Startups

Is coliving back? This young entrepreneur is launching a Philly founder house

Mo Mahmood is behind Atlas House, a shared house in University City for other aspiring startup leaders. What does the 21-year-old see as the appeal?

A living room of Common, a Brooklyn coliving company operating in 2017.

(Photo courtesy of Common)

Remember back in, say, 2017 when the coliving lifestyle was thriving in a handful of urban centers? Think San Francisco, Miami and Brooklyn, where we at Technical.ly covered coliving companies such as Common extensively:

“For the uninitiated, coliving is like coworking for apartments,” we wrote back then. “Instead of each person having their own kitchen, living room, bathroom, roof deck, etc., [coliving] residents all have their own bedrooms and share the rest of the rooms of an eminently Instagrammable house. Renting is on a month-to-month basis, although most residents sign up for 12-month leases. It’s a bit like a fancy dorm for grownups.”

As of 2019, there were more than 150 coliving communities were active in the US, according to CBRE. Since the late teens, we’ve covered a few of these projects locally, such as Quarters, which as of 2019 planned to open a space in Northern Liberties. However, Quarters is now part of the company Habyt and does not appear to operate housing in the area.

Then, during the summer of 2021, the real estate company NYCE announced plans to open a coliving space for entrepreneurs (aka a “hacker house”) near Temple University called TEMPLE I: The Tech Mansion with the idea of eventually opening another space called TEMPLE II.

The latest in Philly’s coliving news is Atlas House, a coliving house for young builders and entrepreneurs in Philly started by Mo Mahmood.

Mahmood is himself a 21-year-old aspiring entrepreneur, a former University of Delaware public policy student, and an organizer of an upcoming Techstars Startup Weekend. He told Technical.ly he decided he wanted to start a coliving space only about a month ago, put the idea out on Twitter and after receiving positive feedback, he contacted a landlord about his idea.

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Mahmood had noted other coliving houses in cities around the country such as the a16z-backed Launch House, LA’s AR House for augmented reality creators, Elysian House for Gen Z Web3 enthusiasts, and even Temple I. He said he wanted to host a coliving space in Philly as a means for him to move to the city from Delaware, but also to host a space for entrepreneurs to live with each other, work on projects together, host events and learn from each other.

“We want it to be [an] open environment where anybody can visit, hang out, work on their startup, do coworking, coliving — that sort of thing,” he said.

The house is located in West Philadelphia, touted as within walking distance of University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. Mahmood said right now, the rent is between $600 and $700 per person per month. The plan is that the first group of people to live in the house will sign the lease, but they are free to leave when they want, and their room will be subleased to the next person wanting to move in.

Mahmood is initially looking for up to eight people to live in the house at a time. As of this week, he said, he has a handful of people other than himself signed on to move in this September. He hopes to gain more interest by hosting info sessions and meetups, especially with Penn and Drexel students in the area. His target audience for the house is people between the ages of 18 and 30 who are interested in Philly’s entrepreneurial scene, but anyone is welcome to apply.

Mo Mahmood. (Courtesy photo)

So, why would someone choose to rent a house with a bunch of strangers just because they happen to share the same dream of launching their own businesses?

According to Mahmood, the benefit of living in an Atlas House versus just renting a normal apartment would be that it’s an opportunity to live with other people who are in the entrepreneurial tech space — those with whom you can network, swap ideas and potentially work on projects. He also said coliving could be a way to draw people in the startup scene to Philly and get them to stay here.

“I think there’s also a huge demand for this. People were lonely during COVID,” he said. “So people want to go back out and in person again. People want to live together again, interact, see each other in person. And I’m a big advocate for that.”

Eventually, Mahmood wants to start coliving houses in New York City and Delaware, too.

“This is just the start of a network that I’m trying to create,” he said. “Long term, I’d love to see a coliving house for Atlas in every major city. That’d be great.”

Is this the start of a trend? We’ll have to wait and see.


Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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.
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