There are so many options when it comes to selecting an office space, and there are no overarching right or wrong answers. The most important to keep in mind is how to ensure that your environment is most suitable to achieve your real goal—moving the ball (the product) forward as rapidly and efficiently as possible. Here are some things to think about:
What can you afford? You need to determine how to get the kind of space that lets you do what you need to do as cheaply as possible. You don’t want to spend money on facilities; you want to spend your resources on developing your product or service. At my investment network, WIN, we have a small office, but we also borrow space from our external finance team. We prefer to spend our money on new companies rather than on lavish facilities.
But, you want to work somewhere cool and you need to attract other people to work for you too. So, how can you create an awesome space without going over the top? Not long ago I visited the facility of one of our portfolio companies, Quixey, a search engine for apps. The conference rooms were beautiful and creative; one looked like the Wild West, another an alpine ski scene and in another felt like I was on a boat. It was gorgeous, and it made me very suspicious. Would I have to watch my wallet, wondering if the money we invested was being spent on the right things? But when I asked how much they blew on this, I was told the CEO gave the team a small budget and they hired set designers for plays who were in an off-season. For a low cost, they were able to build an incredible and inspiring space worthy of a movie set.
Do you want to share a space? An incubator may work for awhile if it is cheap, or if you need extra guidance and mentorship, but flexibility is also important. Nothing is permanent. Case in point: one of our portfolio companies, Badgeville, keeps outgrowing its space. It has been in five different office buildings in the past three years.
What should your space look like? Remember, you are establishing the culture you want to have and your office should be representative of that. I’m a fan of open space, which fosters collaboration. That’s important, especially if you are growing fast. Things to consider: Where does the CEO sit? Is he or she is a big corner office, or in a cube in the middle of the action. (When I was the COO of eBay I sat in a cube and CEO Meg Whitman did too.)
Finally, it would be remiss not to ask, do you even need your own dedicated office space at all? When Marc Benioff started salesforce.com he worked out of a rented apartment next to his own as well as out of his own house. A balcony served as the conference room. Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg famously started in their dorm rooms, and some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies were founded in the garage. Founders will find a way to make anything work. What matters most is not having right space, but having the right spirit.