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Five Questions For Mark Dowds – Indoor Playground

Mark Dowds is an original thinker, entrepreneur, investor, coach, and leader. He is known for his deep insight into people, relational dynamics, and his systems perspective on organizational development. His ability to explain and process communicational barriers and opportunities has helped many corporations reduce bureaucracy and develop self-managing teams. Mark is a partner in Creationstep and resides in Toronto, Canada.

Creationstep is a new kind of venture firm specializing in funding very early stage startups. We help startups through what is for many the hardest step, from idea to company. We have been inspired by the growth and meaning of the micro-credit lending institutions in the developing world and desire to bring a similar vision to developing new businesses here in the developed world. We believe that there are a lot of smart people with great ideas who are only held back because of the lack of support and early stage funding. We want to get behind and inspire more people to go for it and make a difference in our world. As entrepreneurs we want to help fan the flame of new business in addition to gathering a community of people who can assist one another. We are incubator 2.0 and increase the ratio of success for new and small companies. Creationstep has funded 100% of the launch of Indoor Playground

One Degree: What is the Indoor Playground?

Indoor Playground is a next generation coworking environment based in the downtown core of Toronto. It is a home away from home for the entrepreneur/independent who needs an office space on occasion and wants a community for collaboration. Indoor Playground is a good-looking and creative space populated by other great people worth meeting. It is the perfect solution for new start-ups and independent innovators who are looking for a professional yet affordable way to scale their business.

One Degree: How important has the Internet been to spreading word about Indoor Playground?

This is the first time we have launched a new venture with no marketing budget. So far everyone who has signed up as a member has come via one of our blogs. The process more or less works like this…I blog about something that is happening and several of my influential friends (David Crow, Rob Hyndman, Stuart MacDonald, Austin Hill, Mark Kuznicki and others) blog about it and their influential friends blog about it and the word gets out. The great thing about this is that it really helps with knowing who we are getting. We tend to gather like minds who are already in some form of online conversation.

One Degree: Do you expect the companies and individuals using the space to be primarily Internet start-ups?

Based on the blog readership and natural networks I would think that 80% of the people today and probably in the future will fit into this category. It is getting more blurry as even those who are not primarily internet start-ups are developing or rely on the internet to function and grow. If someone was to have a great idea in the room, in a very short space of time most bases could be covered. I imagine that overtime it could become the first steps of organic incubation for new companies and ideas. Great people meet, think, collaborate, and great things come out the other end.

One Degree: How important is the physical space compared to the collaboration of the individuals using the space?

Both are key factors to success. We chose a high-ceiling top floor loft for a reason. It has lots of light, it feels great, and is a perfect environment for ideas to be birthed. That is all great, however if the community chose not to share and to get afraid and sit in their own private corner not much would happen. In fact we would fail and become a “rent-a-desk” shop which we would dread. The success of Indoor Playground will be the play, the sandbox, and the environment in which we facilitate. In addition, how we promote the space and the people we gather will be very important. I know for myself, I want to share an office with brilliant people who I enjoy spending time with. I may be a little idealistic here but I do not want to show up in a space full of competitive boring people. If I wanted that I would go and get a real job.

One Degree: You’re using Ning for much of the online portion of Indoor Playground. Can you share your experiences using Ning?

It has been an interesting time using Ning. I suppose it comes at an opportune time in the last week as they have just launched their new version. So far the experience is great. The aspect that it lacks right now is a front page blog that I can easily change. It is excellent for gathering a social network and staying in touch. I believe that with their new version this is all possible but as far as I can work out at the moment I am stuck with version one unless I start from the beginning again which would be foolish as I would lose the connections and the URL. Hey, it’s free, how can I complain?