Building a coworking studio: The launch of Launch Indy

Thanks to the vision of John Wechsler and the City of Fishers community building space, Launch Fishers is a household name in the Indiana tech community. High school students visit for Fail Fest, the community hosts and attends events, and companies are dreamed up and built out all under the same roof.

Fishers was first. Now, the “Launch” brand has extended to Indy.

Launch Indy officially “launched” on Friday, Sept. 22, with a party and ribbon cutting. We wanted to dig into the story and find out what it was like building a coworking space inside of a newly built scale-up tech campus. Launch Indy’s Executive Director Katie Birge spoke with us to share her experience developing the 10,000 square foot coworking space.

SARA: First, let’s talk about you. How did you find the role and why did you ultimately decide to take this project on? 

Katie Birge

Katie BirgeExecutive Director

I was alerted to the role by several friends in the state’s tech and coworking scene. Admittedly, running a coworking space has been on my bucket list for awhile, and coworking spaces and I go way back. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of early conversations about opening coworking spaces in other parts of the state, and while it’s been great watching those spaces grow from the sidelines, I’m ready to dive in and build something special here in downtown Indianapolis.

SARA: Follow-up question. How do you apply your background in economic development to this role?

KATIE: My previous work experience is in economic development focused on startups and the greater tech sector. Startups and economic development go hand-in-hand. I think especially in Indiana we have an opportunity to capitalize on the role of startups in growing the statewide economy and securing Indiana’s renaissance from a manufacturing-focused state to one that celebrates advanced manufacturing as well as software, marketing tech, and agritech. All of those are natural fits for this state, and it’s my hope that Launch Indy among the other coworking spaces across the state provides a space for new companies to thrive.

SARA: When did you find out the space would be built at The Union? What was your initial impression? Knowing that The Union is a tech campus for larger companies, how did you think this would work?

KATIE: I found out about the place Launch Indy would call home the same day I found out about this role. For me, the building we’re in is just as appealing as the coworking space itself. We’ve got impressive, quickly growing companies in the rest of the building, flexible month-to-month office suites for smaller startups, a STEM-focused high school,  a historical gymnasium, and a central courtyard with a 3-story slide. What’s not to love? More importantly, the Union 525 tenants are focused on building a community within the space. It’s a very welcoming environment to new people and new companies, and that’s important for really tying the building together.

Launch Indy is a perfect fit here, too. We’re able to serve as an extension to the offices here, and several of the building’s companies are already renting out our conference rooms for larger meetings. We have membership plans available for the building tenants, and the events we bring in here, like Fail Fest recently or Rise of the Rest on October 12th, are valuable events for tenants to head over to.

SARA: Talk about the process of working with contractors and physically developing the space. How involved were you with determining how your space would be designed and used?

KATIE: The blueprints for Launch Indy were drafted long before I arrived. The Launch Fishers and Launch Indiana crew applied their expertise to the design, adding in meeting rooms, flexible conference space, and tons of open workspace. The vibe of the space architecturally is really similar to other offices in the building, and for me, it’s already been a great place to work.

SARA: Now that you’ve gone through the whole thing, what would you do differently? And what would you not change at all?

KATIE: One thing I would change is getting to know the other building tenants sooner. While Launch Indy’s space was still under construction, I was camped out in the lobby. I learned over time that the other companies in the Union 525 building were super friendly and willing to loan me desk space, phone chargers, and even kind enough to give me coffee. I’m looking forward to seeing the community here continue to grow. It takes a village to open a coworking space, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get help from not only Launch Fishers, but also the Union 525 companies.

One thing I wouldn’t change at all is the process. It’s a big undertaking for a construction team to renovate a 3-story school building into tech office space, and for me, it was fascinating to see Launch Indy come together in time for our grand opening.

SARA: What has been the most rewarding part of this experience?

KATIE: I’d have to say that getting to see our plans turn into a tangible, livable, coworkable space has been the most rewarding thing. For months our space seemed like a skeleton of what a coworking space should be, but then construction wrapped up, our tables and furniture were moved in, and it all kind of came together right on time. I’m proud of our vibe here, and I’m excited to get people into the space.

SARA: And finally, what’s next for Launch Indy?

KATIE: We’re accepting new members and will start offering our own programming soon. We’ll have Free Cowork Friday once a month, lunch and learns, and we’re hosting Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition here. I’m actively leading tours of the building and the Launch Indy space daily, and I’d love to see anyone interested in coworking or the building to stop on by!

Ready to sign up?

Work alongside Indy’s creative business and tech-skilled talent by purchasing an individual or organizational membership to Launch Indy. For more information, visit http://launchindy.com/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Croft is the director of communications at TechPoint. She writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people and events. Reach out to Sara @saraelysecroft.