By Maximilian Clarke

Cloud technologies are enabling software startups to operate beyond the traditional workplace, with considerable benefits for fledgeling businesses as well as for the environment.

As a 20-year tech veteran who has started and run multiple companies in his career, Mark Gilbreath, CEO, of a new tech firm, LiquidSpace, has experienced firsthand the problems workspaces can pose for startup companies. “Owning or leasing real estate is a huge economic burden, consuming enormous chunks of a startup’s early capital resources,” he says. “Plus, designating a fixed amount of office, lab or manufacturing space limits a company’s business flexibility.”

Fixed workspaces can also constrain individual creativity and productivity. Increasingly, workers are leaving the workplace to get work done. Toiling alone on a project, bouncing ideas off co-workers, presenting to a customer or manager, travelling for business and working from home – different scenarios require different kinds of spaces.

“I have been intrigued with alternatives to traditional workspaces for a long time, from both a business efficiency and an environmental impact standpoint,” Gilbreath explains. This interest heightened as he watched commercial buildings constructed during boom times sitting empty or underused as work patterns shifted.

The ways people work are changing. Workers no longer show up to the same place at the same time each day, sit in a cubicle or office for eight or more hours, then leave. It’s estimated that there are 1 billion mobile workers worldwide who fall into three categories: office-based, nonoffice-based and home-based. These mobile workers need a convenient way to find and book space for various reasons – to work closer to where they need to be, in a physical environment that better matches a task at hand or in a social environment that better matches their style of working at that moment – often at a moment’s notice.

“The workplace today has become a real-time decision,” Gilbreath says, which is why the mobile app concept was a key element of LiquidSpace’s approach to the market. The company currently offers its real-time, location-aware workspace-finding app for iPhone and Web browsers; support for Android and Windows smartphones is expected soon. The app is free to users, and owners of sharable space can choose if and how much to charge for use of their workspaces.

Microsoft and their revolutionary BizSpark service can help businesses achieve the balance of flexibility and reliability that a virtualised office can give.

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