Have you ever been to a community co-working facility or Innovation Center to look around and think, “Wow I had no clue there are so many cool people in this town?” Imagine for a moment that you were looking to move to a place where you did not already have direct ties. How would you meet like-minded people? How would you find those who have similar career pursuits? How would you find a network of people in your given industry? If you had a need for a specific talent, where would you turn?

Far too many innovation centers and co-working facilities are built with a “locked front door” approach. A “locked front door” is a metaphor for the actual physical condition most people would encounter if they tried to enter an innovation center or co-working facility. Because memberships are required for the financial stability of a facility they lock the front door to keep out non-paying members. 

Any innovation center, or co-working facilities should have areas where communities can gather, but we will discuss that in a different post. Here however, let’s look at one specific group that can help an entire community grow: realtors. 

When you think about the innovators in a community or those most likely to be looking for an innovation center, realtors are not at the top of that list, but realtors can be an incredibly beneficial part of a startup ecosystem. 

Realtors are not just selling a house, many times they are selling a neighborhood or even an entire community. Imagine if every new person moving to your town or city met first at your innovation center or co-working facility. They would see other people who are building new companies, working on new technology, or just playing with cool technology. They might meet a few people “like themselves.” They would hopefully see the diversity of the community right there in front of them. They may even see their future workspace!

Realtors often want to get their potential buyers into a meeting space that can afford some privacy but that is not a closed conference room in the back of an agent’s office; often making clients uncomfortable. Your innovation center or co-working facility was built for these kinds of interactions.

What would happen if your innovation center or co-working facility offered free meeting space (within reason) to realtors meeting with clients? You may find that those realtors might just become your best source of referral traffic!

Additionally, those realtors may become sponsors for your events, partners for co-working referrals, and maybe even tenants in your facility.

Realtors definitely have a place in a startup ecosystem, we just have to think about them in the right way and then partner with them so that everyone wins.