San Francisco is going through a major housing and commercial real estate crisis with no sign of decline. People are going through great lengths to stay here using creative solutions like communal housing to live and sleep and coworking spaces to work. At Zenput, the company I cofounded, we too started out in a coworking space. This was a great solution for us to get our company off the ground but as we grew in numbers we also had to grow our space.
When we began to look for office space in May of 2014, the average cost per square foot was nearly $60 a year. This is a crippling number considering we are an early stage company so we set out to find creative solutions. A few things we considered were:
1. Staying in our current coworking space
2. Sharing space with another startup
3. Moving out of the city
4. Moving to a less desirable neighborhood
In the end, we decided we couldn’t leave the city that we loved and we also knew that having 10 people in a coworking space just wasn’t practical. Also, sharing a space with another startup was almost the same as a coworking space. Ultimately we decided to find our own private space to help our team grow.
After looking at dozens of beautiful office spaces with high ceilings, lots of light, and debilitating price tags, we began to look on the outskirts of more desirable neighborhoods. Oddly enough, we found a beautiful 2400 square foot space right down the street from Twitter and Uber for less than $40 a square foot.
At first glance the space was quite uninspiring with stark white walls, 12 foot tall drop ceilings, and horrendous fluorescent lighting. All of these flaws combined with the location is most likely why it was priced so cheaply. All it needed from us was a little creativity to make this place somewhere that we looked forward to seeing in the morning.
In keeping with our lower budget theme, we employed the following techniques to personalize the space:
1. Paint an accent wall or two with our company colors
2. Buy floor/wall lamps to avoid using the fluorescent ceiling lights
3. Create a white board/chalk board wall
4. Add texture to the walls (we found clapboard siding at a salvage yard)
5. Bought chairs from failed startups on craigslist
6. Bought cheap trestle style desks from IKEA
Below are some of the work in progress photos
All in all, this isn’t hard to accomplish on a budget. We just had to be creative and do the labor ourselves. It was a fun team bonding exercise and a great learning experience for all who helped. To see more photos of the build, checkout the (Flikr) Album.