From the design of art galleries around the world and inspiring open offices, architect firm Matheson Whiteley has quite a roster of projects under its belt. Donald Matheson and Jason Whiteley launched their practice in 2012 and have already created a leading brand.
Donald Matheson talks to us about marrying the old with the new, what will influence tomorrow’s workspaces and why collaboration will lead the building industry to new heights.
What is the focus of Matheson Whiteley?
A lot of our interests come from Jason and my combined experience, our training as young architects. We met at Herzog & de Meuron, working on projects such as the extension to the Tate Modern. Herzog & de Meuron is one of architecture’s leading design voices and they gave us a sense of what we could achieve. They don’t have a house style as such; their work is a response to the realities of a project and brief.
We have adopted the same focus at Matheson Whiteley. We listen to clients and try to bring a sense of professionalism, keeping in mind the realities posed by cost and design limitations without letting them bring the project down. Instead, we use limitations to introduce a quality that a client might not have developed themselves.
Who are your clients?
We’ve been working with some great clients in largely three areas. Firstly, we were lucky early on to get involved in workplace design. In 2013 we worked with Ogilvy & Mather to design their new workspace at Sea Containers House for ten media companies, which was a big project for us. It was a collaboration with BDG the workplace specialists.
The client was up for something really architectural and permanent, to create an exciting space. The collaboration with BDG worked very well, it meant that while they focused on requirements such as the briefing and space planning and we could focus on the design and detail of the architectural interventions.
The second area is our work in the arts, with galleries and artists, influenced by my experience working at Tony Fretton Architects, while the third is residential. People often approach us with their projects following a commercial project.
How has the architecture of workspaces changed since you became an architect?
Compared to a few years ago, clients today are far more interested in architecture in its purest from. They want to create buildings with permanence rather than introduce a lightweight design. There is a real attraction to reusing the great qualities that already exist in a building.
Take the recent project we did for the branding agency North in Clerkenwell. They took on a long, tall room as their workspace and wanted to keep the sense of openness that it provided. They really challenged themselves in terms of their space requirements and decided not to have any enclosed meeting rooms. It’s a project with no doors – one space flows into another with simple, architectural space dividers. Projects such as this rely on a client taking a leap of faith that the design will work in practice.
Are other types of buildings impacting workspace design?
Absolutely. People are finding other places to work, rather than behind a desk and a computer, such as restaurants and cafes. We’ve introduced influences from these into workspaces, for example creating more open spaces at Sea Containers Houses, with has been very welcome and successful.
Clients in the creative industry put a lot of emphasis on creating a relaxed environment that stimulates people as a means to attract employees. Spaces are taking on different uses all the time. Ogilvy & Mather introduced a particularly wide staircase, for example, which has come to act as an auditorium for presentations, relaxed meetings and so on. These types of social activities are proven to be extremely valuable in how we exchange ideas.
What are you currently working on?
Quite a variety of projects. We recently won a competition to design a ground floor showroom for Alexander McQueen’s new headquarters in Clerkenwell. This gallery space will be a backdrop for all the brand’s work.
We’ve recently completed a great project on Haymarket in the West End to give a 1960s building a new lease of life. It was more about removing the additions of the last few decades, stripping it back to show the quality of the building beneath.
We’re also working on a project for an art gallery in Stuttgart to create a café space that will appeal to the people locally and bring them closer to the work of the gallery. We’re looking at what really lies behind the success of classic European cafes, how what is often an unplanned atmosphere can attract people to a space.
Is there a building or area of London that particularly inspires you?
The stretch of Regent’s Canal leading from the bottom of Kingsland Road in Hackney towards Victoria Park. There is such a combination of businesses, people and life all knitted together.
It’s amazing how London’s waterways have evolved and endured since they were created. The canals were built for industry. Today the buildings alongside them often house manufacturing alongside people working. Manufacturing still depends on the creativity and skill that talented people can bring. How can we humanise very large buildings and make them pleasant places to work that benefit the community? This is forming an interesting project that Jason and I now teach at Kingston School of Art.
What do you see for the future of workplace design?
The focus on human beings will continue. Design will be about how a workspace supports the balance between working and doing what makes us happy. Spaces will be more stripped back and robust, to create new uses.
These trends will be supported more and more by technology, which is really exciting. For example, in the new Tate Modern there is a highly intelligent distribution of power and lighting to give the performance spaces real flexibility. This is great in a cultural space and I can’t see why this won’t translate into workspaces.
