations as we can get.”
What’s It? Digital tools for co-working space users and managers
Brought To You By: Second-generation, second-time-around entrepreneur Graham Beck
All In: About $300,000, self-invested, for software and user-interface development
Status: NYC, New Jersey and Long Island are good to the first Drop