One of the most important decisions that a startup founder in Maryland makes, is where to locate their business. There are many factors to consider, such as cost, convenience, culture, and collaboration. In Howard County, MD, there are two main options for startups: renting coworking space in Columbia or other areas of the County; and buying office space. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the needs and goals of the startup.
Going it Alone: Buying and owning
Buying office space is an option for startups that want to have more control and stability over their work environment. Buying office space involves purchasing a property or a unit in a building that exclusively houses the startup. Some of the benefits of buying office space are:
- Full ownership and control over the work environment and culture
- Ability to customize and brand the space according to the startup’s vision and values
- Increased privacy and security for sensitive information
- Potential for appreciation and equity in the property value
- Possibility of renting out unused space or subleasing to other tenants
Unlike shared Howard County coworking space, exclusive office ownership also adds an asset to startup balance sheets. However, there are drawbacks of buying office space too:
- Higher upfront and monthly costs than co-working spaces
- Long-term commitment and liability for the property
- Limited flexibility and mobility in case of expansion or relocation
- Responsibility for maintenance and management of the property
- Risk of depreciation and loss in the property value
A Practical Alternative: Co-work and assess what’s next
For many Howard County startups, using coworking space in Columbia is a better alternative to outright office ownership. These are shared work environments, such as those offered by the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC), that offer flexible and affordable access to office amenities, such as desks, chairs, internet, printers, meeting rooms, and coffee. Co-working spaces also provide opportunities for networking, learning, and mentoring with other entrepreneurs and professionals.
Some of the benefits of co-working spaces are:
- Lower upfront and monthly costs than buying office space
- No long-term commitment or lease agreement
- Access to a variety of locations and facilities
- Exposure to a diverse and dynamic community of peers and mentors
- Potential for collaboration and innovation
Of course, coworking does come with some inconveniences, including:
- Lack of autonomy and privacy
- Limited control over the work environment and culture
- Potential for distraction and noise
- Dependence on the availability and quality of the co-working space provider
Given that, for most startups, the use of Howard County coworking space is likely a temporary arrangement; the minor distractions and inconveniences are worth the benefits.
Weighing your Decision
The decision between co-working spaces and buying office space depends on several factors, such as the stage, size, budget, growth plans, and culture of the startup. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as each option has its own trade-offs and implications. Startups should weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully, and consider their short-term and long-term goals. Ultimately, the best choice is the one that aligns with the startup’s vision and values, and enables them to achieve their maximum potential.