With increasingly sophisticated collaboration tools and theadvent of the virtual office, is there really any need for face time with colleagues?
Salesforce.com, somewhat of a Web 2.0 poster child, seems to think so. It recently opened a business incubator in San Mateo, Calif., with the goal of "remov(ing) as much of the risk from their businesses as we can" for 32 partners that are creating applications for Salesforce's AppExchange, says Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. If all goes well, it will establish similar incubators around the globe.
Nothing facilitates knowledge sharing quite like physical proximity, according to a recent CIO Today piece. The founder of a British startup housed at the incubator says "you never really had a place to bounce ideas off people" at the company's former U.S. outpost in San Francisco.
To facilitate this kind of collaboration, Salesforce houses some of its own staff at the incubator and conducts biweekly meetings on product management, on-demand technology and other topics of mutual interest.
The Salesforce incubator is part of a broader facilities sharing trend that seems to dovetail nicely with the Web 2.0 ideals of "community" and "collective intelligence." Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield calls the office space his corporate wiki firm recently opened to outside developers "sort of a commune for nerds."
Of course, it requires companies to buy additional real estate, a not inconsiderable investment, especially in Silicon Valley. And a venture capitalist interviewed for the CIO Today piece mentions that some startups don't live up to their potential once they leave the insular world of the incubator.