The White Collar Factory is another great example of technology. The designers have reduced energy consumption through a state-of-the-art cooling system. This was made possible through collaboration between different elements of the building industry, and we’ll see more of this in the future. Engineers are becoming much more involved with designers and they are learning from each other’s expertise. This is what it takes to make projects such as this happen.
For Connect Ventures, finding the right workspace was crucial. The venture capital firm has invested in some of Europe’s most dynamic growing companies, including CityMapper, Boiler Room, mobile and web prototyping platform Marvel and coffee brand Pact to name a few.
With a busy schedule of new companies and entrepreneurs to meet, it was vital for the team to have a welcoming space for holding meetings. While other businesses might be focused on space for desks, to Connect Ventures it was more important to create a space that reflects their brand.
The team moved into their office in Shoreditch 18 months ago, aided in their search by Kontor. Connect Venture’s managing partner Sitar Teli explains why finding the right space was essential.
What was your number one priority when searching for your own workspace?
Location. It was critical for us to be in East London, close to Old Street station. This was vital because we wanted to be in the heart of the start-up community.
Here, we’re close to Google Campus, Runway East and other co-working properties in the area. We’re surrounded by the companies and people that we have backed and might be interested in backing. This is absolutely the perfect location for us.
How important was the look and feel of the office?
We were certainly after a particular look to the office, such as a wooden floor, brick walls. It feels much more like a start-up office. This reflects the types of businesses we’re meeting every day.
We also needed the space to be relatively big. Although we were only a team of four at the time, five now, we needed at least three meetings rooms. Space that could be used for events was also important, so the office needed to be larger than otherwise.
How did the search go?
Working with a company such as Kontor was critical for us throughout the search as we’re a small team. A couple of our portfolio companies had worked with Kontor so they came highly recommended.
The team Kontor were great. Every set of details they sent us about properties fitted our requirements. They also proactively highlighted aspects that we should look at, such as the fact that it was slightly above budget but might be worth it for a certain reason. Or we should consider this space for a specific feature.
Did you need to change much to make the office how you wanted it?
An important part of our criteria was the ability to make the space our own. In fact, when we first took this space it was just a bare shell.
Kontor recommended a fit-out company, ThirdWay Interiors, and they were great. We worked closely with them on the whole design so that it became a comfortable space that reflected our brand.
What advice would you give another firm looking for a permanent workspace?
Use someone like Kontor for sure. When you take into account the amount of time we saved, as well as Kontor’s ability to get us in to view spaces that weren’t even on the market yet, there’s no question that working with the team was worth it.
90min’s new office absolutely wins on location: overlooking Liverpool Street Station, it’s seconds from the underground and a short walk from Spitalfields, Shoreditch and the City. It is also in a listed building – go back a few years and you might be surprised to find such a forward thinking digital publishing company replete with film studio in such a location.
90min is a global football media and technology company, which produces content to be distributed across social media channels. With 60m monthly users across web, mobile and social, the company is expanding fast.
Kontor helped 90min to find their first own workspace this year. The search was certainly not quick and grew more complicated as the team continued to expand. We chat to Duncan McMonagle, SVP Partnerships, and Kata Wielgus who headed up the search.
90min is part of Minute Media, which started in Tel Aviv – where else does 90min have offices?
Duncan: Tel Aviv is our spiritual home. We have about 35 people in New York, three or four in Singapore, a studio in Manila and remote people around the world, working in specific cities such as Los Angeles and Tokyo. That’s a lot of time zones – no one sleeps!
How long has the brand been operating in London?
Duncan: About three years now. We started as two or three people in a borrowed office in Soho, grew to 12 people in the first year and within 18 months were searching for an office space.
We looked in Soho initially, but the problem was that by the time we found a space we liked, we were outbid, by which point the team had grown and we had to start the search again. By the time we were 30 people, an office in Soho was just too expensive.
While looking, we took an office in WeWork Chancery Lane. Initially, this was for 16 people, but we grew so fast we got three more offices, one for people, one for a studio and one for content work. It didn’t work very well being spread out in different offices – you couldn’t really chat.
So, room to grow was a number one priority for your office search?
Kata: Absolutely. We’re 36 people here now and we’ve got space to add more.
