Philly’s incubator set is growing up, adding staff and they’re all clamoring for cool office space. That means high ceilings, space for a game room and absolutely no cubicles. That’s where Dan Gummel comes in.
The vice president at Center City commercial real estate firm Perna Frederick has been in the business for 12 years, but recently, he’s been making a name for himself as a realtor to Philadelphia’s tech founders.
We spoke to the Wallingford, Pa. resident earlier this month about how he got his start with the tech scene, what startups want and what impresses him about the Philly’s early stage IT ventures.
How he got his start with startups: Four years ago, I met Bob [Moore, RJMetrics CEO]. He was referred to me through a software company that worked in Center City at the time: [now-acquired] MCA Solutions. But they weren’t a startup, they were more mature, older.
RJMetrics was leaving Camden and they were looking for space but they didn’t know how long they would need to be in that space. I spent a lot of time with them. That was foreshadowing of what I’d be doing with other startups.
What it takes: Being patient with startups when it comes to finding space. Most of what’s out there is traditional office space and that’s not what they want. [Ed. note: We’ve heard the same thing from developer Chuck Block, who’s responsible for the startup hub that is 2401 Walnut Street. Unlike New York City and Los Angeles, Philadelphia doesn’t have many ‘green’ buildings or office buildings geared toward the creative class, he said. But Block thinks that’s going to change soon.]
What startups want: Flexible lease terms. For startups, it’s like, how do you commit to a lease term if you don’t know where the business is going? Everyone hopes you’re going to succeed, but who knows?
They also want things like bike storage. The Philadelphia Building has bike storage in the basement. Traditional offices didn’t prepare for that. You don’t hear that people want parking because everyone lives in the city.
Where are the next hot locations? Creative spaces are conventionally in Callowhill, but there are good finds in Center City.
His advice for office buildings looking to find tenants: I tell them, if you want to fill the building, rip out the drop ceilings and the carpeting. But it’s expensive.
There’s a demand for [interesting spaces]. Even traditional law firms are looking for non-traditional spaces with breakout areas and space for game rooms.
One difference between law firms and startups: Law firms wouldn’t care that I worked with five other law firms but startups do.
What impresses him about the Philly tech scene: When RJMetrics outgrew its space in the Philadelphia Building, Zivtech [who’s also in the Philadelphia Building] let RJMetrics’ sales team work out of their office. I haven’t seen that kind of camaraderie in other sectors.
Why he likes working with startups: I liked watching RJMetrics grow over the years. I felt like I was along for the ride.-30-