Over the past few years, as I’ve done keynotes railing about the Valley’s toxic masculinity and lack of diversity, people have asked me what would actually be different if women and people of color had been instrumental in building things like Facebook and Twitter. Some even argue the gargantuan success of these companies show that those stats on the benefits of diversity must not really be a thing.
I’ve long countered that if women and people of color had been central in building social media, we simply wouldn’t have platforms that treated these groups like so much sh*t. I’ve seen this first-hand, as our all-female dev team has built out Chairman Mom. Privacy and avoiding toxicity are pretty much the only things that matter.
I’m hoping we’re seeing a “do-over” example of this when it comes to co-working. Now that WeWork decimated so much competition and then exploded, the companies who are getting the most attention and funding are designed by women and people of color.
The Wing’s ascendance is obvious (and also backed by WeWork, so that one is a little complicated). We are also big fans of The Riveter here. And there are so many amazing local coworking spots (started by Chairman Mom members!) like The Workaround, The Assembly, and Equal Play. I loved this recent Vice article about Ethel’s Club, a private club for people of color with a 4,300 person waitlist. Co-working feels overdone, but these stories show that founders are just now scratching the surface of what spaces and belonging look and feel like. I don’t think anyone has quite cracked it at scale yet. (Especially a model that’s affordable for everyone…do they have to be exclusive by nature?)
The Vice story talks about how founder Najla Austin put her finger on the pulse of something so powerful, the rest sort of manifested itself, despite so much doubt that this was a viable thing.
My favorite part: “When Austin started meeting with potential investors, a few asked why she wouldn’t go a similar route and create her space as a pop-up. One potential investor even suggested that she rent a cheap basement room with Goodwill furniture, to which she countered, ‘Why do people of color always have to settle for the shortest stick ever?’ She explained, ‘That idea of creating a very beautiful space for people of color with specific items chosen for their happiness and for them to laugh or feel seen and agree with was critically important.’ In some ways, the space is a referendum for all those who couldn’t have it before.”
So far, the flameout of WeWork doesn’t seem to be impacting the whole space, as these counterexamples keep gaining fans and with the buzz, money.
Wouldn’t it be great if the most bro startup in recent memory flamed out only to have spaces built by women and people of color were the ones to build multi-billion dollar companies?
Here’s a previous thread on social clubs. I’d love to hear about other examples around the country and around the world.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- We’re looking for a CTO consultant that can help with our complicated technology roadmap. Where can I find this kind of person!?
- I’ve booked myself a solo (maybe silent?) retreat. Suggestions for reading, journalling, meditation?