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Sneak Peek: The Knowledge Society’s New Toronto Flagship

The Knowledge Society — an incubator for young innovators — is getting set to launch its flagship, at 622 Richmond St. W. We met the project team on site to hear how the facility will help forge tomorrow’s thought leaders.

TKS lead facilitator William Lancaster, company founders and executive directors Navid Nathoo and Nadeem Nathoo, and CBRE broker Adam Cole Jacobs.

TKS, launched by brothers Nadeem and Navid Nathoo last year, signed a 10-year lease deal for the 6k SF, three-level space, which will be its flagship. The goal is to have up to 30 TKS locations across North America within the decade, they said. Deal broker Adam Cole Jacobs of CBRE toured his clients through a number of spaces, but it was tough to find others that offered what they found at 622 Richmond. “They didn’t want a typical square box, they wanted a multi-level space they could do cool things with.” Also key, the location has direct street access and can be open after-hours for students (ages 13-17) coming from school or working on weekends.

622 Richmond St W

Just as Google, Apple and Amazon have used their workplaces to shape company culture, Navid Nathoo said it is important that the TKS facility signals to its young attendees “that you’re in a different world here, so the expectations for yourselves should be dramatically higher." To help create what Navid Nathoo calls the “learning space of the future,” TKS tapped famed Toronto interior designer Johnson Chou. Classrooms at 622 Richmond will be in circular formation, to foster sharing, and floors will have Astroturf in spots, encouraging students to sit on the floor when contemplating ideas. “It’s all about doing things differently,” Nadeem Nathoo said.

The TKS flagship under construction.

TKS is turning an old freight elevator shaft into a 30-foot-tall room, and a significant portion of the brick-and-beam building’s second floor has been removed, opening the space up and creating a hive-like environment, with activity visible on multiple levels. “The point is to build spaces that encourage creativity and get the results we want to get,” said Navid Nathoo, a tech entrepreneur who founded Airpost, a Silicon Valley-based cloud security company acquired by Box in 2015. The mission is to turn TKS into a billion-dollar education company, he said, “shaking things up in an industry that hasn’t been disrupted in 100 years.”

Nadeem and Navid Nathoo at the under-construction TKS flagship.

The Nathoo brothers are aiming to have 622 Richmond, owned by Timbercreek Asset Management, built out by May. A second facility could be in the works within a year, “but we have to make sure this one is incredible first,” said Nadeem Nathoo, previously a consultant at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Top athletes are cultivated from an early age, he said, but Canada has no system in place to groom tomorrow’s entrepreneurial talents to compete globally. “So we want this to be a training institute for Olympic-level innovators, CEOs and thought leaders of the future.”