Beginning July 1st Futurestay moved into its new headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ. This interview discusses the journey into a private, branded office. From the psychology behind the move to the creation of the space.
In 2012, Futurestay was Jonathan and I meeting once a month for lunch or happy hour and talking about our ideas. It was brainstorming and then late at night, I would go home and code. Jonathan would make business development calls on lunch breaks at work.
In 2013, we started getting more serious. We started working for a few hours at weekly meetings. Then things started picking up once our user acquisitions started flowing. We had partnerships and began making users happy. Even though it was early at the time, we were processing transactions and giving users a complete all-in-one solution to manage their vacation rentals from a single dashboard. That’s what allowed us to raise capital. The more time we devoted and the more serious we were about the business, the faster Futurestay grew.
We raised a little bit of capital in 2014 from angel investors, and this landed us our first co-working space. We were in the middle of central Jersey off a highway, not in a downtown area. This space was a community of small businesses. Jonathan and I both ran small businesses before we started Futurestay, so we felt comfortable.
Futurestay was practically born [in this co-working space]. It allowed us to grow, learn, and transition from a home business to a global enterprise. This co-working space gave us the flexibility to run around: for laser tag and ping pong, for deploying code at midnight, and for working 24 hours straight. We did all of those things there.
JuiceTank was generally a co-working space of small businesses and consultants. The benefit is that you’re around freelancers with different schedules and skill sets. We frequently found ourselves working with JuiceTank freelancers. We built connections, grew relationships, and even discovered and hired our first team members from the community.
Newark Venture Partners (NVP) is an entirely different ballgame. Working in NVP means joining a community of hand-picked, venture-backed entrepreneurs who are leading the best growth companies in the NJ/NY metro area. Accelerators like NVP teach classes on best-practices, entrepreneurship, and provide constant resources, from connections to events.
NVP gave us access to high-level, well-rounded executives at Amazon (their LP). This helped us do things like implementing our transition AWS cloud and resources, which made our platform more scalable and robust. They put us in touch with Barbara Thall (brand director of Audible), who was instrumental in helping us plan our brand evolution. Moving to NVP pushed us to continue moving faster than the current.
We hire people from New York, Brooklyn, South Jersey, Pennsylvania, all over. The Futurestay team is not a completely distributed team; the driving distance between people is 4 hours, which is a big radius.
New Brunswick is relatively central, and directly located off of the NJ Transit line. It is also accessible to New York. We wanted to have an office in an area which was vibrant and fun, with activities and places to go for lunch (as a team, or individuals).
As for the space itself, this building has the character of an old detective agency. It’s a juxtaposition with our office space, which we’ve made modern and clean, yet still homey. Our office is more minimalist compared to the rest of the building.
The first time seeing the space, Louie and I walked in and said: “This space has so much potential but it is also going to be so much work to make it anything for us to use.” [The space] was a huge, old box. “Do we want the big box? A blank canvas to paint our story on?”
The act of painting our story together, though it would be tough, was something we could benefit from. A place that had nothing, would be ours. The result was definitely worth it.
One of the benefits of doing any team building activities, inside or outside the office, is that it breaks down the formal roles of the company.
It allows teammates to interact peer-to-peer in a more flexible manner. People who don’t normally lead projects can lead. Executives may be painting a wall. It’s a reminder that at the end of the day, everyone is on the same team with the same goal.
The biggest struggle is managing timelines and expectations. You may want a leather ottoman — you start getting excited by making the space beautiful, but there’s a budget to follow.
Or timelines of moving from one office to another. You have to coordinate spaces to make sure you don’t have a new office and 2-3 months worth of rent due at the same time.
Another challenge is getting teammates from further locations to come to the office. At the end of the day, once they get there and they’re building a home, they feel more comfortable and happy. Juggling these pieces can be a challenge.
The thing I like best about our space is the feeling I get when I walk in the middle of the day. Especially after meetings in New York or if I was pitching somewhere and I was out of the office.
I walk into the building. I take the elevator to the fourth floor. Walk down the hallway, open the door, and I see our team. They’re on the couches, laughing, in call-rooms talking to customers or solving product problems. It’s a living entity that is growing on its own.
That feeling comes because we took the time to take the space and divide it into stations. Different organic interactions show people using and enjoying the spaces. That feeling of home for us as a place to execute our vision is my favorite part.
For me, it means that my team is comfortable. That they have a place where they can focus on growth and building the Self-Renting Home™.
Their focus should be on making rental entrepreneurs lives’ easier. Or on automating the rental experience, as opposed to longer commutes, parking far away, trying to find a decent lunch option or any little mundane things that can add stress to each day.
Hands down, when our team member and UX Designer Abbi visited from Mexico. We had our weekly Monday Morning Mission Meeting. Abbi came in the night before so we could surprise everyone. She had a 12-hour trip to get to New Jersey.
While everyone sees her on Skype every day, to have her in the office was a great surprise. Teammates were like, “Hi Abbi!”….”Wait, what are you doing here?!”
I felt like that was the moment, especially after Abbi’s collaborations with the office designs. Having her in the office was the moment that it was complete. From the experiences throughout the overall trip to hanging the Futurestay sign, the whole team was there. The whole team got to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
It’s good to be home.