Yoga, Buddha And Hot Pink: The Funky Demands Of Today's Tech Tenants
Not all tech companies want open space, exposed brick walls and a foosball table. We talked to four tech companies about how they chose their new office environments. We’re excited to get even more details at Bisnow’s Creative Office & The Growth of Tech event on Feb. 23 in Crystal City.
Hip on a Budget
When Jonathon Perrelli, who will speak at our event, designed the Reston HQ for his smart nutrition bottle startup, he modeled it from ideas he got from a recent trip to Richard Branson’s Bali-themed Necker Island. Given that LifeFuels develops a health product, the space also had to allow for yoga classes and overall good health so there’s a lot of natural light.
The design includes faux stone on the outside of the balcony, covering cinder block. The faux stone is also covering the pillars and some of the walls inside the suite. Bamboo floors and tropical trees were also brought in and the front reception area has patio furniture and slate wood walls, which Jonathon saw in many of the rooms on Necker Island. The space also has a large Buddha statue visible from all parts of the office.
All the tables are on wheels and several desks turn into treadmills. The kitchen is stocked with a coffee bar and scores of nutritional products. Jonathon, who used personal funds to start the company, also used furniture from a previous startup he founded and sold. The overall design and setup was kept on a $23k budget.
Location was also important and Jonathon wanted it to be central for staff who live between DC and Leesburg, close to Metro and within walking distance to amenities like Whole Foods, restaurants and Starbucks. He also wanted rent to be in the teens, so options were limited.
LifeFuels landed at Sunset Hills Road, a space that had been vacant for several months. The company takes up two floors—with most of the team taking up the 7k SF top floor, which also has a 4k SF patio. And the company has a 10k SF floor for expansion.
The Location Trade-Off
While many companies just focus on being in the right location, some trade that for a space that helps define company culture. That’s exactly the direction that EverFi took when it found its Georgetown HQ two years ago, says VP Dominique Taylor, who will also speak at Bisnow’s Creative Office event.
Company execs grappled with going to a downtown location that would be more centrally located, but more corporate-looking and less unique. The company landed at a space in Georgetown whose patio overlooks the Potomac. The space was designed so all 100 DC employees sit together in open areas, including founder Tom Davidson. Once a year, they move to a new spot in the space.
The suite is also surrounded by call rooms and teaming rooms and conference rooms, as well as collaborative nooks for people to get away from their desks. The space leading out to the patio includes a large, open kitchen and lounge areas, aptly named the “Hang Space.”
Dominique says the non-Metro location hasn’t affected recruiting since the employer brand is strong enough. Georgetown’s activities, dining and nightlife options also outweigh the inaccessibility to Metro.
Being Part of Something Bigger
Social Tables founder Dan Berger, another panelist, had a few conditions for his company’s new HQ: it had to be in an area with lots of options for commuting, retail, food, nightlife and culture and it had to be in an area where the company could help spur revitalization. He also wanted a landlord willing to sign a lease that was less than 10 years and willing to pay for the renovation and include office furniture.
The event software company finally landed in Metro Center in a space that housed an FBI office. With green carpeting and individual offices, he knew the suite needed to be redesigned for Social Tables’ needs. And he’s hoping Social Tables’ presence in Metro Center will bring in some more restaurants and nightlife, similar to the atmosphere around Chinatown.
As far as the design, Dan, on the left, snapped last month with Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ezra Co EVP Ezra Weinblatt, says he wanted to model it after Social Tables’ core values and vibe, including its mission to be outrageous. That’s why visitors are met with hot pink walls as soon as they step off the elevators.
He also wanted people to walk into a functional space, so there’s no receptionist. Rather you walk into the company’s event space, which is a large open area with comfy couches and tables on wheels. The company has held several events there, with a variety of different configurations. All the workstations are on wheels and everybody has a sitting or standing desk.
Balancing Openness and Privacy
So when co-founder Andrew Chang, who will speak at our event, went through the process of finding and designing space, there had to be a balance.
On one side: the open, gathering space that young entrepreneurs seek. On the other: the privacy and security that many of them need in order to sell to federal agencies. Several of them are working on classified projects and are required to have a certain level of security for clearance requirements, Andrew says.
So the space, which opened in December 2014, has a large communal area when you first enter the space where people can get snacks in the fully stocked kitchen and sit at open desks or in the lounge. All offices are closed rooms, with clear glass doors with protective film over them to let in light. The organization is now looking to expand to a space equal the size in Northern Virginia and Maryland, says Andrew.