Duncan: We’ve just done our 2018 planning and we expect to add another ten or 15 people by the end of next year.
What other priorities did you have?
Kata: Proximity to a station – even five minutes was too far. Here we’re above an entrance to Liverpool Street which is great.
Duncan: I wanted a space that would allow me to throw a ball from my desk at anyone in the company – it doesn’t happen often, but the option is there!
What about location – you initially wanted Soho but you ended up near Liverpool Street?
Duncan: There’s always a trade-off – could we find a cool space in a handy location that we could afford? We did want Soho as we’re a start-up media business, but WeWork in Chancery Lane was handy. We found that area wasn’t as dynamic as we wanted, which is why we went further east. Here, the area is really buzzing.
What was the space like when you arrived?
Kata: It was a blank canvas, we’ve made it our own. Now we have glass fronted meetings rooms, the soundproof studio, a great kitchen area, our own art and branding on the walls. We used our in-house designers – they came up with some bold ideas that I had to process somehow!
Duncan: It was a collaborative project really, the whole company contributed. Kata and the designers created the vision, but members from each department gave their insights.
How has the workspace impacted the team?
Kata: It’s made a huge improvement to everyone’s morale. People have lunch together at the long table, we squeeze on! Everyone’s relaxed and talks more, which boosts productivity.
Duncan: WeWork was great but it wasn’t home. We wanted a place where we could hang our own pictures, establish our own culture. This is perfect. The pool table in the middle has been a particular success. I didn’t know if people would use it, but everyone does.
How did you find the office search?
Kata: Much easier with Kontor’s help. I met with other property companies, but Kontor is different – they’re diligent, they really know the market and understood our brief. Jack was very patient; he didn’t try to push us into any inappropriate properties. It made a difference that he really got to know what we do as a company and showed us what we were looking for.
Did you encounter any problems?
Kata: Only to do with fit out! We decided we wanted two freestanding phone booths for calls. We ordered them from Hong Kong, waited three months for them to arrive and then, because we’re in a listed building with no cargo lift, we couldn’t get them up the stairs!
Duncan: It was such a shame. They were even in 90min bright orange!
Do you have any advice for another fast-growing company looking for an office?
Kata: The number of desks you can fit in is the most important thing. Go for the biggest size you can. Also, the more specific you can make the brief the better – but you have to know where to compromise.
Duncan: We started out wanting brick walls and a concrete floor – I think this floor is vinyl and the walls are white! You need to realise what you can do to make it work. This place absolutely ticks the boxes for location, convenience and size.
Now you’re here, what’s next for 90min?
Duncan: Global domination! We started out wanting to be the biggest digital publisher in the football world, we’ve done that and now we’re aiming to be the biggest in sport. Next year we’ll extend beyond that further. We’ve got a platform that really gives people a voice and we want to open it up.
The office of tech company Geckoboard oozes Shoreditch cool. Its huge windows mean the top floor space is light and airy, with a design-led fit out that makes it a space that you just want to hang out in. It’s an ideal space for a growing company like Geckoboard, which provides an online dashboard displaying a business’s key metrics in real time.
Kontor helped Geckoboard to find the space earlier this year, which is sub-let from food brand Hello Fresh. We talk to CEO and Co-founder Paul Joyce about his search for the perfect office.
What’s the background to Geckoboard?
I had the idea for the business in March 2010 while I was working in financial tech. I initially started the business in my spare room, but soon I was spending so much time on it that I left my job and started to run the business full time.
In October 2011 I took three desks in a shared space. We were there for six months until I closed a funding round and we found our first own space.
In 2015 we doubled staff numbers, added more in 2016 and will add more in 2017. Now we’re close to 40 people; we had three job offers accepted this week so we’re growing fast. Most of the team work in London, but we have remote staff members all over the world to provide support, for example in Mumbai, Seattle, Hawaii.
Why did you start looking for a new office last year?
We were outgrowing our office, although we had also taken the office next door. We had already reduced desk sizes to make better use of the existing space – they were big to begin with though!
It was also a very cheap office; it was a badly maintained block, leaking ceiling, mice, security problems. It was perfect for what we needed when we took it, but the company had matured and we wanted an office that reflected that. We don’t have clients come to visit so that wasn’t a priority, but we wanted a space that was comfortable for employees.
My business philosophy is not to spend money that we can’t afford, but we have grown revenues to the point that we could afford a better office.
What were your main criteria for a new office?
