When looking at where to base our company Upstream Health, I honesty didn't have a clue.
I'd worked for years in big consultancies with big offices. With the traditional reception, cubicles, and coffee room chat, but I had never considered how to rent a space, or what kind of options there are out there.
When starting Upstream my first priority was to get an address. Somewhere to receive post and register the business.
I opened a map looked at the cities closest to me and immediately had to make a choice. Do I go north to Hull, or south to Lincoln? I love Lincoln and it's rich history, but given the recent status of Hull as the UK City of Culture and it's investment into the tech sector, it was an easy choice.
In terms of what I wanted from my new base, after years of working from home I wanted somewhere local, with a community feel, to act as a hub for the business and give us a postal address. Also, with space to bring clients to talk through ideas, plans and to review new products.
After a quick google, what I found at C4DI (www.c4di.co.uk) was so much more.
C4DI is a home for innovation. It is on the banks of the river humber with amazing views (both downstream and upstream!). It's the base for companies in East Yorkshire looking to innovate, improve the way we use technology and make a difference across all sectors.
There are similar co-working communities sprouting up all around the UK and they present a new way to rent and work.
For anyone else looking to start their journey and hunting for their first office. What I've discovered is that what I wanted when choosing a space, turned out to be only part of what my business needed. So as well as the basics of bricks & mortar, postal address and meeting rooms, these are the things I'd recommend to look for:
1 - A shared ethos - Align your office and work space with your companies personality and vision.
You're going to spend a lot of your time at the office, and time is precious. To stay motivated, creative and inspired, for me it's important that where I work aligns with what I value. For Upstream that means innovation and health. At C4DI the office, people and environment are all geared for innovation. From hacking workshops & network opportunities, through to the facilities and supplier agreements (AWS discounts). On the health front we have a community of runners meeting every Tuesday and Thursday, and options to grab some sea air on your lunch or break, on the waterfront. Your business ethos may be different, that's fine, but I'd recommend you spend time figuring out what it is, and use that to target your search.
2 - Mentorship, Advice and support - Because you don't know what you don't know.
I consider myself an expert in tech innovation and healthcare, but that's about it. When starting up a business it's important to have links to people that have done it before, that can provide advice and guidance. From simple things like registering with the tax office, recruiting your first hires, to sourcing funding to get the business moving in the first place. So look at your space to find out what mentors are provided, and if not included in your package hunt down the people in the space already that can help. People are normally more than happy to help out and advice if asked!
3 - Collaboration opportunities - Companies that collaborate immediately increase their reach and ability to impact.
At C4DI I've found a group of like minded professionals, with big ambitions. Upstream is a small company in terms of employees, but when combined with the professionals I can pull in from the C4DI community, it becomes a big company in terms of capability. I have access to development teams, marketers, graphic designers, analytics specialists and support teams. Bringing in these teams to support my startup activities has helped me accelerate, but also these same experts join with us to deliver our products and services to our customers as we grow.
4 - Space to grow - It's easier to build a business when you can easily scale your space.
As a startup it's important to keep costs low. That enables you to deliver good value to customers. C4DI has helped me with this by providing a low entry co-working facility and allowing me to scale as my company grows. It's surprising just what you get for an initial monthly cost of £120 (+ VAT) for your first coworker space. Think about how the space can support 1 employee, 5 or 20 people, and whether you will be able to easily grow or will quickly hit a limit, and need to start the search again.
5 - Bricks and Mortar - OK.... regardless of above it's still important to have good basics in place!
Points 1 to 4 will help your business grow, but your space still needs to provide you with the basic foundation to operate. So make sure you think about the practicalities of the space. Both for you, your current employees, and the future employees that will join your business. Parking, drink & food options, desk space, printing facilities, reception support, meeting rooms, screens, conference facilities and internet connectivity need to all still be on your list. For example, my office at C4DI also comes with a 1000mb internet connection. Making day to day life for a tech company so much easier.
Whatever your business ambitions, good luck at finding your perfect home!