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Venture Out

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  • | 7:25 a.m. December 28, 2012
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Here's a sign that there's a hunger for co-working space in Naples.

So many people turned out for the October grand opening of Venture X that some had to be turned away because letting them in would have exceeded the limit for the fire code.

More than 300 people packed into the 8,000-square-foot hip office at the upscale Mercato shopping center in Naples, home to Whole Foods, trendy restaurants and designer clothing stores.

“We have 20 companies signed up,” says Brett Diamond, who co-founded Venture X with his father, David Diamond, and John DeAngelis. (DeAngelis and Diamond are known for the Naples-based commercial construction firm that bears their names.)

Co-working space is one big, open office space where people can come plug in their laptops and recharge their phones at any open desk. There's free coffee, super-fast Internet access, lounge seating, conference rooms and lockers. Such space is popular in technology centers such as Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, where young tech entrepreneurs gather to collaborate on projects.

Membership works like a gym. Members pay a fee of up to $500 a month for full access to the facility; there are no contracts or leases.

Brett Diamond says the company now offers a variety of plans to suit entrepreneurs' different hours. “You've got to adjust to what the market gives you,” he says.

For example, Venture X now has a $350 a month plan if you only use the facility from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. If you're a night owl and use the facility from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and on weekends, it's $175.

Another surprise: Venture X has seen more drop-in customers who just pay for the day than Diamond expected. For example, some of those who use the facility for the day are people who are on vacation and need a place to work. They need space away from their family and don't want to spend time in a cramped business office at the hotel. “We didn't expect vacationers,” Diamond says. “We're working with the Hilton and the Ritz. They asked for it.”

Besides vacationers, members include itinerant salespeople who usually meet clients at Starbucks, a personal finance adviser who makes occasional trips to Naples and software developers who prefer to write code late at night. “They don't work 9-to-5, that's for sure,” says Diamond.

A big market is the army of work-from-home people who don't get social interaction. “The ones who come here are really social,” Diamond says. “Geeks love networking with others.”

Retirees are likely to be another source of members as the winter season gets under way. Such seasonal residents would prefer to work outside the home, but it's hard to find temporary office space. Diamond is contemplating advertising at the airport in the baggage claim area to let them know about Venture X. “We are doing direct-mail marketing” to reach people at home, Diamond says.

“The big challenge now is getting in front of the right people,” says Diamond, who expects to have 60 companies signed up by March.



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