Melbourne has long been seen as one of Australia’s most vibrant cultural and artistic hubs, home to some of the country’s most innovative creatives and business minds breaking new ground.
With the growth of Australia’s tech and startup ecosystem, the city has also in recent years become a tech hub, with national and international talent attracted to Melbourne’s unique blend of the creative, tech, and business worlds, showcased by Pause 2017.
Looking to explore Melbourne’s creative, business, and tech scenes at Pause 2017 and how her venture might work in the city will be Kalin Kelly, an early stage investor in Covo, a San Francisco coworking space with a difference.
Launched earlier this year by Rebecca Brian Pan, formerly cofounder and COO of coworking industry leader NextSpace, Covo is a shared workspace featuring a cafe and tap room that are open to the public.
At its core, the whole idea of Covo is to not only lower the barrier to entry to entrepreneurship, but to also cater for the changing definition of work and entrepreneurship by providing a more balanced alternative to the ‘always on’ culture of Silicon Valley.
As an investor, Kelly said she was attracted to the space because of her background in commercial real estate and her belief that there was a disconnect between entrepreneurs and what the real estate industry was providing.
“The terms that commercial real estate brokers and developers wanted people to commit to just wasn’t feasible for young companies; if you’re a young company, you have no idea where you’ll be,” she said.
Kelly became a founder’s broker, partnering with angel investors and venture capitalists in San Francisco to protect founders in their portfolio from “tanking” their companies with office leases.
This also got Kelly thinking more creatively about commercial real estate, how we utilise space, and how it can be made most beneficial for the people that are actually in it, and it was on this topic that she hit it off with Pan.
Meeting a community of Australians in San Francisco, even hosting Victorian Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis at Covo, led Pan and Kelly to identify synergies between Covo’s ethos and the Melbourne tech community, and it’s these synergies that Kelly is coming to Pause 2017 to explore and discuss in a keynote address on Creative Day.
“What aligns Covo and the ethos of Pause, is that Pause brings together people who are very authentic in the way they’re speaking about their experiences as creators, as innovators, and really bringing together people from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds into one space, and that’s exactly what Covo does,” Kelly said.
“We bring together people from all over the world and we provide them with a warm stabilising space in the very unstable career path of entrepreneurship.”
Like the Pause 2017 festival itself, it’s the changing idea of entrepreneurship, and what it means for people both experienced in and new to the solo career path, that Kelly is particularly excited to explore.
She explained, “We went from this idea that entrepreneurship is really scary and only a few people do it, to normalising becoming an entrepreneur. With workspaces changing and the evolution of work evolving to be more nomadic, no longer having a 9-5, we’re really beginning to live the future of work…and with Covo we’re excited to normalise and stabilise entrepreneurship for everyone.”
The idea that someone can enter the world of entrepreneurship while having a coffee at the public café of a coworking space, or get a desk for $3 per hour, is a stark move away from the stereotypes we are often presented of tech and startups: a founder is meant to be always hustling, working until the early hours, with coworking spaces frenzied hubs of non-stop coding.
Covo, on the other hand, with its cafe and tap room, is about work/life balance and bringing in those perhaps not attracted to the dominant stereotypes.
Kelly believes the change Covo is facilitating translates to the kind of work we are doing and the types of companies people are starting, too.
With technology such as artificial intelligence and robotics being further developed and in turn developing the world, Kelly said we will see more people doing what it is that makes them happy, looking at how they can add value and serve a bigger purpose.
“I think in a lot of ways we’re already seeing that in San Francisco, that people are shifting their careers to more purposeful, meaningful work. At the end of the day, people are going to have to be motivated; I see so many founders and CEOs, and the companies that really make it, that really succeed, are the ones that are driven by actual passion and purpose for what they’re doing,” Kelly said.
“If you’re motivated by money, by the next exit, it’s not going to sustain you in the long hours, in the trenches that are startup life. When you really have to build something, that’s when you’re actually an entrepreneur, when you really feel like you have to do this and it has to be in the world. Like Rebecca says, the reason Covo started is because she felt that if it doesn’t exist, let’s build it now.”
It’s this ethos and focus on authenticity that Kelly said drives her as an investor, and through which Covo facilitates relationships between investors and founders.
“As someone who is an investor and has started her own business and brand, I look for the quality of people, their motivation and what they want. If someone comes to me with an ask for money and they really have no stable why behind why they’re building what they’re building, and you can’t see their heart and soul reflected in the company, then that conversation would be on the shorter end.”
As she gears up to head to Melbourne for Pause 2017, Kelly said she is excited to get to know the city and the creators and innovators at the festival, exactly the kind of people a Melbourne branch of Covo would want to attract and assist with pushing their ideas further.
“At the end of the day, we want to be a connection-focused, human design-focused workspace that supports all levels of entrepreneurs all over the world.”
Pause Fest 2017 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th-10th of February 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.