On Monday as I was checking out my Twitter feed to find out the Oklahoma City Coworking Collaborative, a mecca for the Oklahoma tech community, is closing down. For people outside of Oklahoma this may not mean much but for those who were in this community the news was devastating. It’s especially devastating for the reason why it’s shutting down.
There was a press release on their site [that’s been modified because of a gag order placed on them] saying that they were closing because of a lawsuit from a fundraiser months back.
Here’s part of the press release that I snagged before the changes:
text was made bold by me for emphasis
“While the okcCoCo collects coworking fees, it relied on the generous support of community members, user groups, and sponsoring businesses in order to open a new location on Film Row in Downtown Oklahoma City. The campaign raised more than $29,000 through the online website IndieGoGo… The legal dispute between okcCoCo and US Fleet Tracking is over a sponsorship agreement made… US Fleet Tracking demanded the return of the funds even though the return of funds was not required by the terms of the sponsorship agreement. okcCoCo was unable to return any funds because of financial decisions and commitments already made at that late date, which were necessary to secure the new location on Film Row. In spite of multiple attempts at settlement, terms of which included both sponsorship opportunities and repayment of the original sum plus interest, no settlement has been reached.
okcCoCo founders claim that when an offer made by Guy Madison to collocate the okcCoCo with Blueprint for Business at a North Oklahoma City location was declined after review of the location by the okcCoCo membership, US Fleet Tracking demanded the return of the sponsorship funds. okcCoCo was unable to comply or otherwise resolve the situation. US Fleet Tracking filed suit to recover the funds on June 4th, 2012.”
The okcCoCo needed the original fundraiser to stay alive and it got enough publicity that a few people outside of Oklahoma began to pay attention, including best-selling author Neil Gaiman.
The money was raised by many individuals giving what they could as well as a seemingly generous donation by US Fleet Tracking. I find it ironic that they could give to a fundraiser to save the okcCoCo, only to sue them out of existence, refusing to settle for sponsorship and a full payment of the donation.
What’s even more ironic is that this multi-billion dollar mega company started the venture capital firm Blueprint for Business in Oklahoma City for tech start ups. I can’t comprehend how they can start a project that is suppose to help tech in Oklahoma while killing its hub.
What the CoCo Meant to Me
I lived in Oklahoma City for three and a half years before moving back to New York. As a transplant who was used to big cities, I can tell you that adjusting to life there took some help. Honestly, there were only three places in all of Oklahoma where I felt comfortable: a coffee shop in Edmond, Lake Hefner and the OKCCoCo.
The coworking spot provided a community for entrepreneurs, technophiles and the generally curious. They had regular fundraisers for local charities like the 1-Day Ranch, invited web famous speakers to give talks and tips, held conferences bi-annually that gave people like me a place to congregate.
The CoCo meant a lot to me because it was one of the few cool places in Oklahoma. If it wasn’t for the community I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. Even though I’m no longer a member, I planned on visiting in the Spring.
What the CoCo Meant to Others
I hit up a couple of people that also spent a lot of time there, to get some of their thoughts on what the CoCo meant to them:
“It was the community more than anything. The CoCo was a place where I made a lot of friends, a place where I made business contacts, where I learned, a place where I created things… somewhere I could relax. It was a place where I got inspiration…the coco was the hub for everything tech in OKC.”
“The coco was a hub for me, a place to go and meet other local technofiles that I would not have otherwise met. Seeing a bigger corporation litigate a small business into the ground is really disheartening.”
The CoCo started a new fundraiser because of the lawsuit, but this time it’s all about planting trees. The indiegogo page is asking people to “Show your support for downtown Oklahoma City and help us give back to this great city and to the awesome community that supported us for so long.”
You can make a donation here.
If you want to share your thoughts on what the OKCCoCo meant to you, leave a comment below.