When Should a Startup Leave the Nest?
There Are Plenty of Options for Today's Early Stage Entrepreneur
BY ANN JOHNSTON
Filed Under: NEWS: Startups
We've all heard stories about the scrappy initial headquarters of what became hugely successful technology companies: Dorm rooms, garages, and basements. Last Spring, many of us read about Eric Simmons, the entrepreneur who had been squatting at AOL's Palo Alto campus. When his incubator program ended, he just kept working (and sleeping and showering) at the facility. He reportedly spent a total of $30 one month.
Early on, many technology startups don't need official space – it's an unnecessary expense. But at some point (hopefully), startups must make the move from the garage to leased space, be it an office, coworking space, or something in between.
How do you know when it's time to make the move? There are many factors to consider: the number and schedules of team members, how quickly the company is developing, how often you meet with clients, and of course, your budget.
One of the most important considerations is internal communication and collaboration. My team uses virtual and in-person meetings, and unless it's a quick check in, face-to-face produces better results. When all team members are in a common space, we are more efficient in making decisions and developing new ideas. And there's a limit to the company culture that can be built over Google+ Hangouts or coffee bought to access a café table and WiFi.
On the other hand, our Technical Lead prefers coding at night from home, where he has multiple monitors and other non-portable hardware. Asking developers to work from a new location might force them to program using a less than ideal system (a laptop), unless you're also willing to invest in furnishing an office.
The good news is that once your company is ready to lease space, there are a growing number of options designed for early stage startups. Here in the Triangle, you can go office, coworking, or something in between.
American Underground is at the heart of the Durham tech startup scene. It includes a campus at American Tobacco and a new campus scheduled to open in June on Main Street.
The Main Street campus was designed for early stage companies and will have month-to-month leases for coworking space ($199), 40-square foot solopreneur offices ($299), and furnished private offices for teams of two to four ($479-779). Shared conference rooms, a pitch room, and a basketball court are among amenities available to tenants.
Mercury Studio in Durham offers month-to-month coworking leases starting at $200, or longer-term contracts at lower monthly rates. Amenity levels include café (access to common work areas) and desk (access to space used solely by you). Duos and teams will save on per person fees and there are shared conference and café-styled rooms available for rent by the hour.
Like Mercury Studio, Bull City Coworking in Durham offers café and permanent desk levels, but takes low commitment a step further offering a $16 day-to-day rate. Monthly coworking space is $144 for café and $360 for desk level. Lower monthly rates are provided for longer-term contracts.
Established in 1991, First Flight Venture Center includes 20,000 square feet of office and lab space in Research Triangle Park. The center's Friends of First Flight Program offers leases with limited time frames and shared conference space. Tenant companies span the science and technology spectrums.
HUB Raleigh has quickly become a center of entrepreneurial activity in the capital city. It houses coworking space, five private suites, three “huddle rooms,” a conference room, and a kitchen. Its grand opening was last November and it's on track to become part of a global network of coworking spaces.
Currently selecting its first set of tenant startups, Launch Chapel Hill offers downtown Chapel Hill coworking space with flexible pricing and incubator support (mentors and workshops). There is a shared conference room and kitchen and 10 private offices for startups that can afford higher fees.
Located on NC State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh, the NC State University Technology Incubator provides startups with access to NC State resources as they work to commercialize bioscience and technology products and services. Startups do not have to be university spin-outs but must apply to the program, which includes mentors and and business assistance services. Offices are leased for $400-$550 per month and wet labs are $1470-$2210 per month.
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