Cubicles and community: WeWork office space targets Seattle startups



Posted on May 12, 2014 at 7:39 AM

Yes, Seattle startup companies need physical locations to set up computers, phones, Wi-Fi. They need access to conference rooms and basic office services like faxing, copying and scanning.

Oh, and don't forget coffee. Lots of coffee.

WeWork Seattle, a new office space in South Lake Union, recognizes those needs. But its own business model is based on attracting entrepreneurs by providing access to the things that startups really need - namely, advice on fund raising, help with marketing, networking with other startups.

WeWork Seattle's office space - all three floors and 55,000 square feet of it - just opened in February and it's already 60 percent full. It's part of a national company that since its 2011 launch has opened 17 locations in 6 U.S. cities.

Prices range from $300 to $3,000 a month, depending on how much space you need and how many people are in your company. For that you'll get furniture, phones, Wi-Fi and office services. Your company will also get access to resources for setting up payroll and health benefits for employees, along with connections to IT firms that provide web hosting/design and code writing. WeWork has partnerships with companies that can help with marketing services such as search engine optimization.

The best part may be the events that WeWork regularly sponsors. Office lead Gina Phillips and her team will bring in guests like venture capital executives to talk about raising money.

"A lot of the early stages of being a tech startup involve needing to go out and network," Phillips said. "You need to fundraise, and so the fact that we bring events here where you would ordinarily have to trek across town, or you would be heads-down just trying to build things, any convenience we can bring closer to them is definitely a benefit."

When you put that many entrepreneurs in such prioximity, you also create a shared community brimming with solutions to common startup problems, says CEO Christopher Smith. His startup Story sells apps to museums, zoos and other cultural organizations for guided tours.

"Coming into WeWork allowed us to have a place to set up immediately, some great connections, a great team of people to help and support us," Smith said, "and now that all these other businesses have come into WeWork, there's a lot of collaborative opportunities."

"We build a community of creative people," said WeWork West Coast director Chia O'Keefe. "Everybody's starting something, everyone's got a great idea, and to be around other people in that space with that energy helps 100 percent."

What also helps after a long day of building your own company out of thin air? Free beer in the WeWork lounge.