We needed room to grow even more. We didn’t want to feel cramped again quickly.
The other pinch point was that we needed more meeting space. Before, we only had one meeting room. Here, we have three great meeting rooms and also access to the theatre and spaces in the rest of the building.
We didn’t want to change the location of the office. People come to work from all over the place and they’d signed up to travel to this area. It’s also a great area to be in.
Sub-letting from another company is a cross between a managed space and your own lease; what were you looking for?
We were open minded about the type of lease, but wanted to commit to at least three years. It gives us the ability to plan our future without the worry of having to move again, but it’s not too long as we know we’re going to grow. We can fit more people in here easily so it’ll be ideal for a while yet.
Hello Fresh organise a lot of the maintenance and so on, so it’s almost a managed space, but we brought our own furniture to make it our own.
Why did you speak to Kontor?
It’s daunting finding a new place, particularly if it’s not your core competency. It made sense for us to partner with someone who knows the lie of the land.
With Kontor we had an initial consultation about what we were looking for, such as area, type of space, and Jack came up with a list of proposals. We were looking in an area that stretched from Liverpool Street to Clerkenwell and Kings Cross, so we looked at more than a dozen places in two days. They were great at showing different options.
Why did you choose this space?
As soon as we came out of the lift, I said “sold”. This is it. It’s so light, it’s comfortable, there’s room to grow and excellent meeting rooms that we sound-proofed ourselves.
Finding the right space is important for recruitment. If you want people to spend time in the office it has to be a comfortable environment. We’ve never been a battery farm aiming to get the most out of people, but we want people to enjoy being here.
Now you’re settled in your new space, what’s ahead for Geckoboard?
We grow when there’s revenue to grow, which is fast at the moment, so we’re only going to get bigger and more established.
Tugboats drift by, planes swoop above, shiny new towers tower above old bridges; the view from iZettle’s riverside office is an impressive example of what a London workspace can offer. The Swedish tech company, that’s commerce tools have transformed accepting payments and managing point-of-sale for small businesses, moved into its new office in June.
Kontor pushed iZettle’s boundaries to find the growing team their perfect space to grow. We quiz Andy Forsyth, global sales operations manager, about the process.
IZettle is a global company; how many staff do you have?
IZettle employs close to 500 people worldwide. Our headquarters are in Stockholm and we have offices in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Mexico and London. The UK arm of the business was founded in 2012.
Where did you start in London?
In 2012 in a serviced office about the size of this rug for eight people! Then in 2013 we moved into our first own space, an office for 16 people in Victoria. We wanted our own lease so we could fully control the space. The company is very driven by brand and culture, so we needed to have a space with our own identity right down to how every part looks, the products we use and so on.
Why did you decide to move?
We needed more space. We’re now 37 people, but briefly we were still in a space for 16 people. I haven’t had a chair since November! We can go up to 60 in this space, and we’ll probably get there.
What were you looking for?
We came from an office with a fantastic view and light, so we wanted to maintain that, which I think we’ve achieved! We have people coming from all over the place, so we needed to be as accessible.
In fact, this isn’t the most logical location for us. A lot of people come from south west London which isn’t straightforward, but when we saw the space, the potential overruled the logic. I didn’t think this location would work at all – when Gavin set up the initial meeting I didn’t bother to go. But then Nina (who is on maternity leave) called and said ‘you’ve missed out’, so I had a look. Within a week we were negotiating heads of terms.
What was the space like when you arrived?
The main benefit of taking our own lease is that we were given a blank canvas. Of course, it’s inevitably not completely blank as buildings have their limitations such as where the meeting rooms needed to be to work with the space, but we can control the space completely.
For fit out, we tendered to four different design companies. We wanted to work with a designer who could see that their initial design might not be right first time. We wanted a very open conversation and to collaborate on all decisions.
Why did you decide to work with an agency such as Kontor?
There is a group of four or five of us who helped to manage this move to the new office space. As you can see from our job titles – sales lead, partner manager and so on – the search was on top of already busy jobs. So it meant we were in need of some support and help from someone who knew what they were doing with this process and could help to limit the impact on our normal jobs and areas of responsibilities.
Kontor are great. We were looking for someone who could understand the brief and our limitations, but could find interesting spaces that challenged the brief. Gavin quickly found three spaces that all fitted the bill – but they all pushed our boundaries as well. We would never have looked at this office without the encouragement of Kontor, and that conversation has ended up with us sitting here now.
