The Coworker: ECTO’s cooperative spin outlasts the competition

ECTOThe Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.

The first thing one notices at the ECTO coworking space in Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood is a nice vibe. People seem happy to see each other in the mornings as they converse in the kitchen in the back.

Not only that, but the open concept space full of 20 to 30 entrepreneurs does possess a certain level of quiet for people to get work done.

This, we would imagine, is like every day at ECTO. Coordinator Sandra Dieujuste told MTLinTECH that ECTO has always focused on it’s community of people.

“I think most people who come to us are really looking for that sense to not only network on a professional level but also on a personal level,” she said. “This was always the main goal here beyond offering space and services.”

Dieujuste said the cooperative is now the oldest coworking space in the city since Station C shut down. ECTO launched over seven years ago. The idea for it came from a group of people all those years ago. They met in coffee shops, libraries and other public places, planning a new, collaborative space built by people who help each other.

“They met in strange places where they had no ties, discussing what they would want in a space” said Dieujuste.

Its “community-based” approach isn’t just a phrase. They encourage everyone who wants to join to become a member and buy a $350 share into the coop. That gives them voting rights at the space’s annual general meeting to make changes as they see fit.

There are no private offices at ECTO, but rather a small proportion of dedicated desks. About 80 per cent of the space is simply “floating desks” where people come in every morning and choose where they want to sit. A nice kitchen with a table sits in the back while a few conference rooms line the west side of the space.

ECTOECTOThe coordinator said her favourite part of the space are the large windows that loom across the east and north borders of ECTO, filling the room with sunshine. The windows have interesting decorative patterns adorning them.

“This used to be an old dance studio and the owner had invested in the imagery in the windows,” said Dieujuste. “In some of them you can see dancers and figurative shapes. One of our members was really inspired and she designed a colouring book of all the patterns in the windows.”

ECTO’s prices are competitive with Montreal’s roughly 25 other coworking spaces that we’ve spoken with. A floating desk with Monday to Friday access goes for $250 per month for members of the coop (those who have bought a $350 share) and $300 for non-members. A dedicated desk with 24/7 access goes for $350, but it’s only available for members.

Included in all these options are conference room access, wifi, a postal address, cleaning, print services and more.

The prices are all month-to-month, which seems to be an upgrade over many of the commitment demands from other coworking spaces. Dieujuste said ECTO was originally formed for freelancers, so it tries to accommodate them as much as possible.

Finally, ECTO offers the “A la Carte” option, where people can buy 1, 5, 20, 60 or 100 day-passes for various prices.

One of the more popular aspects of life at ECTO is the weekly “Salade Collectif” lunch.

“It’s our big hit,” said Dieujuste. “Every Thursday everybody brings an ingredient and we make a salad together. We’ve been it for three years and it’s an easy way for people to take a break from their day and have conversation.”

ECTO also holds cinq a sept happy hours once a week with a different theme every month. Occasionally the space will bring in an expert speaker on a topic by member demand.

It doesn’t stop there. ECTO began holding public conversations last fall where members and non-members alike get together on a night from 7:00-9:00. They hold a public chat over a topic that’s preoccupying society. ECTO will again be launching a new series this fall.

And finally, ECTO also holds the ever-popular Toute le Monde UX every two months, the design event popular with Montreal professionals.

About 20 to 30 professionals work out of ECTO. Dieujuste estimates about 40 per cent of those people make up startups, with the rest freelancers. A startup that grows beyond four people should consider space other than ECTO.

Elizabeth Reeve is a self-employed translator and member of ECTO. She said ECTO is a beautiful space with a strong atmosphere of camaraderie. She visited several coworking spaces in the Plateau before ultimately calling ECTO home.

“There’s really a desire to work together and support one another,” said Reeve. “When I came here for the first time I just really liked the atmosphere.”

Have you read the rest of The Coworker series?

Esplanade creates a familial atmosphere – August 2

Le 402 is small but the price is nice – July 26

A fresh slate for Le Tableau Blanc’s enviable space – July 19

Fabrik8 founder went through a world of experience – July 12

Xenospace competes with the cool neighbourhoods – July 5

LORI Hub the first space for women entrepreneurs – June 28

Could Crew’s Café be the blueprint for expansion? – June 21

Mile Ex’s peaceful 6cent1 is a one of a kind – June 14

Gameplay Space has gaming startups feeling like pros – June 7

Halte 24-7 puts design at the forefront – May 31

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