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Impromptu Studio co-founder reflects on coworking & community

At the close of last month came the close of a notable figure in the Des Moines entrepreneur and startup community: Impromptu Studio, Des Moines’ first coworking space.

Founded in August 2008 by Daniel Shipton, now co-founder and CEO of BitMethod, and his wife Abbie, former architect now stay-at-home mom, Impromptu Studio existed not only to house entrepreneurs and startups but to be a part of and create community amongst those individuals. In addition to the daily act of coworking with a diverse set of individuals, they accomplished this goal through their own programming as well as opening their doors to other community events.

(Abbie Shipton, left, and husband Daniel Shipton, right, pose with tech journalist Sarah Lacy during a 2008 visit to Impromptu Studio. Photo from Sarah Lacy via Flickr.)

In an October 29th blog post on Impromptu’s website titled “Moving On,” Shipton announced Impromptu’s formal closing down: “I’m making a decision to close down a business. The people, attitude, aspirations and even some of the programming of the community we’ve built will remain,” he wrote.

As BitMethod – my technology startup – has grown, maintaining a separate coworking business became a complication. It may sound odd, but shutting down Impromptu Studio will allow me to put even more energy and attention towards the goals with which my wife and I originally started it.

 Read the full post

On Halloween weekend, the BitMethod team of five packed up the office and relocated to their new home in downtown Des Moines at 418 6th Avenue. Impromptu was located at 300 Southwest 5th Street, and when asked how the two spaces compare in size, Shipton said they’re roughly the same. “Impromptu looked bigger but actually had less usable square footage than BitMethod’s new office,” Shipton said in an email interview yesterday.

A photo of Impromptu Studio taken in March of this year. Photo by Rob Jensen via Flickr.

Not counting those that dropped in for an hour, afternoon or day of coworking, Shipton said that over the more than two years Impromptu was open, about 25 businesses had established an office in the space at one time or another.

Going forward, Shipton’s BitMethod will be sharing its office with two previous Impromptu “coworkers.” These companies, both one-man shops in Des Moines, are Pongr, a mobile image game, and God At Play, a game development company.

To learn more about the closing of Impromptu and the goals accomplished, I conducted an email interview with Shipton yesterday.

Silicon Prairie News: Last Friday, you formally closed Impromptu Studio, can you tell us more about that decision?

Daniel Shipton: Closing Impromptu was a decision to shutdown a business. It’s not about the idea of coworking, the culture of Des Moines, or the community we had built. As BitMethod grew I ran out of human bandwidth to properly care and grow both businesses. I had a lot of great folks helping me fill in the gaps but it wasn’t a long term solution.

It’s hard for some people to understand the startup mentality. It goes against human nature to walk away from something that still has “potential”, that’s “growing slow and steady.” We’re experiencing wonderful growth at BitMethod and we weren’t with Impromptu, and I’ve only got so many hours in the day.

(Photo from twitter.com/danielshipton.)

What were the goals that you and your wife set out to accomplish when you opened Impromptu?

We wanted to create a beacon for all of the awesome talent in Des Moines that I knew was out there. Mission accomplished. BitMethod formed in part because Neil Roberts was coworking out of Impromptu, and our major growth and business merger with Grand Consulting also happened in part because of the studio. Running Impromptu also helped me form my relationship with Scott Kubie who was running Market Street Media Foundry at the time. He now works full-time for BitMethod.

In your blog post, you wrote that some of the programming of the community will remain – can you expand on that statement?

We were never passionate about the programming, we were passionate about the community, the people. One of BitMethod’s Field Guide entries is People Over Organizations. We’ll be doing lots of things with people. Meet-ups, luncheons, game nights, poker tourneys, whatever. A lot of the #dmtweetup community used Impromptu Studio as a home-base and I hope to continue that vibe at BitMethod HQ.

To view more photos from Impromptu Studio, see: Impromptu Studio on Flickr.

Stay tuned for a post in the coming days in which Shipton talks about what’s ahead for BitMethod. And if you’d like to check out the new BitMethod office space for yourself, they’re having an open house on November 16, see thier announcement blog post: BitMethod HQ Open House.

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