At Sofar Sounds, Discover a ‘Secret’ and ‘Genuine’ Music Community

In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community. 

Sofar Sounds holds unexpected music performances in nontraditional venues all over the world. So it’s no surprise that Matt Brooks, the director of Sofar’s Chicago branch, has a huge passion for supporting musical artists and their fans. Read on to learn all about how this WeWork Fulton Market member got his start in the music industry, how Sofar puts its own spin on house shows, and more.

What inspired you to join Sofar Sounds?

I started Sofar Sounds Indianapolis when I was in college. When I was studying advertising, PR, and marketing, it’s an enticing company because it’s so new. The idea of doing a house show isn’t necessarily new, but the way that Sofar does it is very new. And from discovering it randomly online, then going to my first show in Chicago, I felt—not unlike many attendees—connected to it immediately. You walk out feeling like you discovered this secret community around the world that you just joined.

For me, it was a no-brainer to do anything I could to help Sofar grow. So when I graduated school, I was given the opportunity to work for them. It’s the inspiration that also brings you back as an attendee; we all share this goal of supporting music, discovering new music, and really being there for those genuine musicians that deserve the ears that maybe they don’t get at other venues. For me, as a millennial, seeing how technology changes how we live and takes away so much time from us every day, the idea of taking a few hours away from it is a dream for me.


What is so unique about the idea of bringing music lovers together to listen to live performances in unusual settings?

I think it’s unique because, first off, you’re consuming the music in a way that’s not like most venues—you’re not talking, or using your phone, or getting too drunk and knocking into people. You take away these distractions that have become the norm and are encouraged at other venues. And beyond that, it allows you to be exposed to (1) styles of music that you’re into and you like and (2) styles of music you don’t feel comfortable with yet or that you haven’t been exposed to yet.

For example, you may not know where to go to find a touring Colombian band, or you might not feel comfortable going to a hip-hop show, or you don’t have anyone to go with, or you might just be okay with listening to your styles of music and your preferences. But if you’re put in a position where you can be exposed to these new artists, we get a lot of feedback from attendees that the discovery of music—both genre-wise and artist-wise—is what brings them back.

We like to say we have the most genuine music lovers in the world because they are showing up without knowing what it’s going to be. You can show up and see a band with 50 Facebook likes that we think is going to be huge, or see Steve from Stranger Things, the actor (he’s in a psych-rock band), or Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, or Saba—there’s such a wide range of artists and styles you can see at a Sofar show. That level of secrecy and surprise is one of those aspects that makes people see it as something new. In Chicago, New York, L.A.—and those other cities that have at least one full-timer—we want to make Sofar accessible to people, so you can see a show near your neighborhood or down your street.


With 500 shows happening just this November by Sofar Sounds, what are you most excited about?

It’s been really exciting. I started this January, and at that time, we were just formulating the idea of how much we could grow in one year. The idea of doing 30 shows in Chicago, 100 shows in London or New York—that sounded ludicrous even to us. But with the power of the volunteers we have, over 2,000 in more than 280 cities, it felt so amazing to reach that large goal. So what excites me is to see what the next goal is, how quickly we can achieve it, and what 2017 will bring after 2016 brought such rapid growth.

What are some of your favorite concerts you’ve attended?

One of my favorites must’ve been at a recording studio in London—it was a Scandinavian artist named Ida Wenøe. There were artists form so many cities and countries mixed in, and for me, visiting a Sofar outside of my country was representative of the global community. Within Chicago, we’ve sort of had two flagship gigs in 2016. We did one in the Willis Tower Skydeck in September, which is the most iconic space in the city, and we presented four amazing bands, some of which we’ve been hoping to get for years. We also did a show on a rooftop with Saba right before he released his newest collection of songs. The idea of presenting someone like him who’s so established is really exciting.

My favorite shows tend to be the smallest ones—maybe in a high-rise, or an apartment that isn’t all that special. But the intimacy—these small living room shows make you feel how special it is that these musicians are playing for these 30 people that didn’t know each other, who can listen to music together, and who can join or enhance the community.

Anything else we should know about you?

What’s special about Sofar is that we have the ability to be global as well as hyper-local at the same time. I feel this in Chicago every day when I talk to artists. We are doing something really special for them and for the community that wants to take in music and join in that way. What I would want people to know is that ideally, any Sofar city, while staying aligned with this global culture is best representing whatever city it’s in. And we can only do that with the people that want to see these shows, and who tell us who they want to perform at our shows. That’s how we can do what we do best: by being collaborative.

Photos: Jim Vondruska

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5 Relationships You’ll Form at a Coworking Space

While many entrepreneurs are lone wolves, the value of making connections in the business world cannot be understated. Whether it’s at networking events or at the office, forming relationships is the best way to set yourself up for success. Fortunately, when you’re working in a coworking space, you’ll be surrounded with like-minded entrepreneurs that are happy to do some serious networking.

