As Technical.ly Brooklyn arrived at the Startups Mansion on 59th Street in Sunset Park, we were immediately struck by the way New York City’s real estate challenges have shaped the team’s beta run here.
Startups Mansion is, itself, a startup. It is hosting 32 entrepreneurs at an actual
mansion large house, providing educational experiences along the way. The participants are all Spanish entrepreneurs, chosen from 200 applicants, who paid the company to be included on the three-month adventure.
When we got to the house, we rung both bells and stood there. We rung them several times and waited. We were fairly late, so we worried that somehow they’d gotten started on something that we wouldn’t be able to interrupt. One of the participants showed up at the door from outside and offered to walk us to where everyone was. We agreed, and he led us away from the house.
To our surprise, we were led around the corner of the house next door, down a private driveway and to an adjoining garage. Once we got a chance to speak to Pascual Aparicio, one of Startups Mansion’s three cofounders, he explained that the garage of the house they rented was in use, but the one next door was owned by the landlord’s cousin, so they were able to work out a deal for that garage.
In the garage, the entrepreneurs were listening to a talk by one of the program’s advisors in Spain, over Skype. “This one was about talent acquisition and human resources,” Aparicio explained.
Marta Diaz-Barrera of Talentoscopio spoke to the entrepreneurs from across the sea. They have access to two or three talks per week. Mentors also fly in from Spain and stay in a guest room at the front of the house for a few days. These are successful founders or experts in different facets of running a startup.
With six staff on top of the entrepreneurs on site, the place is packed, even with 14 rooms (including the basement). Everyone is staying in bunk beds and the space is buzzing nearly around the clock as many of the entrepreneurs have to be up at night to interact with colleagues in Spain.
The crew arrived on Sept. 10 and will leave on Dec. 3. We met several of them informally at a meetup organized by the StartupBus.
Aparicio said the American real estate market was surprisingly hard to work with.
He and his cofounders didn’t realize how hard it was to find space, or that the price would go up two or three times for asking for a short, nontraditional lease. However, Aparicio said, if this beta program seems to work, the founding team will go back to Spain and attempt to organize three or four seasons of entrepreneurs over the course of a year. He expects they will return to New York.
The participants are a mix of business people, coders and designers. Startups Mansion tried to strike the right balance of the three, though Aparicio said it might have been better if they had a couple more designers. “They are hard to find,” he said.
Everyone is divided into tribes, depending on what level their concept or business has reached. Each tribe has three meetings per week, following a model crated by a Finnish group, Team Academy.
We spoke briefly to Miguel Zafra, the CTO of Fan On Fire, a web app that just launched after about a year of development. The platform gives fans a way to pool their resources to bring a favorite band to their area. Zafra is the only member of his team here in the U.S.
“My platform right now is in Spain, but I want to expand as soon as possible to other countries,” Zafra said. He could hardly be in a better place for experiencing and learning the underground music culture, he added. But, since he frequently collaborates with his team back in Spain, some of days (or nights) can get very long.
We also met a developer of an augmented reality game called War of Sides. It somewhat brought to mind PlayAR, which we’ve covered, but this game seems to be more about defeating invisible monsters inhabiting our world than building fortresses.
We chatted with another team that’s in the conceptual phase of a startup for people with vacation time and a budget for travel, but no bandwidth to plan it.
If you’d like to meet some of the entrepreneurs at the Startups Mansion, sign up for its new meetup. There will be workshops and talks in the space as well as hanging out over beers.