Inspire9 has the enviable history of being Melbourne's original community-led coworking space. Set up in 2011 by a small cluster of people looking to work on their passion projects among other inspiring, enthusiastic, creative types.
While there are plenty of coworking spaces throughout Melbourne and Australia, Inspire9 has a strong history and a self-declared mission "to share the knowledge we've accrued on our journeys, learn a few things in the process, and work with others to help our businesses grow." Practically, this translates to a cooperative working environment, with desks, chairs, kitchen facilities, library, table tennis table, productive music, breakout areas, meeting rooms, high-speed internet, and of course, pool table, couches, helpful community managers and excellent food, coffee and bars nearby.
All coworking spaces are designed for entrepreneurs, creatives, start-ups, side-hustlers and the self-employed, but each one tends to have its own flavour and type of resident and ecosystem design. For instance, York Butter Factory is geared towards fostering successful Melbourne startups alongside big corporations; The Cluster is a more traditional CBD shared offices and co-working space, with a healthy dose of entrepreneurship; and, The Commons brings together start-ups, coders and creatives.
Inspire9 floorspace, including kitchen, pool table and desks
Inspire9's identity and differentiator is in being open and welcoming to entrepreneurs, start-ups, creatives and coders. Think of inspire9 as a base in which members come and go as they need, whether that's for a few days here and there, semi-regularly, full-time or all-the-time. The space is light, open and in Richmond's beautiful AKM Building, readily positioned metres from Richmond Station and only one stop from Flinders Street Station. The Yarra River is barely a stone's throw, with the Tan Track only a four-minute jog from Inspire9 (shower facilities in place).
Level 1 hosts Inspire9, the starting point for all residents, including start-ups like Airly, Rome2Rio and EnergyLocals, who see the value and benefits in coworking. Residents and start-ups range from idea stage through to pre-revenue and established teams, as well as bloggers, investors, artists and entrepreneurs between companies. With levels 2 and 3 hosting 99designs and Foundry9, respectively, the building is literally filled with creative talent, start-up hustle and coworking community. FYI, Foundry9 is managed alongside Inspire9 as a community for high-growth startups and experienced entrepreneurs. For instance, overseas startups like Eventbite and Stripe often use Foundry9 as a launchpad for entry into the Australian market, while growing local startups like Culture Amp and Tablo use the space as a headquarters. It's also worth noting that Inspire9 are opening up The Dream Factory in the coming months; a new coworking hub in Footscray in the former Lonely Planet headquarters, that will be a leader in fostering the start-up and technology sectors.
But it's not just the space that matters to the community; it's the people. Inspire9 has a small group of passionate Community Managers who embody the ethos instilled by serial entrepreneurs Nathan Sampimon (founder) and Mark Balla (CEO). These Community Managers are often founders and creatives themselves, who have chosen Inspire9 as their base, and when they aren't working on their own projects they are looking after Inspire9 residents and greeting newcomers.
These Community Managers tend to be high-energy continuous learners, with strong connections within Inspire9 as well as throughout the broader Melbourne, Australian and international start-up ecosystem. This network effect coupled with the floor space at Inspire9 means there is always a helpful and interesting event being hosted, from startup founder talks, yoga on the roof (on the building's actual roof), Startup Victoria Pitch Nights and free legal and funding advice.
Choosing a coworking space can be daunting given the number of choices and value propositions, so it is helpful when spaces offer free trials (as Inspire9 does, as well as tours Monday through Friday 9:30am through midday). I recommend trying a few and know that you can rely on Melbourne's oldest and one of the city's best-connected and supported start-up and creative hubs in Inspire9.