I've never been much of a fan of incubators. Some have made the model work. My favorite of the bunch is Betaworks, based here in NYC. Betaworks is more than an incubator, but they have shown that they can make the incubation model work with projects like bit.ly and chartbeat.
But one aspect of incubation that I like very much is the idea that multiple projects are sharing the same workspace. The term for this kind of work setup is coworking. There are various approaches to coworking.
There is the shared space model. Foursquare, Curbed, and Hard Candy Shell have shared a single office for the past year and a half and they get a lot of benefits from working together even though they are three companies all working on very different things. Our portfolio company Outside.in has employees from our portfolio companies Disqus and Zemanta working out of their office. We see that kind of setup all over the startup world. I encourage all of our young companies to think about that kind of setup.
The main benefits of this kind of setup are comraderie (small startups can be lonely), knowledge sharing, high energy, culture, and cost sharing. I have heard so many stories of software developers walking to the other side of the office to talk to software developers working for another company to talk about a thorny tech issue. That same thing can happen in finance, legal, bus dev, marketing, product management, really all parts of the business. You can get some of the benefits of scale without being at scale.
I have been contacted by a large number of people working in city, state, and federal government recently asking me how they can help small tech companies. They often ask about real estate. I tell them that small office spaces are plentiful and not terribly expensive, but that what we need more of is coworking spaces. And we have been getting them at a nice clip here in NYC.
A few weeks ago I was down at the NYU Poly coworking space on Varick St right near the Holland Tunnel. They have about thirty companies in one large open floor in a very nice buiding owned by Trinity Church. NYC Seed keeps their manhattan office there as well.
Dogpatch Labs has coworking spaces in SF, Boston, and NYC. The NYC Dogpatch is on 12th between University and Broadway. There are a lot of great companies going into and coming out of Dogpatch these days.
A new coworking space has opened in Williamsburg recently called The Brooklyn Makery. The image at the top of this post is of their space. I am really excited about this project and a few of us from our office are going out there in a few weeks to visit all the teams.
There is an all woman entrepreneur coworking space on 23rd St between Fifth and Sixth called InGoodCompany. There is an all green/environmental startup coworking space on lower broadway called Green Spaces.
I could go on and on, but I'll just link to this wiki of coworking spaces in NYC. If yours is not on there, please add it.
If you are launching a startup or have one that is just one or two people, you should really try to get into a coworking space. It can be more cost effective, but that is not the best reason to do it. You'll get knowledge sharing, energy, and a lof of camraderie. And you can't put a price on those things when you are doing a startup.