Starting a High Tech Business: Get a Clubhouse


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I'm starting a new business called Kynetx (nothing to see there yet). As I go through some of the things I do, I'm planning to blog them. The whole series will be here. This is the third installment. You may find my efforts instructive. Or you may know a better way---if so, please let me know!

One of the things I realized pretty quick after getting serious about a new startup was that you need a clubhouse. It's fine to work from home, meet in coffee shops, and go cheap at first, but eventually you want to get real work done. For me, that means a place to go that is specifically about that effort.

This may seem like an unnecessary expense that can wait until you have more funding that your credit card, but I find it well worth the money.

First, if there's more than one of you in the startup, it's a place to show up every day, discuss what needs to be done, and help keep each other motivated. Second, I find it very encouraging to have "an office" for the company; it's a big step and makes the venture seem more real to me and everyone else.

I've found that you can rent 200-300 square feet (one medium office that you can squeeze 2 desk into) for well south of $750/month in Utah and I suspect that's true in many markets. Call in favors. Do you know someone with a spare conference room? I'm lucky to have pretty good contacts, but still worked my way through several friends looking for a deal and I finally found one.

I'm on the advisory board for Canyon Park Technology Center in Orem (the former WordPerfect campus) and I got some space there. That's not a deal they did just for me--they regularly do incubation deals and are easy to work with. Novell has a similar deal on their campus at the Open Source Business Center. Many cities have economic development centers that offer incubation space. Look around...you'll find something.

Another option is a co-working space like the one Sean O' Steen describes. There are some formal tenants who have keys, permanent desks, and so on. I see this as less than ideal since it won't feel like it's "yours" but is better than working at Starbucks.

My minimum requirements:

  • Internet connection--most incubation spaces will throw it in. If not, you'll need a DSL line and you'll probably get stuck with the high "business" DSL charge even though you won't get anymore out of it.
  • Comfortable chair--I don't like to skimp here. I'll be sitting in it all day.
  • Desk--No need to go fancy; a door on two saw horses will suit most needs.
  • Whiteboard--two if possible. I love whiteboards for planning, keeping notes, and serving as the centerpiece for discussion.
  • Refrigerator--gotta keep the diet coke cold. :-)
  • Large monitor--if you're writing code don't skimp on this either.
Kynetx nameplate on office in Canyon Park TC
Kynetx nameplate on office in Canyon Park TC
(click to enlarge)

Most landlords have old furniture from previous tenants, so be sure to ask if they've got any spare chairs, desks, whiteboards, etc. that they'd be willing to throw into the deal. Many will. There are also some great deals around from time to time. We found a few great little desks at Office Depot for $125. Not bad.

You can get away without a phone and just use cells. I happened to have a Polycom and a spare Vonage line from an earlier venture, so I moved that in for conference calls--that's come in handy a few times when I have to be on a call.

I've left computer off the list above since I live on a laptop that I take almost everywhere. Obviously if you don't have something suitable, you'd need that too. There are lots of cheap places to find serviceable computers. BYU has a surplus computer sale regularly where you can pick up something that will run XP or Linux just fine for under $100. Given the choice of fast computer or a big monitor, I'll pick a big monitor every time.

I took a few photos of our set up in case you're curious. All in all it a pleasant place to get meet and to work. I'm pretty happy with it.

Now you've got a place for your new business to call home. Invite some friends and colleagues over and talk about your company. I think you'll find that it feels good and focuses you on the business in a way that few things will. Now, to get to work...