Salt Mine is part of a growing ecosystem of coworking spaces in Utah, a technology-rich area dubbed Silicon Slopes. Launched in February of 2016 in Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Salt Mine was the third coworking space in the area. There are now eight established coworking spaces in and around Salt Lake, with another several in the works.
A resources for entrepreneurs and startups, Salt Mine is a not-for-profit with a mission to support women, minority and developing world entrepreneurs. I spoke with Salt Mine founder and CEO David Edmunds about the emergence of Silicon Slopes as an entrepreneurial hotbed, plans for Salt Mine to become a local coworking network, and how Salt Mine serves Utah tech and startup companies. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Cat Johnson: What was the inspiration for the Salt Mine?
David Edmunds: We had a booming entrepreneurial community in the Salt Lake Valley, but very few brick and mortar, tangible resources to serve entrepreneurs and startups. When we were first looking at Salt Lake for the Salt Mine model, there weren’t any coworking spaces here. We thought the entrepreneurs here deserved to have great spaces to meet and collaborate and build great new startups.
Tell me about the Salt Mine not-for-profit angle
We’re dedicated to helping all entrepreneurs thrive. But all of our revenue over expenses goes toward supporting women, minorities and developing world entrepreneurs.
How did you decide on that model?
It’s not totally unusual in the coworking world. About 10-15 percent of coworking communities are nonprofit for different reasons. For us, we really wanted to help entrepreneurs thrive and thought this was a good way to keep us from mission drift.
What’s the response to Salt Mine been?
The response has been fantastic. It’s really our community that makes it great. We’ve got a lot of really sharp people launching cool companies. We’ve been riding a wave of startup fever here in Salt Lake that is well-funded and well-organized. A rising tide lifts all ships and we’ve been one of those ships.
We’re currently in negotiations on three other buildings between Salt Lake County and Utah County to expand Salt Mine and be a network model here in Utah.
Who makes up the Salt Mine community? Do you attract a particular type of professional more than others?
Absolutely. At Salt Mine we like to tell people that we’re industry agnostic, but because we’re in Utah, in Silicon Slopes, we’re about 70 percent tech. Those are all kinds of tech companies—some are tech startups, others are established tech companies that may have remote offices here, and we have a few really cool tech companies that are developing here.
Of the 70 percent of members that are tech professionals, probably half of the group are developers. We have a lot of developers here so we do a monthly developer roundtable to serve them—we bring in breakfast and have a speaker. We try to cultivate the skill set of our members.
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Since Salt Mine is mission-driven, do you find that people with their own mission-driven projects and organizations are attracted to the community?
That’s certainly true. We have nonprofits that are here. We serve nonprofits and they like the fact that we’re mission-focused.
Salt Mine is in the suburbs outside of Salt Lake. Why is it important to have suburban coworking spaces and how did you pick that area for your first location?
Our location was strategic—we wanted to be equidistant between Ogden, Utah County and Park City. Additionally, more and more, our community here in Utah is hyper-local. They want something that’s convenient to them. They want to live near skiing and they want to work near where they live.
We’re kind of a stop-off point. As Silicon Slopes is developing, a lot of that new development is between two major counties: Utah County and Salt Lake County. We’re able to serve both the downtown crowd, the Park City crowd and the Utah County crowd. We’re a hub where all the regional groups can come together in one spot.
When you were looking at software to run your shared space, what drew you to Satellite Deskworks?
The people. The Deskworks team was available and able to explain everything. Coworking software has not yet arrived and I think part of that is because coworking has not yet totally arrived—it’s not a huge market segment. But because the Deskworks team was already in the business of coworking, they understand the particular challenges. That people perspective gave Deskworks the ability to empathize with us and help onboard new members. That’s why we chose Deskworks and continue to stay with Deskworks.
When you say coworking software has not yet arrived, what would you like to see?
I don’t think we yet have good integration between physical technology, hardware and software. For instance, I have ipad screens that go unused in all my conference rooms because we haven’t really figured out the integration between a team [working in the space] and Satellite Deskworks. Other groups do that sort of thing but they don’t do member management as well. As far as a holistic software, I just don’t think we’ve fully arrived.
Note from the Deskworks team: We’re doing a final test on ipad screens for conference rooms. The feature will be ready next week.
How would you advise another workspace operator who’s considering using Deskworks to run their coworking space?
Add Satellite Deskworks to the list of what you’re demoing. Demo it and see if it suits your needs. Every coworking space is a little bit different—everybody has different needs. For managing members and their payments, Satellite Deskworks works smoothly. I’d encourage other operators to add it to their list of three that they’re going to demo before they make a final decision.
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