Coworking spaces are so much more than just somewhere to work. They are hustling, bustling epicenters of entrepreneurial energy that breed connections, passion, and success. After all, you are who you hang out with, and there are more than enough impressive people hanging around coworking spaces.

The Networking Guru

This person exists in every coworking space in the world. They have set up shop in a place like WeWork to shake hands, make connections, and set their business up for success. This person has thousands of business cards sitting on their desk, which they have positioned by the door so they can chit chat with every mover and shaker who walks past.

The Neighbor/Best Friend

When you’re in such close quarters, it’s hard not to develop a relationship with your neighbor. After all, you’re spending most of your time mere feet away from them. Getting to know people like this is incredibly beneficial to your productivity. Not only will you be happy you have a friend to work with, but their network will expand to yours, creating a super network the likes of which entrepreneurs have never seen!

The Informative Manager

Coworking spaces have a lot of amenities that you might not know about. Sure, a coworking space handbook is informative, but wouldn’t you rather talk to a human being? Community managers at coworking spaces know all the nooks and crannies of the office and can help you do everything from figuring out the community printer to pouring yourself an ice cold beer on a Friday afternoon.

The Friendly Staff Member

With so much space, the number of employees needed to maintain it is nothing short of staggering. Fortunately, these employees are some of the friendliest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet. Even just having a quick pop-in to discuss your latest vacation or an issue with your office can turn into a beautiful friendship that will last a lifetime.

The Office Crush

Love is a beautiful thing. Work crushes, doubly-so. Nothing gets you more hyped to come to work than that special someone waiting for you in the office. Sure, they might not know your name yet, but one day they’re going to ask you out, and it will be the best day of your life.

This article originally was originally published by Tech.Co, a vibrant media, community, and events organization for creatives, entrepreneurs, and technology enthusiasts.

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Transforming Lives by Teaching Young People to Code

For Maurya Couvares, learning to code was a game changer.

“I was working in a law firm’s pro bono department, responsible for reporting out data on our pro bono programs,” she remembers. “And I was using clumsily using Excel to understand the data. A friend told me that if I learned to code, I could write a script that would do all the reporting for me in 15 minutes.”

The gears started turning. A former teacher, Couvares realized that coding could make a big difference in the lives of students from underserved neighborhoods.

“Many young people I knew were super interested in technology, but had never met anyone who worked in technology, and had no idea about the different careers that are possible in the tech industry,” says Couvares.

That led to the founding of ScriptEd, a non-profit that provides real opportunity for young students in the New York City area. Its programs concentrate on teaching students coding skills and providing them with professional experiences.

What year was your organization founded?

ScriptEd was founded in 2012 in New York City.

How many employees are in your organization?

Our team has grown to 19 people, including two in our new office in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What building are you based in?

WeWork FiDi

What made you want to get involved in this kind of work?

Learning to code was more empowering for me than any other skill I had learned since school. I had worked in schools, both as a teacher and as an after-school program coordinator earlier in my career. And I thought of the students I had worked with, and the new possibilities that learning to code could open up in their lives. Even though demand for software developers was exploding, very few high schools offered computer programming courses. I saw a vital need to teach students real-world coding skills and expose them to highly-paid, high-demand careers in tech.

What makes your organization unique?

A lot of organizations teach students coding skills. What makes ScriptEd unique is our focus on coding careers—our work isn’t done until our students have a job in tech. Our introductory classes are taught by volunteer software developers who take time out of their day jobs to teach real-world coding skills in under-resourced schools. For our advanced students, our goal is to place every eligible student in a paid summer internship at a tech company where they can build professional skills and networks that will help them land a job in tech. We are looking for internship partners for this summer, and would be thrilled to hear from any WeWork members who are interested in creating a life-changing opportunity for our students.

What was a moment you were inspired by the work you were doing?

The most inspiring moments always happen in the classroom. At the beginning of the year, we’ll have a classroom full of students who have never seen a line of code before, and volunteers who have never taught a high school class before. Everyone is there to learn new skills, and I’m always deeply inspired by the hard work, fearlessness, and persistence that our community brings into the classroom.

What has been you biggest hurdle?

The biggest challenge I’ve come across as the cofounder and leader of a growing organization is finding the right balance between managing our growth and staying involved in the day-to-day operations. It’s so important for me to stay connected to the students and volunteers who make our work possible. I’ve made an effort to stay in the classroom. This year, I went back into the classroom to teach two days a week at one of our partner schools, and I hope to continue doing that as long as I can!

How do you and your organization want to change the world?

If we can also help make the tech industry more diverse by creating a new talent pipeline from communities that are traditionally underrepresented, that would be a big win for all.

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5 WeWork Members You Need to Know

Love beauty products? Then you’ll want to know more about Soko Glam, which recently sponsored its second annual Pop-Up Charity Sale at WeWork Nomad. All the featured products were handpicked by co-founder Charlotte Cho, author of The Little Book of Skincare. All proceeds benefitted Caring Kind, a nonprofit focused on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

WeWork Paddington member Jamie Gray recently had a brush with royalty. His company Buddy Burst―creator of eco-friendly promotional products―partnered with the global charity INTBAU by giving out its signature Seed Sticks at the organization’s World Congress. After the event, Gray was invited to present the product to the Prince of Wales at his private residence, Clarence House. Charles, founder of INTBAU, is a big fan of sustainable products.

