The Labs are open for testing
Inner Circle Labs was founded in January 2010 but it became a real place on Tuesday June 15th when all the allen wrench duties, unloading of U-Haul trucks full of chairs and whiteboard hanging was completed and the WiFi was turned on.
Starting a company is an exciting, risky, rewarding, stressful experience – I like to call it the bipolar rollercoaster. One day you feel like you couldn’t possibly imagine doing anything else, the next you feel like you’ve made a mistake of epic proportions. All in all, it evens out to a jumble of energy that you need to channel as effectively as possible (I’ll do a post when I have some specific tips on channeling said energy…).
Actually turning an empty space into your company’s headquarters is an entirely different challenge but with some of the same emotional ups and downs. You begin with a vision and then start the endless list making (OK, I’ll admit, this might not be as big of a point for others, I love a good list). Lists of furniture you need and a corresponding schematic (I like the back of a napkin layout drawing, my COO prefers Visio) – lists of equipment, tech and otherwise and a corresponding list of monthly costs of maintenance and fees – list of some of the things that make a workplace comfy, cozy and fun. Sometimes the process seems endless but that is broken up by those moments of “wow, we’re almost done” – usually followed by a “we forgot what?”
Some of the most interesting insights on what we needed to keep in mind came from friends, colleagues and the Inner Circle Labs team. “With the labs name you could probably use some beakers.” – “Maybe we could get organic fruit delivered?” – “Well, since there’s a server rack, we should get a bunch of servers?” – We’ll need Splenda, lots of Splenda” – “Don’t forget to get a champagne recorker.” – and the list goes on.
We got some great advice and some weird ideas too but it was helpful to hear from different types about what would make the first incarnation of the Labs amazing. We wanted to make it a great place to be and a welcoming environment for guests. Of course, planning things so we had room to grow was a big part of it but we also wanted to make it a fun place to co-work or hang out. We know that the creative energy of people not in our immediate ICL family would do us some good (thanks @thekenyeung for being our first co-work guest, please come again!). So we have tables, a conference room and extra desks ready, come what may. If you’re near the Transamerica Pyramid in SF’s Financial District, stop by and say hi!
A big part of what people need to visit and work, and one of my biggest surprises in this whole process, came in the form of chairs. Chairs are a pretty major part of the expense of setting up a workplace. And you don’t want to skimp on desk chairs or you risk everyone on your team needing major chiropractor care in the years that follow. You also shouldn’t wait until the last minute to think about chairs – in fact, you might want to think about them first. It takes quite a bit of time to get the chairs you want and, the more time pressure you are under the more you are going to pay to get seating. Chairs are to an office what the dress is to a wedding… We went with A Better Source in San Mateo for all our chair needs. So, even though they are slightly used, we got high quality chairs at a discounted price.
We also saved funds by getting the majority of the other office furniture from IKEA. I have permanent allen wrench injuries but it was worth it (IKEA has a service where someone will come build the furniture for you but where’s the fun in that?). Less than $10,000 spent and we have a legit looking office to call home. Some pictures are below. We’ll have an office warming/company launch party sometime soon but come by and visit before then if you can. And, if you need any advice on putting together your first office by yourself and on-the-cheap, I’m happy to offer tips.