What’s the best thing about this office?
Sitting here, looking out over the river. I have breakfast here every morning and it’s constantly changing, buildings going up, boats passing by. Sitting and staring out for just five or ten minutes is a very relaxing break.
What advice would you give to another business searching for space?
Avoid being too narrow minded. I chose not to come to the first viewing here because I thought it was a waste of my time. What you have in mind might not be what you want. Also, when we looked at this space it had a raised metal floor and was totally white, so use your imagination.
What’s next for iZettle?
We’ve just come out of a period of swift growth in the number of people in the UK team – this time last year we were less than 10 people in London. So now is a time of stabilisation and integration. The Edinburgh office only opened about two weeks before this one. Now we’re here, this space is brilliant and we want to maximise it over several years to come.
The Appboy workspace has an excellent feel to it; it’s cool, lofty and airy, but functional. As soon as you step out of the lift you’re greeted by the brand’s logo in black and white on the wall and a hive of activity beneath it.
Appboy is a booming mobile marketing company founded in New York, which sells software to manage interactions with customers via mobiles. The tools are used by a wide range of high-profile firms including Tinder, Domino’s and SoundCloud.
In February, Kontor helped Appboy to secure its first London office in a Business Cube managed space in Shoreditch. We quiz Dan Head, the firm’s SVP Sales, about the search for space.
When did Appboy come to London?
Appboy was launched in New York in 2011 and we opened an office in London in January 2016, which is when I came on board. We hired a handful of people and got a space in a co-working space.
What was the main benefit to starting in a co-working space?
Co-working spaces are great for a rapidly growing small team, it’s great for recruitment; if you were four people in your own office it would feel a bit soulless to a potential employee.
But once you reach a certain size – for us it was a dozen people – you need to own your brand. Every company in a co-working space exists under the brand of that space, but we wanted to hold conversations with clients in our own space under our own brand.
How did you start your search for a workspace?
I had lots of different property agencies calling me offering space, chucking spaces at us, but they didn’t understand the culture or vibe I was looking for in a workspace. Then we spoke to Kontor and the options they put on the table were all the kinds of spaces we wanted. Sam showed me the different flexible solutions for a two-year timeframe that would take the sting out of finding a space.
Kontor were great. People buy from people and Sam paid attention to what the company we are trying to grow would be like, the chemistry we were after in the space.
Did you have a fixed location in mind?
No, we had quite a wide area to look in, from Fitzrovia across to Shoreditch and down to the Southbank. Sam showed us 15 spaces and we shortlisted three.
Why did you choose this workspace?
I liked that it was newly fitted out, it was immaculate when we moved in. It’s not just a rectangular box; it has a nice vibe because it’s not a regular space. The balcony is excellent, as well as the space for phone booths and a meeting room. I really like the building itself; there are only five or six other companies in here so it’s not too busy.
The location is ideal on Worship Street. It’s not grimy Shoreditch, but it’s not a suited and booted city office. It’s a bit of both so it’s perfect for making a statement about how Appboy has grown up.
What’s the main benefit to taking a managed space?
We still have to have an office manager to sort the space, buy food, organise meeting rooms and so on, but if it wasn’t managed we would also have to handle costs of cleaning, maintenance and so on. That’s a level of noise that a company of our size doesn’t need.
Do you have plans to grow into the space?
We’re 22 at the moment and this office will hold up to 35. By the end of the year we’ll be 25 or 26 people; next year we’ll climb into the 30s. This space can scale with that. At the moment everyone has the luxury of a lot of space so we’ll be a bit cosier, but we have lots of sales people who will be on the road a lot of the time. People can rotate desks.
What’s the future of Appboy looking like?
The market we are in is so dynamic that we’re consistently releasing new features and growing the team and our client roster as the demand for the Appboy product continues to grow. We are always looking ahead, and it’s looking quite bright.
In May 2016 Kontor helped booming healthy snacks vendor PROPERCORN to take its first lease and the space they chose really is amazing. The office stretches along Regent’s Canal near Angel, with huge windows looking over the water. It’s all about light, space and comfort.
We talk to Co-founder Ryan Kohn about the business’s search for a workspace.
Where did PROPERCORN start?
Cassandra and I launched the business five and a half years ago from my living room. Since then we’ve grown to 40 staff and now sell PROPERCORN in 12 countries, selling 3 million bags a month.
