For The Gathering Spot (TGS) cofounder and CEO Ryan Wilson, college had a particularly large impact. He went into business with his Georgetown University roommate and married a fellow alum.
But it was the sense of community that he took into his business plan, as he found the ability to meet people in common spaces was missing after graduation.
“Georgetown didn’t intentionally program to make one of those two things happen,” Wilson told Techncial.ly, referencing his business partnership and marriage. “But they did facilitate an environment where the connection could be made. That’s what TGS is doing. We’re really good at creating circumstances for folks to know one another better.”
Wilson founded TGS a few years after his schooling in DC, although the company selected Atlanta for the first location of the membership club for local professionals. For its DC location, which opened in January, TGS offers an event space, a restaurant and bar and work stations for members to use. But Wilson said TGS is built to be more of a community than a space, offering people the chance to connect in and out of their circles.
“You go into our restaurant, no matter what city you’re in, and you are guaranteed to find a person that’s wearing a suit and tie sitting next to a person that’s wearing a T-shirt and jeans,” Wilson said. “That, for me, has always been what’s really interesting from an industry perspective because there aren’t a lot of places to do that.”
To become a member — DC has about 2,000 — interested parties must apply and go through an interview process. Wilson said this is mostly to gauge what people are passionate about, so TGS can connect them to others. While some might be interested in hobbies like wine, others might be seeking venture capital or looking to make friends who are fellow parents, he said. Wilson calls these circles, and said there are about 60 running at any given time. TGS also runs about 20 events monthly.
“This is not your traditional private club,” Wilson said. “We’re far less interested in what you do and more interested in why you do it. ”
This model also allows it to personalize the experience to each city it calls home. The DC location’s workspace opened in January and the restaurant followed in April. TGS has another location coming to Los Angeles in the next 60 days. It is also opening up clubs in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Charlotte.
The DC expansion, though, is a particularly exciting one for the TGS team. Wilson and cofounder TK Petersen both attended Georgetown, and Wilson lived locally for multiple years following his studies.
“If you look at the original business plan for TGS, it was written for DC,” Wilson said. “So this, to us, is more of an extended homecoming and keynote completion of this journey in some sense because we wrote the initial plan about being in DC.”
Alongside its connective offerings, TGS also takes part in local and national conversations and movements. Nationally, it’s currently doing work to help those affected by Hurricane Ida and Wilson said he’s making sure the TGS community is heard following the new Texas abortion law. In DC, TGS representatives interviewed the family behind Ben’s Chili Bowl and held advocacy campaigns around issues like DC statehood. It also recently partnered with CarpeDM, a dating app for Black women.
“I didn’t wake up this morning, haven’t woken up on any morning, thinking about coworking, and if people are going to enjoy working [here],” Wilson said. “It’s always been, what are we going to do as a business to better facilitate a connection for someone? How are we going to be helpful? What issues or things do we need to be discussing?”
Wilson added that there’s plenty of potential for future expansion locally, as long as there’s interest within the region.
“The door is open in DC to do that for sure,” Wilson said. “When you look at the DMV broadly, there’s definitely interest over the long-term, but we’ll continue to listen to the community and where they need us to build physical space for them to do the core things that we do.”-30-