Amid flickering screens and waving furniture, things are a bit quiet around the coworking space that Bitwise Industries has opened on the corner of 18th and H streets. Maybe too quiet.
It’s the tough time during the pandemic or the relative newness of the building — even a sign of the company’s success in reaching tech students in the relatively new world of mass online education. Ultimately, the coworking trend has been a bit slow to take off at Bitwise.
Two buildings to the west, space began to fill in the company’s more traditional offices at 1723 18th St. But on the well-appointed first floor and mezzanine of the company’s corner building, rarely more than two people at a time can be spotted in the flexible coworking atmosphere that opened in April at half capacity due to COVID-19 concerns.
There’s been an improvement: Registrations doubled at the coworking space, 1701 18th St., between mid-July and a month later, Bitwise Bakersfield vice president Natasha said at the time. Felkins.
She couldn’t share numbers, but said people signing up for subscriptions costing as little as $29 a month had increased dramatically. She noted that a beer and wine bar should soon open on the ground floor.
Felkins and spokeswoman Katherine Verducci said via email Friday that outward appearances can be deceiving, and one reason coworking tenants may escape notice is that the place is now open. 24 hours a day, so members working outside the 9am to 6pm hours come and go at odd hours.
Yes, the pandemic has changed the way people work, according to their email, but coworking is still “an important part of building a tech ecosystem” as Bitwise intends to see flourish as it happened at the company’s downtown Fresno properties, and is planned in other cities it works in across the country.
Bitwise’s business model doesn’t revolve around coworking so much as it has incorporated this mode of unassigned seating as a way to create an informal community of small business collaborators. Similar, non-traditional office environments have helped create startup centers across the country.
Four blocks away, coworking and other non-traditional business environments are buzzing at MESH Cowork, a 7-year-old series of rental spaces on the north side of 20th that recently expanded west to east. east of Eye Street. A building manager on the east side of 20th said the building was fully leased.
In MESH’s original home above Dagny’s Coffee Co., small business owner Michael Smith upgraded his subscription from a $100-a-month traveling office to a $250-a-month lease. months, which allows him to have a permanent location that offers a dedicated workspace.
He entered into the coworking arrangement more than five years ago, he said, because in addition to a physical address, it provided a professional atmosphere away from the distractions of home.
“It gives me the benefits of brick and mortar without the brick and mortar,” said Smith, owner of online shoe retailer Cassius Kicks.
Amanda Shaffer, co-owner of The Studio Bakersfield, who teaches sewing classes above Dagny at MESH, said Bitwise’s coworking space probably only needs a little time.
She attended the Bitwise online training for six months, and during that time, “we didn’t go there at all.” According to her, the company’s space along 18th is a place waiting to be discovered.
“I don’t see it empty forever,” she said, adding that the company needed time to organize events, like MESH did.
“It’s a lot of word of mouth and a lot of connections,” Shaffer said.