It was pretty hectic from the start. Our philosophy was just to sell, sell, sell as we weren’t going to get anywhere otherwise. We won our first order from Waitrose in the first six months and other supermarkets followed soon after. Our first customer was Google’s offices – at one point out of 48 snacks that they stock, PROPERCORN was the fastest moving. We really took that statistic and ran with it and quickly got into lots of major high street chains like Leon and Benugo.
How important was your workspace to the company as you grew?
Culture is extremely important in a company, but it’s all very well trying to build an empowering culture for staff if you’re stuck working in a basement somewhere. It’s just not going to develop. Everyone needs to enjoy the workspace and have a place to relax.
Even our first space in a managed office in Primrose Hill was small but had lots of natural light. Next we went to a space in Kings Cross which was also really light and all on one level like this workspace, which we like – it means there’s no hierarchy, no one has their own office. We’re all together.
Why did you choose this workspace?
We had already seen a few options but as soon as we walked in here we loved it. It’s unique, being able to look over the canal. There were lots of dividers from the previous occupants, but we saw the potential and opened it out. It was quite a complicated deal as Kontor had to find someone to buy the building so we could lease it, but worth it.
Kontor were brilliant; as soon as we were introduced to Luke and James we realised there was a great cultural fit. We wanted to work with other entrepreneurs. They were very attentive and came back to us quickly with options and so on. I used to run a property development firm so had a good idea of the process, but they were really useful to add context to the deal and advise on what was reasonable and what wasn’t.
As well as the right environment, did you have other criteria?
We wanted room to grow into and there’s plenty of space here, space for 90 people. We currently sub-let some space to companies that have taken desks for perhaps a year or longer, which subsidises the rent. It wasn’t easy to find tenants as we didn’t want just anybody; we wanted companies with a culture like ours, that complement what we’re doing.
Did you have a specific location in mind?
It needed to be accessible but we didn’t want to be on top of a tube station. We wanted people to eat all together rather than go out separately, so we have our own chef. We’re still only about ten minutes’ walk from the station and lots of the team live nearby.
What sort of fit out were you aiming for?
We didn’t want it to feel too much like an office, more like a living space. We also didn’t want it to just mimic Google or Twitter with beanbags everywhere. This is the ideal fit-out, comfortable but functional, a space we can live in.
The team love it. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better location in London, especially in the summer when we can spill out onto the canal side.
What’s the benefit to having your own lease rather than being in a managed space?
For us it’s knowing that we aren’t going to have to move soon, that we’re here and settled. We’ve got space to grow into so we’re happy to be here.
What advice would you give to another growing company looking to sign a lease?
Pick your battles. Think about the key points you want to achieve and what you would concede on. It’s all a negotiation.
What’s next for PROPERCORN?
Our aim is to be Europe’s most loved snack brand, so we’ve got some way to go. We’ve launched in Germany recently and that’s going really well. For us Europe is a huge opportunity, so we’ve got a lot to go for.
Meeting space provider Breather arrived in London last summer and has been expanding fast. The company has more than 300 spaces across North America, including more than 120 in New York and more than 65 in San Francisco.
Breather’s USP is to provide beautifully designed, functional spaces that any company can book via its app for as little time as an hour. Kontor has been helping Breather in its London expansion.
We caught up with Tom Sleigh, Breather’s Head of Real Estate – London, at its space in Staple Inn near Chancery Lane.
What is Breather’s growth story so far?
Breather was founded in June 2013 with a $1.5m seed round. We first opened in Montreal, quickly followed by New York, San Francisco and Boston. We raised $20m in series B funding in September 2015 and opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Toronto, and London in 2016. In December 2016, we raised a $40m in Series C funding. This most recent round was led by Menlo Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Uber, Tumblr, and Siri.
Why is there a market for Breather’s spaces?
Space for meetings is always difficult to find. Whether you’re a big or a small company there will always be a requirement for overflow space, or the desire for a change of scene or geography. There are arguments emerging that suggest working in private spaces is more effective than working in an open plan space, where you will be constantly interrupted. With no distractions, either as a team or as an individual, you can be more productive.
What were you looking for when you took this space?
Something light, an interesting space with character, ideally with a wooden floor, central, well-connected. At the time we were looking for single big spaces rather than the multi-unit spaces that we have elsewhere. Our meeting spaces range in size – the smallest has space for four people, this is the biggest with space for 25 seated.
