Most seed stage startups rent out pre-done up offices with little to no thought on what it’s going to look like. The rationale is that the startup is either going to inhabit the place for only 8-18 months or that the costs are too high.
What really costs more is a drop in employee morale and excitement. The minute the excitement stops, explosive growth comes to a standstill. We realised this early, as I’ve chronicled here.
Recently, we built our own super awesome office in the heart of Ulsoor, Bangalore. With a great deal of sorcery like negotiation skills, a great broker with a unique business model and a little bit of luck, we managed to find a great deal and make sure we spent nothing on furnishing.
Step 1: Find a secondary posh location
First mistake most founders make to save money is to find a not so uptown location to build an office.
What these founders don’t understand is that the price difference is negligible because most other business owners think the same way.
We looked at several places in Bangalore where the costs were more or less the same and a very small ~5 Rs/sqft difference factored in for the places out front. The little extra you pay for a nice locality goes a long way saving fuel costs and the time your employees save eating/hanging out.
With tech businesses, time truly is money – You fly or you die.
Step 2: Look for third and fourth floors of commercial buildings
Chances are, most retail shops prefer being on the ground floor and second floors go to the doctors and dentists. Third floors of every building we inspected were lying empty and more importantly, cheap.
We found a nice 2.4k Square Foot area in the third floor of building very close to Ulsoor lake.
Step 3: Commercial real estate is on the slump, look out for the guys with the new furnishing models
Our deal terms were simple: We pay a Rs. 12 Lakh security deposit, and furnishing is on the landlord.
How is this possible? Since real estate is on the slump and Floor 3 and 4 are barely taken up, commercial real estate landlords understand that they need to prevent losing large chunks of money.
From what we know, our landlords are not making any money of us, but preventing a very large downside to the area being empty. The security deposit would be returned to us as and when we leave.
Step 4: Floor, ceiling, walls, partitions, lighting, seating
We chose wood floors, a simple grungy/industrial ceiling that would be painted grey, white walls (with a feature wall made of bricks and painted orange) and simple hang down lighting.
You also need tube lights, or you risk the office becoming a restaurant at night.
My suggestion is to make sure you find a place with big windows that allows a good volume of sunlight entering. Vitamin D is very important for mood regulation.
Happy employees are the best employees.
We chose simple Featherlite chairs with a backrest and a few bean bags. We have a strict no-bed policy, we discarded the option of even having a bed in the vicinity(read: Lazy employees).
Step 5: Internet, Electricity
While electricity was metered, we went with a standard 7k ACT enterprise plan. So far, it’s been fairly standard although we did have issues on the first few days and someone from ACT had to come and resolve them.
Step 6: Handling Noise in an open office environment
The Jobspire team is split into 4 major parts – tech, sales, marketing and hiring. We put a single 8 seater table for the tech and marketing team on one side of the office and another 8 seater on the other side of the office for the sales and hiring team.
Tech + marketing go together and sales + go together. From what we’ve seen, marketing almost always needs tech help(tracking code implementation, data analytics, the list goes on).
Step 7: Spend
We negotiated the office plus a terrace(with a small room in the middle) on the fourth floor for Rs. 90k a month. Most 4bhks in the area cost more(Non-commercial real estate prices are still skyrocketing).
The initial price put forth to us was nearly 2.6 lakhs a month, so make sure you negotiate, hard. Third-floor pricing should (as a rule of thumb) be less than half the ground floor pricing.
We paid close to nothing for the furnishing – in other places we’d seen, furnishing went anywhere from Rs. 20-50 lakhs (one time).
If you’d like the phone number/contact details of the landlord (who has a few other nice properties with the same business model), do drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be glad to share details.