The company Dots, which is famous for its iPhone games Dots and Two Dots, is in the fairly unique position of having been based both in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the last year.
“I didn’t realize this till we left Meatpacking but being right there at the A, C, L and PATH trains, no matter where you live it’s easy to get to,” Dots cofounder and CEO Paul Murphy said in an interview. “You don’t have that same advantage in Brooklyn. On the plus side, being kind of away from everything else in Manhattan has been pretty inspiring for the creatives on our team. The cobblestone streets and brick buildings, it’s all kind of old-worldy.”
Dots grew its team from 15 to 41 in the last year. Their office in the Meatpacking District got too small rather quickly, and they decided to renovate it and take more space. They had to find somewhere to work for the intervening six months, while the renovations are being completed, and they settled on the new WeWork in Dumbo, which was eager to have them as an anchor tenant. The team has four big offices in WeWork and takes up about half of one of its floors.
Murphy explained what the advantages and disadvantages are to being in Brooklyn.
For one, about two-thirds of his team lives in Brooklyn, split between the north (Greenpoint/Williamsburg) and the south (Park Slope, Boerum Hill). But even so, it’s often easier to get from Brooklyn to Manhattan than to travel within Brooklyn. For Murphy, who lives in Boerum Hill, the new office is a 10 minute walk from his home in Boerum Hill, so that’s a plus.
A negative is that he doesn’t feel comfortable asking investors or major partners to come all the way out to Dumbo, so he finds himself heading into the city a lot.
“This week I was in and out of Manhattan several times and you end up taking a lot of taxis instead of subways cause you need to be able to take calls while you’re traveling,” he said.
Another thing he said was that Dumbo is now just as expensive as Manhattan.
“We were looking at spaces and there was absolutely no cost advantage to moving to Dumbo,” he said. “It was basically the same price as SoHo or Meatpacking. There were better views and there was a space advantage but it wasn’t enough to move the company.”
But at the same time, he said it would’ve been totally possible to build Dots in Brooklyn if that’s what he’d wanted to do. He said when they started out, he and his cofounder imagined they’d be working out of an old factory loft in Brooklyn. It didn’t work out that way, but he said there are tech firms for which that really works.
“There is very much of a born-in-Brooklyn ethos,” he said. “Kickstarter, Etsy, their identity is very much tied to Brooklyn. I think if you grow the business in Manhattan it takes on a slightly different atmosphere,” particularly when it comes to recruiting people who expect to be working in Manhattan.
The common theme in Murphy’s judgments was travel time.
Highways, subways, trains, they’re all built to get people from the suburbs and outer boroughs into Manhattan, and that’s infrastructure that’s simply not going to change. That makes it easier as a central location for workers coming from uptown or downtown or Brooklyn or New Jersey. The big names are in Manhattan, whether it’s financiers or tech giants.
There are two projects in the mid-term future which could affect this balance, however. A potential shutdown or reduction of the L train would mean Brooklyn becomes even less navigable for people outside of Kings County. Then there’s the proposed BQX streetcar line, which would travel along the water in Brooklyn and Queens and make the borough accessible to a ton more workers.
Or, if you want to be based in Brooklyn, you can just hire workers who live in Brooklyn and you all can never leave Brooklyn and talk endlessly about how long ago the last time you were in the city was.