(Photo by Tony Abraham)
That’s according to Josh Dubin, Director of Programs and Strategy at Pipeline Philly. Dubin spoke on Stockton Real Estate Advisors’ “Homegrown Series” panel at Pipeline, accompanied by Felix Addison (cofounder, Whose Your Landlord), Cass Bailey (president and CEO, Slice Communications) and Mike Dolan (Director of Leasing, Stockton Real Estate Advisors).
The panel, moderated by Stockton realtor Daniel Moller, featured discussions on all things related to coworking.
"We're seeing it across the board now with a lot of companies that just want to have that look and feel."
“The most familiar preconceptions people have about coworking are that it’s targeted towards tech companies, startups, bootstrappers, a lot of millenials running around doing creative media, social media, things like that,” said Dubin, who was part of the initiative to branch Pipeline out to Philly from its flagship location in Miami.
“What we saw in Miami and what we wanted to bring back up here was a model of space that offered all the same advantages but that catered to more established businesses, serial entrepreneurs, folks from whom they already had a small team assembled,” he said.
For Dubin, getting 70 percent capacity in three months was almost a cakewalk. (One spot opening in May, the 20,000-square-foot Industrious, says it’s already half full.)
“I give all the credit in the world to some of the early trailblazers here in coworking,” he said, attributing the hard work of selling the model here in Philly to early trailblazers like Alex Hillman of Indy Hall. “The fact we have more and more businesses willing to take that leap and embrace that environment speaks very well of the adaptability of Philly businesses.”
Slice Communications knows all about adaptability. The PR firm has moved from space to space, but it has finally settled in the Bourse building. Bailey says the company’s physical space there is built to accommodate the ever-changing and growing nature of their business. “We decided to put all our desks, chairs and filing cabinets on wheels so everything moves,” she said. “That enables us to scale and grow within that space.”
Though he admits he wasn’t sold on open environments five years ago, Dolan believes open atmosphere coworking spaces are no longer just a trend. “We’re seeing it across the board now with a lot of companies that just want to have that look and feel.”
Dolan, who leases space in the Graham Building, said he has to be very particular when it comes to potential tenants. In a nutshell, they have to be well funded. And credible.
“From a landlord’s perspective, it’s very challenging,” he said. “You’re not going to spend $50 a foot to build space out for a company that’s only been around for a year, year and a half. That’s a lot of risk.” He said it doesn’t quite make business sense for a space like Pipeline. “You always hope you’re going to get the next Google or the next big company, but for every Google that comes out there are hundreds of thousands that fail.”
Getting free office space from DreamIt Ventures was one reason why Whose Your Landlord moved back to Philly from Brooklyn. “You kind of have to take that,” said Addison. Plus, he said, the site already had its foot in the door here. “We really want to plant our flag here in Philly.”
But, one thing needs to change before Whose Your Landlord thinks about staying in Philadelphia. Want to guess?
“More investors need to take more chances,” he said. “Once that happens, we’ll really see in the next five, ten years, more companies deciding to stay here.”
Still, Bailey said it’s the openness of the Philadelphia community that will keep business here. “There is a community of people here who want to help you out,” she said. “That’s why I think Philadelphia has a tremendous amount of potential, I think it’s sustainable potential.”
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