Brothers Dan and John Might have brought co-working back to downtown Salt Lake City in a 15,000 square foot space deserving of the name Holodeck. The Startup Register sat down with them this week to learn more about what they’re doing and how they put it together.
The concept behind co-working is very different than just leasing an office. Co-working spaces foster an open environment to stimulate interaction and create collaboration. The Mights had in mind a Google or Facebook campus, but on a much smaller scale. Co-working operations recruit members of different industries that may be able to work together. A good co-working space should have all the ingredients for synergy within its members.
People choose co-working spaces over renting an office or shared offices because of the human interaction and built in networking opportunities. They also factor in decor and furniture. In addition to a desk, electricity and WiFi, Holodeck offers coffee, vending machines, TVs, meeting rooms and a myriad of other amenities included in the price of admission.
Co-working is considerably cheaper than the alternatives and doesn’t require a lease. Holodeck offers three pricing options including a day pass for $20 that allows casual users or out of town visitors the opportunity to use the space commitment free. Co-workers don’t use their offices every day or even at regular hours, so Holodeck offers 24/7 access using an RFID system and a member directory for discovering possible collaborators. They also have a calendar of educational programming and the space serves quite nicely for after hours parties and events.
Holodeck’s location on 200 South in downtown Salt Lake is directly across the street from the Salt Palace convention center. The building comes with private parking for members who don’t want to play the street parking game. It hopes to capitalize on walk-in convention traffic from the Salt Palace as well as recruiting a solid base of co-workers.
Dan and John began renovations in June, 2014 and started “soft” marketing in August. With most of the furniture having been delivered and installed, Holodeck officially began operations October 15th and has a grand opening planned for October 25th.
The story of Holodeck gets really interesting when its origins are examined. Dan and John are both Utah transplants having spent their youths in Washington, D.C. and Phoenix, Arizona. Both decided to move to Utah from different parts of the country. Coming from Baltimore, where he helped launch Uber, Dan was used to co-working spaces, but couldn’t find one in Salt Lake. Holodeck’s predecessor, known as BetaLoft, went out of business in 2010. So the two brothers decided to build a co-working space in downtown Salt Lake. Utah has a rich history of startup businesses and they decided it would be a good idea.
While Dan was on a break from Army National Guard officer training school, the plans for Holodeck were formed over the span of 10 days. John and Dan scouted for a location and secured a five year lease taking over the entire ground floor of the Axis Building. John had just left the Army having finished a one year deployment in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. That left John with the task of physically putting together the space when the prior tenants moved out June 1st. The brothers worked remotely until Dan could return in September.
Holodeck was developed using “lean startup” techniques. A space was purposely chosen that didn’t need a lot of renovation to make sure they hit their time-frame for opening. The prior tenant had multiple cubes and there were poorly placed walls blocking the light coming from the skylights. Much of the early work involved removing those cubicles and knocking down walls. Contractors were used for some of the demolition but a lot of the work was done by the owners. As a signal officer in the Army, John was involved with communications infrastructure engineering in Afghanistan. He took that experience to Holodeck where he pulled all the old wiring and ran new, color-coded, wiring for the network and security systems. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing in the exposed architecture design, but system problems can be easily identified.
Furniture was ordered unassembled which saved about 30% of the total cost. Holodeck negotiated favorable lease terms including delayed monthly payments, help with renovation, fixed costs for utilities and even office cleaning which allows the brothers to run on a skeleton staff consisting of the two of them. If it makes sense to hire a position or help for a project, they do. They also use technology to reduce overhead. The office doors can be locked or unlocked remotely using a mobile app and strategically placed security cameras allow the owners to check on their office online any time they want.
The startup culture in Utah is favorable for co-working enterprises and competitors to Holodeck are in the works. In the Crane Building a block away from Holodeck is the WorkHive which has a similar approach to co-working. However, it is a smaller space on two separate floors. Other co-working spaces in downtown aren’t quite the same as Holodeck. Some like Sustainable Startups on 400 South serve as business incubators. Office seekers can’t just walk in off the street and plug in to a desk.
Two sites comparable in size to Holodeck are Impact Hub and Church and State. Both serve as business incubators and both have run into construction delays preventing them from opening yet. John and Dan have reached out to their competitors to try and establish a co-working coalition and try to develop this nascent industry.
Holodeck took its name from Star Trek and its concept is to allow people and businesses to create whatever their ideas are. So far it’s working out well for the Might brothers. Through business networking, the space has hosted several events and more are on their calendar. Holodeck has opened on time with precious few details left to be completed. Six tenants have secured space so far which is beating all of Dan’s projections. They hope to have 30 members in their first year.