Sim wrote a nice post on space. So I’m going to pile on with a few more thoughts. Here are some things to think about:
1. Stage - The right space changes as the stage changes. 3 people slugging it out pre-funding need to focus on cost containment. It’s a very different challenge than a company with a 100+ people, Series C financing, and approaching profitability. But the challenge between cost and quality is one that every start-up wrestles with. For most software start-ups, the lease is a big long term contract, and one of the few dials to turn on burn rate.
2. Location – Once you pick the location, the people you hire start to be more and more people who like the commute. That means pick location carefully, it’s not that it’s impossible to move, it’s just that it gets harder the more people you add. This is a big issue in both Boston and the Silicon Valley, since locations and commutes are very important quality of life issues.
3. Role – I’ve seen a lot of returns from the right space planning for engineering teams. We took the time at Brightcove to build space that was designed around scrum. The goal was to encourage high-bandwidth face-to-face communication by scrum teams. It also seems to be have a pretty strong impact on inside sales teams. I don’t think space is as important in other functions in terms of raw productivity, although crappy space can be a constant source of employee dissatisfaction.
4. Culture - If you’re building a security company, you can build that thinking into the space. Same of a open consumer platform. If you walk into the offices for Marvel comics you get what their about immediately because of the incredible array of super hero models that decorate every corner and cube. So think about the core values you want to express in the space.
5. Equipment - I’d argue that equipment is more important than space. Conference rooms that don’t work (bad projectors, poor speaker phones, etc.) seriously hurt productivity. Developers with dual monitors, fast computers, and the right gear are more productive. If have you the freedom, make sure to put in a enough network drops and plugs for developers who are going to be using multiple machines.
6. RSI - I’ve suffered from RSI for along time. In fact I take it so seriously (and I’m used to start-ups having crappy furniture, chairs, etc.) that I own all my own office furniture, and haul it with me into the places I work. I believe the investment in the basics of ergonomics — keyboard trays and good chairs — is more than a employee sat issue, it’s really an obligation given the “silent epidemic” of RSI in information workers.
Anyway, those are a few quick thoughts on space. One of my favorite spaces in Boston is Manifold Products because they have a workshop on site to pre-fab ideas and it has a 3D printer, which is very cool.