(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
It was already losing money when Weinberger bought it from the three cofounders, who sold the space to focus on other ventures. But Weinberger, 60, was hopeful he could reinvigorate the space.
He had big plans: he’d invest his own capital and turn the 10,000-square-foot space into a vibrant tech hub with a new set of events, artwork on the walls and even live music — Klezmer music, potentially (Weinberger is a Klezmer violinist). He later invited DreamIt Ventures graduates to work out of Venturef0rth for free, until they raised their first round of seed funding. It was Weinberger’s way of keeping DreamIt graduates in Philadelphia.
But eight months and nearly $30,000 of his own dollars later, Weinberger says he will shut down the space if he can’t find a buyer or the $100,000 that he needs to keep the business afloat. He plans to turn the keys into the landlord in 30 days if he can’t find a way to stay open, he said. The space currently serves nearly 90 members, both part-time and full-time.
He wrote to the Philly Startup Leaders listserv last night:
I’m now turning to you – the broader tech community. Many of you are among the thousands who have attended events (provided at no charge) at Venturef0rth, or used our space for free or low cost to support your own worthy initiatives. I don’t regret showing this generosity. That’s why [I] undertook to initially rescue Venturef0rth. Only that I’m hoping that now some of you may come to our aid.
The space is losing $2,000-$3,000 a month because of its empty desks, he said in a phone interview this morning. Several companies have shown interest in moving in, but Weinberger said he has had to turn them away because he didn’t have enough desks to accommodate them and refused to kick out smaller members.
His plan to offer free space to DreamIt graduates didn’t help the problem, as he said he turned paying members away to house six DreamIt companies. Some have since left. He said he launched that effort because he thought he could garner support from DreamIt and other venture capitalists since he was keeping the “best and the brightest” in Philadelphia.
“In this case, I was the greater fool,” he said, adding that the investment community “doesn’t have its act together.”
“That’s why companies leave. It’s just impossible to raise [seed] capital here,” he said.
Weinberger said it was the success of his recent Kickstarter campaign — he raised more than $123,000 for an all-purpose tool called the Lil Trucker — that made him realize he couldn’t spend any more of his own money on Venturef0rth, he said.
He owes it to his family, he said, to focus on the other inventions he has in the works.
This news comes at a time when the city’s shared office space landscape is in flux. Indy Hall, the city’s original coworking space, may have to leave its Old City location because of rising rents. Industrious, an upscale shared office space with outposts across the country, held its open house on South Broad Street yesterday. New York City coworking giant WeWork is scoping out Philly locations.
Weinberger said he hopes there’s a place for Venturef0rth even among all the new coworking spaces coming to town.-30-
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