Move it or lose it

When is it time to move? How Houston's small companies can find their next office space

Finding a new, larger office space is part of the startup growth process. Getty Images

There are a number of ways to measure the stage of growth a company is enjoying: funding, headcount, acquisitions, exit strategy, and more. But one telling indicator that often goes overlooked is the office space they call home.

In the early days of a startup, working out of someone's garage or at a nearby coffee shop, you dream of moving into a coworking space. Such a transition can mean a financial squeeze for some, especially when your prior solution was free. But paying for a space can mark a milestone — it signifies that you've made it to the next chapter. Houston has a number of great options for the many local early-stage startups undertaking this type of move.

Over time, though, as your company continues to grow, this solution may begin to cause strain. There's a big difference between a team of six sharing a room in a WeWork, and a team that's reached double-digits having to manage within a space that it has outgrown. Even external amenities like meeting rooms can become insufficient — as your team evolves, more meetings will be necessary, and the standards and needs at play will shift.

Finding your own private office space in Houston is not a challenge; it requires, however, acknowledging that the time has come to take this next step. Signals that it's time to move out and get your own space typically surface in two ways:

  1. What used to feel like an intimate setting has turned into an untenable situation. People are spending too much time talking about the coworking space and its limits.
  2. And, on the flip side, branding your company identity becomes a topic on your radar. If you find a great software engineer interested in joining your team, they might have some reservations about coming aboard with you if they discover you're sitting in a coworking space rather than your own space.

At SquareFoot, the commercial real estate company I founded in Houston in 2011, I have given special attention to companies looking for their first office space. It can be daunting at first, but our brokers know better than anyone how to be trusted advisors for small business owners searching for their first locations.

The most important question at this stage, we've found, is not which neighborhood they'd like to be in, what their budget is, or what amenities they want. Rather, it's a common growth question: Where do you see yourself in three to five years? By asking this question of CEOs in initial conversations, we can get a better idea of what type of growth they project, and how we can most efficiently find them the right space to accommodate their current needs and future goals.

We see office space as more than segments of larger office buildings. These spaces mean a great deal to the companies that inhabit them. It's our responsibility to fit the right team into the right space, and to advocate and negotiate on their behalf.

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SquareFoot Founder and CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum, who hails from Houston, has worked for over a decade in commercial real estate. Outside of work, Jonathan is interested in the three Bs — bourbon, buffalo wings, and brass bands.

Along with Houston-based real estate developer Ancorian, Common Desk is headed for Houston. Courtesy of Common Desk

Houston will soon be home to another large coworking space. Common Desk, a Texas company, has announced plans for a Houston location in East Downtown — selected for its culture and opportunity.

The Dallas-born concept specializes in coworking in hospitality and has joined forces with Houston-based Ancorian, a real estate development company, for the project. Expected to open in summer 2020, Common Desk will occupy 25,000 square feet of a 42,000-square-foot warehouse redevelopment known as "The Block." The facility will also have an outpost of Dallas-based Bishop Cider.

"EaDo reminds us of Deep Ellum, which was the first location we ever opened in Dallas in 2012," says Nick Clark, founder and CEO of Common Desk, in a news release. "It has the cultural authenticity and significance that we as a brand love to build a foundation from, offering the diverse variety of concepts and convenience you want from a submarket, without the congestion and parking difficulties you might find in a central business district. We're excited to bring some of our soulful vibes and southern hospitality to Eado."

Houston's East Downtown Common Desk will occupy 25,000 square feet of a 42,000-square-foot warehouse redevelopment known as "The Block." Courtesy of Common Desk

Common Desk, which got its start in 2012, now has eight locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and three in in Austin, and its Houston members will eventually have access to these other locations. A common theme in the companies concepts is bridging the gap between coworking and dining and hospitality concepts. Fiction Coffee, Common Desk's coffee bar concept, is expected to open alongside the coworking space.

"Houston isn't just another market for us; it's a city we love, and we expect our approach to service and design to resonate well with Houstonians," says Dawson Williams, head of real estate at Common Desk, in the release. "We plan to go deep in Houston just as we have in Dallas, and our goal is to become the go-to coworking brand in the market."

Ancorian has previously worked on the East Village in the East Downtown area, which include concepts like Indianola, Truck Yard, F45 Fitness, Koffeteria, Rodeo Goat, and True Anomaly Brewing.

"We are heavily invested in East Downtown Houston, and we felt that our latest development 'The Block' was a perfect location for a coworking concept," says Michael Sperandio, founding partner of Ancorian. "We work very hard to choose tenants that fit each specific development we create. After meeting Nick Clark and Dawson Williams of Common Desk, we felt like they were the best operators in the coworking space industry."

Houston's Common Desk location will have a warehouse feel and is expected to feature various amenities and member perks, including:

  • Fitness and wellness center concept, complete with towels and shower facilities
  • Outdoor patio and terrarium
  • Multi-level seating
  • Wet bar and shared kitchen
  • Skylights that will bring in natural lighting
  • Event space
  • Murals and local art

"This group puts together all the necessary elements to draw people into their workspaces," Sperandio continues. "They focus on great design, thoughtful and functional space layout, and they have created an energetic and comfortable environment that attracts new members and keeps existing members loyal to the Common Desk brand. We feel that Common Desk's vision for an experiential workspace will make this one of the best locations to work in the entire city."

Houston's Common Desk members will have access to other Texas locations. Courtesy of Common Desk