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Apr. 15, 2011 11:00 am

Friday Q&A: Paul Amess and Laurence Banville of Alliance Equals

When businessman Paul Amess and litigator Laurence Banville describe how they arrived in Philadelphia, they often have to whip out a globe. Amess, a 25 year-old Englishman, and Banville, a 25 year-old Irishman, have traveled extensively around the world including stops in Brussels, Dublin and Alabama before finally meeting in Philadelphia and founding Alliance Equals. Launching this […]

When businessman Paul Amess and litigator Laurence Banville describe how they arrived in Philadelphia, they often have to whip out a globe.

Amess, a 25 year-old Englishman, and Banville, a 25 year-old Irishman, have traveled extensively around the world including stops in Brussels, Dublin and Alabama before finally meeting in Philadelphia and founding Alliance Equals.

Launching this month, Alliance Equals is a hybrid of a coworking space – where members can pay a fee for a desk or even a large room to serve as a home office – and an incubator – where Amess and Banville will receive an equity in return for office space and business help. The duo says they look to provide an “outsourced CEO” role to young companies who need marketing and legal help, especially in regards to international affairs.

“In house we’ll do a lot of the preparation and search work and that will help reduce the cost of lawyers billing $500-1000 an hour, ” says Banville.

After the jump, the duo tells us how they use the space’s giant television projector and see how their company compares to Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Indy Hall.

How did you guys meet?

Paul: Funny enough, we both dated girls who went to the same sorority at Temple.

You guys are fairly recent college grads, what led to the creation of your own business and your own space?

Paul: The job market led towards me being more entrepreneurial. I had a goal to develop an analytics database for golf players from the players perspective and I needed some technical help and legal help and a bit more formal structure around me. So I approached Laurence to help.

Laurence: For my former firm, I was billing a heavy rate so I saw the money I was making them across the year and the little slice that I saw was a factor that encouraged me to work for myself. I didn’t want to focus on every six minutes of my day trying to bill it to someone else. I wanted to be on my own time.

Where does the funding come from for this space?

Paul: Initially out of mine and Laurence’s back pocket. We got some additional funding from a private individual and we have some angel contacts.

Are you targeting tech exclusively?

Paul: The majority of startups are tech companies. We won’t be supporting wet labs or anything like that here.

How many companies are here now?

Paul: We’re really gearing up our efforts for the people graduating in May. We are a 90-day lease term so people can come in and test out their idea and the facility. Currently we have a few people lined up but nothing concrete. [ed. note: There was one company working out of the space when Technically Philly visited earlier this week.]

What is the range of rates and equity stakes?

Paul: Anywhere from $150 [a month] to just come in and use a desk several times a week all the way to $2,000 a month for the larger office. We’ll also take equity stakes in return for free rent. It’s really on a case-by-case basis.

Laurence: We’re willing to work with people, so we don’t want the price to be a factor.

You both spoke a lot the value you can add to companies. What would you say to the cynic who says “You guys are really young, what value could you add?”

Paul: We offer two different cultural backgrounds, the UK and Ireland, though they are culturally similar to the US. We’ve both been all around the world doing business. I’ve owned by own business since I was 14, 15 and there’s a lots of minefields and mistakes in there. Maybe we can add a different prospective being younger as well. To play devil’s advocate right back: if we were 50, would we have the same knowledge of the tech landscape right now?

Laurence:  When you come in here it’s not just a rental agreement it access to our knowledge, services and network. It ranges from the local painter to the head of the Irish government in the United States. For example, I have a friend in Brazil that would happily help a product launch there.

Theres an explosion of incubators and co-working spaces in Philly of late. How do you stand out other than your location?

Paul: Some incubators may have barrier of knowledge, some may not have the know-how and other may just be intimidating. I think you just have to research and feel out what’s best for you. There’s no competition among Philadelphia incubators. If we’re all successful, Philadelphia is successful. We want to retain the talent pool here. Philadelphia is a great launching pad for companies and we want to promote that.

You guys have done business in Brussels, the UK and other places. What makes Philadelphia unique?

Paul: I love Philadelphia because it’s a big small city. I bike from [Manayunk] to downtown in 20 minutes. Theres just a special quality to Philadelphia that people need to embrace more. The city has a great history, the people are great and the sports are great. From a business sense the cost structure is extremely attractive. The rental costs and cost of living are great.

And lastly whats the most creative use of your 150-inch projector screen out there?

Laurence: You don’t wanna know [laughs].

 

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Sean Blanda is an adviser to Technical.ly, the local technology news network, having cofounded its flagship Technically Philly in February 2009. He is a media consultant, engagement editor for Behance and lives in Brooklyn, NYC.

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