Based in Denver’s WeWork Union Station, Inversoft has launched Passport, a modern identity and user management system. Passport helps manage features such as login, registration, security, password management, and more, helping free up developers to focus on their core product. Congratulations, Inversoft!

In Montreal, WeWork Place Ville Marie member James Stephan-Usypchuk of JSU Solutions knew that 2016 was going to be a big year for his company, but he didn’t realize just how good. When they tallied the numbers, revenue for the digital marketing agency specializing in Facebook ads had grown 450% over the previous year. He wrote about his company’s tremendous growth―and what he learned from it―in this article on LinkedIn.

Vimbly, an activity booking platform based at WeWork Empire State, just launched its iOS app. Use it to find out the latest and greatest things to do in NYC.

Photo by Lauren Kallen

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11 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Measure Success

Whether you’re a scrappy startup, an established corporation, or somewhere in between, figuring out how to measure your success is incredibly important. With more and more startups hitting the scene, and as more entrepreneurs and freelancers decide to go it alone, learning how to measure that success is a skill everyone should have.

We asked WeWork members how they measure success in their own businesses, and they gave us some great insights on what success looks like to each of them.

Question: Other than sales, how do you measure success?

Getting insights from users

If it's early on, any insight you get from your early adopters is just as valuable as conversions. Sales will come when you learn enough from your users to iterate, or pivot, and refine your product offering or message.

Gauging my team’s morale

Your team’s morale, passion, and shared vision. If a team can get excited over potential, and work hard without necessarily getting paid immediately, I feel like that's a metric for being well on the right track.

Asking ourselves the right questions

I judge our progress, not our ‘success,’ because we're still evolving. We have a simple test that we do: Do we still believe in our fundamental hypothesis and vision? Are we closer to realizing that vision than we were yesterday? Are we having fun? Are we solvent? If we can answer yes to those four questions, then we should keep going. Otherwise something needs to change (or if we're insolvent we need to start interviewing).  

Paying attention to key metrics

Ways of measuring the success of a startup other than sales can vary exponentially from company to company, industry to industry, business model to business model, and even from one geographical region to another. That being said, there are a number of key metrics that all startups should be factoring in when measuring their success: scalability; valuation; client satisfaction levels (the number of positive reviews versus number of clients); employee number growth; employee satisfaction; social media following; new markets entered; financial runway (the longer the better); and number of successful funding rounds versus valuation achieved.

Balancing work and play

For me, success is being able to have fun at work and the freedom to go skiing. In order to be successful, I also need to be creative. My business needs to help other people and I need to have pride in what I do. I'm a big skier and outdoor enthusiast. It kind of goes with Chris Remus' blog Just Rolling With It, but he's a road cyclist and I mountain bike down cliffs.

Understanding the big picture

Voluntary engagement is a sure sign that supporters are authentically excited about the brand. When I'm excited about a brand I'll “buffer” them, meaning share them from my social sharing dashboard to multiple networks.  When people respond to a hashtag or call-to-action for your brand or campaign by using it on social media, you've done something right. If supporters attend your events, it's a sign they are genuinely interested in your mission, message, or what you have created or designed. While each of these are measured in any number of ways, only brands that understand the big picture will be able to use this interest as a leap in the right direction.

Knowing how you got the sale

I measure by repeat/renewal clients and referrals—that shows me I am offering quality services. The sale is fine, but it is more about how I get the sale that I like to measure.

It’s all about retention vs. return

Other than sales, we measure our success by retention versus churn—how many customers are using our service and for how long versus customers who decide to leave. It's important to understand why customers choose to stop using our service: Is it product related? Is it related to support or technical issues, or are they not using the product correctly and not getting its full potential?

Realizing size doesn’t always matter

How engaged a startup’s social media network is can prove to be a key metric. Note that I did not mention size, because a startup can have 1,000 followers or even 100,000, but it only matters if those followers are engaged and active brand ambassadors.

Remembering passion is important

A lot of smaller startups are at a stage where they're hyper-focused on gaining user traction and engagement on their respective platforms. From my perspective, that's only a fraction of the factors contributing to the success of a company early on. I feel that laying a strong foundation within your team and having a shared passion for wanting to create something bigger is where the actual success comes. If you have this internally, it will translate to the overall growth of your company.

Knowing great ideas take time

One should not forget that if you are early to the market you might be working on something that, while it has great prospects in the future, simply might not be on a mass audiences' radar. Think Facebook, AirBnb, Uber, Snapchat. Only a decade ago one could not imagine that we would sleep in strangers' beds, call friends via Facebook video, or broadcast our lives using filters and stickers.
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