The Startup Office Space Has a New Meaning

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We’ve all heard the story before, the tale of the now-powerful tech company’s humble origins. Perhaps the business began in the founder’s parent’s basement, or in the broom closet of a more established company. Maybe it was begun between roommates in a dorm room, or built from startup to viability from the warehouse that doubled as the family home’s garage. While the details change, the mythic story remains the same – persistence despite unpleasant work environments allowed the tiny startup to become a business goliath.

However alluring this tale may be, current realities in the tech industry have rendered it increasingly obsolete. In fact, it’s the growth of the industry itself that has most changed the game in today’s era. As being on the cutting edge is part and parcel in the business, tech companies have routinely led the way in innovative office spaces as well. Gone are the days of the windowless basement, as companies have used their successes to pioneer new concepts in office design and functionality.

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Sitting area at WhitePages HQ

This innovative approach to office spaces has in many ways become the new standard for young companies to aspire to. These days, it’s not uncommon for new companies to invest in Class A buildings from the start. As competition for the best human resources is always fierce, operating in a convenient downtown location in a space with an open, high-tech, and modern feel can be an important instrument for convincing the best and brightest to get on board with a less established company. Susie Algard, the CEO and “re-founder” of OfficeSpace.com, has seen first-hand how this trend is becoming the new norm. The Seattle-based company connects businesses with local office spaces in their area and has been in startup mode since Algard took over three years ago. According to her, “In a vibrant start up community like Seattle, where talented people are in high demand, they don’t want to make sacrifices when it comes to work space. Many entrepreneurs feel strongly that their work space is an important facet of their culture and want to set the right tone from the start.”

In some ways, this type of work environment has become not only desired, but also expected by new workers entering the tech industry. The significant press coverage of innovative offices such as those at Facebook and Google has created a new ideal in the minds of many young prospective employees. The desire to enter a field that is different from the traditional button-down business environment is often an important factor in young employees choosing the tech industry in the first place. For many young talents, working in the tech industry is seen as a way to remain hip and modern while attaining a high level of business success.

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Open floor plan at WhitePages

In addition to these perceptive and competitive aspects there is also the fact that these new approaches to office space seem to provide tangible benefits as well. Sleek, modern office spaces with features such as open floor plans, natural lighting, sofas, and game rooms undoubtedly make going to the office a lot more comfortable for employees, and it’s no secret that relaxed, happy employees are much more likely to become motivated employees. Not only do unique office spaces attract potential employees, they also help to get the best from them.
Even we here at WhitePages have recently taken steps towards improving our offices, having completed a series of renovations aimed at improving both form and function of the space. Adopting a clean open floor plan and adding features such as a large communal kitchen area and staircase to join our two floors has no only improved aesthetics, but also the ease of communication and collaboration.

While these concepts were mostly pioneered by large, established companies, they have quickly become vital for new startups as well. The days where the number of any given city’s experts in the field could be counted on one hand have passed, and new graduates are entering the field at an ever-increasing rate. However, not everyone can immediately join an established company, and for many, new startups are seen as intriguing alternatives that hold the potential for rapid career advancement. As such, competition can be fierce for new talent at this level, and more and more startups are realizing the advantages of investing in dynamic office spaces from an early stage.

slongbotham@whitepages.com'

by Suryn Longbotham

One thought on “The Startup Office Space Has a New Meaning

  1. dave@davehanley.com'
    Dave Hanley says:

    When Alex Garcia and I moved from shared offices in Fremont (thanks Alex Algard for letting us squat) to our first legit offices, we splurged for more space than we needed in a great low rise building in Seattle. What I found is that 30-50% in extra rent over what we could have spent was easily made up for in saved payroll. We had a desirable company, in a cool/interesting/light-filled space, and it made people all the more likely to want to join us. Investing in a proper space was accretive. However, we were careful not to make the space too high-end. It was unique and interesting, but in the world of client service, your clients don’t want to find themselves saying “Am I paying for this fancy office? Maybe I’m overpaying for this service.”

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