By Shonda Novak
For Liz Elam, the big idea came in a crowded coffee shop.
While working out of her Atlanta home as a global account manager for Dell Inc., Elam found herself and a Dell executive strategizing about a multimillion deal in a distraction-filled coffee shop.
That frustrating experience, Elam said, made her realize that home-based telecommuters needed a better option — and that providing one could be a winning business formula.
Today, Elam — who left Dell in 2008 — is the founder and owner of two successful co-working spaces in North Austin — Link Coworking and Link Too — where entrepreneurs, consultants and others work separately at their respective endeavors, but under the same roof.
Co-working offers all of the benefits of being in an office, “without the politics,” said Elam, who has become a well-known advocate for the international co-working movement, writing about the topic for the Huffington Post and speaking at conferences around the world, including at South By Southwest Interactive.
Elam is at the vanguard of a rapidly growing business trend. An estimated 4,300 co-working spaces have sprung up around the world, and by 2020, 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be toiling remotely outside of a corporate nest, according to a report by Intuit Inc.
A survey by Deskmag, an online magazine that tracks the co-working industry, found that 60 percent of existing co-working offices are expected to acquire new space for their members this year.
The co-working wave has certainly hit in Austin, wherechoices come in “lots of flavors” , Elam said. Those co-working spaces often have a particular niche, like Capital Factory, which is tech-focused. Elam said her co-working spaces are suited for people in all types of industries.
“If you are a human and need a place to work, you’re welcome here,” Elam said.