CoCo Aims To Boost Female Membership To 50%

CoCo Aims To Boost Female Membership To 50%

"Co-working" space CoCo hopes a series of women-focused events, which are being sponsored by Google, will help bolster its female membership.

Google is investing a total of $1 million in 40 “startup-focused organizations” in an effort to help them support female entrepreneurs—and Twin Cities-based CoCo is among those that will benefit.

In fact, CoCo—a collaborative “co-working” firm that provides alternative office space to freelance professionals, small businesses, and corporate work groups—has a goal of boosting female membership from 35 percent to 50 percent in one year.

Google recently announced plans for its “40 Forward” initiative, saying it will sponsor 40 organizations in order to help them “increase the representation of women in their respective tech communities.”

CoCo founding partner Don Ball told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday that Google approached his organization about inclusion in the initiative. CoCo is no stranger to the tech giant, whose “Google for Entrepreneurs” arm hosted an event at CoCo last year and said it would sponsor two years’ worth of entrepreneur events in Minnesota.

To help CoCo support female entrepreneurship, Google is sponsoring two series of women-focused events at CoCo.

One is a monthly event called “Unlea(she)d.” Its first installment will be held March 20 and will feature female entrepreneurs Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker, the so-called “Geek Girls” behind Minneapolis-based interactive marketing agency Clockwork Active Media Systems.

CoCo also hosts a monthly lunchtime discussion called “WoCoCo,” which is typically reserved for female CoCo members. But the organization said that non-members may now request an invitation, or they can receive an invitation by attending an Unlea(she)d event.

Google’s funding is “making it possible” to host the events, helping pay for food, drink, staffing—“the fundamental things needed to make an event interesting,” according to Ball.

While the program will benefit CoCo, Google’s “40 Forward” initiative appears aimed at remedying the broader issue of underrepresentation of females in the technology industry.

Ball said that, while CoCo is currently focused on creating an inviting atmosphere for female members, his organization also plans to investigate ways to “crack other barriers”—in other words, to bolster the ranks of other underrepresented groups. “We want to actively cultivate an inclusive community,” he said.

CoCo—which in addition to its downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul locations added an Uptown Minneapolis outpost last year—charges varying fees for different levels of membership. Each requires a one-time registration fee, and monthly memberships begin at $70 a month.

The organization is often cited as a thriving example of so-called “co-working” spaces. Last year, Business Insider named CoCo one of the “17 Coolest Co-Working Spaces In America.” A more recent list, which ranked Minneapolis as a top city for freelancers, cited CoCo as a key factor.

Minneapolis was also recently named a top city for female entrepreneurs. And CoCo, which aims to attract more female members, has already successfully drawn women, who currently make up 35 percent of its members.