Three short years ago Workable was two people and our first customer. We are now approaching 80 people with more than 4,000 customers. Although the company was started in Greece, most of our customers are in the United States. So it made sense for us to have a Boston office, which we opened in November 2014.
We had just three employees in Boston when we opened, so we rented one small office in a large coworking space. Today we have nearly 15 employees in Boston (with people visiting from our other offices in Athens and London frequently). Without a coworking office space, this transition would have been a lot tougher. Renting a shared office space has saved us money, helped us attract top talent, get to know people in the Boston community and allowed us to take the time to find the right office location for the long-term. We’ve learned a lot from this experience and want to share some of our insights with other growing businesses.
What is a coworking space?
A coworking space, for those not familiar, is a large office that houses many companies. Typically you’ll find small businesses with up to 20 employees, and startups that are growing but are not ready to invest in their own dedicated office space. Each company has its own office or desk, but neighbors other companies.
An affordable launchpad
If Workable had decided to move into our own office right away we would have been looking at a 3-6,000 square foot office that costs upwards of $40 per square foot in our current neighborhood. Additionally, there would have been tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs for the buildout. We would have been paying $10,000 a month from the very beginning on the monthly lease alone, just to have space for three employees, not including the build out. That is a major commitment for a young company that can’t predict how many employees it will add over its first few years, and is just starting out in a new market
A recruiting asset
The coworking space has been a great recruiting tool. Our shared office center in Boston, WeWork Fort Point, offers great amenities, contemporary meeting spaces, and access to fun events. When you’re young, you still want your working space to have a nice buzz. Three people sitting at desks in the corner of a 4,000 square foot place can seem daunting. With a company that size it’s tough to stay on top of amenities such as coffee, water, and snacks. Coworking spaces are well-designed and have a modern feel that improves the candidate experience.
A lot of the coworking spaces pride themselves on the community. That is not some BS they make up just to sell more units. WeWork has a ton of events going on and we have been able to meet a lot of like-minded people. There are people from other startups, law firms, marketing services, and other companies that have been useful for us to get to know. We found SocialFulcrum, one of the marketing agencies that we have hired, through the coworking space. That’s good for them and good for us.
WeWork also hosts several vibrant networking events that are relevant for small businesses. They have vendors who bring lunch, VC’s come in to talk about pitching, and other educational sessions. Community events make the workplace upbeat and are not something most companies have access to until they get bigger.
A chance to learn the city
While coworking, we were able to get a lay of the land in our Boston neighborhood and figure out where we want to establish our office for the long-term. Although our customers are all over the world, our goal is to create a presence in Boston for recruiting. When moving into a new market, it’s important to get a good hold of where your potential employees want to be, what the right neighborhoods are and what’s convenient in terms of transportation, parking, and other amenities.
Feeling disconnected as a team
One of the downsides that we started to feel as we got bigger was that the people in our Boston office started to feel disconnected. When there were six of us we all fit in one space and it was fine. At some point on the way to 15, where we are today, things started to feel disconnected. People from sales and support didn’t meet the new people coming into marketing and vice versa. We have four offices, and what we found was there wasn’t a reason to go into the other offices, so we didn’t.
Buffer time for your moving schedule
Another thing we learned about moving into a new office is that you need to schedule in some buffer time to make sure you complete the process on time despite any obstacles. It takes about six months from start to finish of the process. To find the right office space, it might take up to two months, one month to finish the lease, a couple more weeks to finalize design and build out plans, and finally a couple of months for build out. When we opened up our Boston office, it would have been impossible to get started running our business to even start without renting a shared office space. I don’t know how startups did it before coworking spaces were an option.
Today, Workable moved into our new Boston headquarters. That’s over a year after we opened up in Boston. Since moving we’ve raised $27 million in venture funding, and have gone from 30 employees to over 80. In Boston, we’re on pace to grow from 15 employees to 50. The biggest coworking space benefits have been the ability to grow the company significantly while searching for the right workplace location for the foreseeable future.