Company Culture
Coworking / Entrepreneurs / Startups / Workplace culture

Philly startups are embracing the office, for collaboration and culture

Nearly all the 2024 RealLIST Startups honorees predicted a physical space was in their companies' future.

Dinner with the 2024 RealLIST Startups honorees in Philadelphia (Courtesy Simone Ammons)'s RealLIST Startups 2024 in Philly dinner was underwritten by Morgan Lewis and JPMorgan Chase. This story was independently reported and not reviewed before publication.

Amid the intense debate about in-person versus remote work, many startups in Philly are leaning into having an office.

Big companies and organizations have been moving more and more toward bringing employees back.

In Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross and Comcast staff must work from the office at least three or four days a week, reflectively, with both organizations citing collaboration and company culture as reasons. Mayor Cherelle Parker last month made it a requirement for all senior city staff members to return to the office full time.

When it comes to startup and growth-stage companies, there seems to be more flexibility. But nearly all the founders in attendance at a recent dinner to celebrate the 2024 RealLIST Startups in Philly said they plan to set a physical workspace in Philly — if only a membership at a coworking space.

The reasoning was similar to the big corporations: the benefit of in-person interaction for culture building and collaboration.

“Culture is something that we want to hold on to and differentiate ourselves as we continue to build,” said Nate Hecker, founder of intellectual property company Big Idea. “There’s a lot of pros to being in the office, having an established space.”

Working in an office with at least the company’s core team provides more opportunities to teach, learn and build camaraderie, he said. Even so, some roles at Big Idea are listed as remote only.

It was important to be in a coworking space where I felt supportedSimone Ammons QuneUp

Transportation benefits company Jawnt has employees across the country, but having a coworking space in Philadelphia builds energy among employees and is good for company culture, cofounder Will Sanderson said. He thinks of it as a remote company with a Philly headquarters.

Block cleanup service Glitter didn’t have a physical location for its first three years, but is about to start at a coworking space in the Germantown-Mt.Airy area, according to founder Morgan Berman.

That’s because Glitter recently launched a partnership focused on reducing violent crime through litter cleanup in those neighborhoods, she said.

“We’re such a place-based company in terms of the work that we do,” Berman said, “that it makes a lot of sense to have a physical presence in the community that we’re serving.”

Simone Ammons currently runs production equipment software company QuneUp out of a coworking space, she said. As a solo founder, she wanted to be surrounded by fellow founders and people doing similar work so she didn’t develop the company “in a vacuum.”

Being surrounded by an ecosystem, Ammons explained, allows her to learn from others and build up her network.

“It was important to be in a coworking space where I felt supported,” Ammons said. “Not just like, ‘I give you money, I have a space,’ but ‘I give you money and I have a space with the support of mentors … and connections.’”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Series: RealLIST Startups / RealLIST

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