Why did you like this space so much?
More than anything, the size of the space caught my eye. I love the windows, the high ceiling. People use our spaces for away days, to get out of the office, so they want something a bit different. Our team works very closely with many of our clients, so we learn all the time about how and why people use our spaces. You can book them for an hour, a few hours, and this one is frequently booked for the whole day by companies such as Marks & Spencer, PwC and Spotify.
I also loved the character of the whole building. It’s unusual, it makes a welcome change to your typical corporate office. Normally we don’t take spaces above the second floor if there’s no lift, but we made an exception for this space because we loved it so much.
Where in London are you looking for more spaces?
We’re looking for more spaces in London, period. We want 100 spaces in London this year and we’re doing very well so far – we’ve got 21 open and 36 in legals at the moment. Our target is every corner of London.
This is why I enjoy working with Kontor ; they understand what Breather is looking for and they’re willing to spend time looking through many options for us. Any agency could show me what’s on the market but Kontor finds clever angles on buildings. They take a longer-term view of the relationship and they are committed to growing with their clients. Because a lot of our early adopters are in the sectors that Kontor is strong in, there’s a natural synergy between what we like and what their other clients are looking for, which helps.
You’re expanding fast; how many properties have you looked at?
We’ve looked at a huge number of properties – across the ten cities we operate in, we’ve looked at more than 1,500 buildings in the past year. In London I must have viewed at least 250. Our parameters for what we’re looking for are changing all the time based on the demand of our users. Now we’re looking for bigger spaces than when we started and are excited to continue growing throughout the city.
InMotion, a subsidiary of Jaguar Land Rover, has made its home in a fully managed office in Shoreditch, with the help of Kontor. The team’s workspace requirements were specific: a trendy space that could be personalised to attract startups, alongside the flexibility of no long-term commitment. We speak to InMotion’s head of accelerator programme James Nettleton to find out how they’ve settled in.
(To see a 360° walkthrough of InMotion’s space click on the top right pic!)
What exactly is InMotion?
InMotion invests in technology for sectors such as transport and smart cities. Here in London we run an innovation lab, and combine the insight that it produces with entrepreneurial and technical talent to build new startup businesses. The large part of the Jaguar Land Rover business is based in the Midlands, but we wanted to be in the hub of Tech City.
Is that why you chose Shoreditch?
Ideally we would have been closer to Kings Cross or Euston as some staff commute in from the Midlands, but the office stock just isn’t there yet. This is a great location for the businesses we’re building here and space is a core part of our proposition to them – we house them for a certain period of time.
What were your criteria when searching for space?
Space that would give us flexibility but also be personal, so the team feels that they are somewhere with an identity. Location, capacity and the overall atmosphere were also very important.
Kontor really understand the market, and really understood our requirements. This office was half built, but Luke and Sam knew it was coming online so suggested we take a look. When we took the space the downstairs was still a building site so we had to trust they would finish the space in a good way, which they did. We wanted an office with space for events, and the downstairs here is ideal.
How much flexibility were you looking for?
We were in a tricky position in some respects, as we didn’t want to make a long-term commitment, but most co-working spaces don’t offer enough personalisation for us. It was obvious from the beginning that we would go for a managed space, as we didn’t have the time to fit the space out, but we also wanted our own space – we needed to be self-contained. We also have a finite number of startups we can take on for a period, so we don’t need ongoing flexibility in that respect.
How important was it that the space reflects your brand?
That was a challenge for us, because we needed a certain appearance for our brand but we wanted to be in managed space. When you don’t have your own building, you have to take what you’re given up to a point in terms of furniture and so on as you don’t want to spend a fortune.
We were looking for a very specific image. There’s a spectrum in managed spaces ranging from the very corporate to the scrappier startup world. We needed the best of both worlds: somewhere entrepreneurs would feel at home, but where we could also host investors. This space feels like a good balance between the two.
Has the team settled into the space?
They really like it, it’s a great location and the space feels like our own. For the first home of InMotion, it’s ideal.
Tara Davies and Esther Kinnear Derungs set up their modelling agency Linden Staub in December 2015. They needed a specific workspace, with areas for computers as well as photoshoots and conversations. Eight months after Kontor helped them find their ideal space, we discover how they’ve settled in.
(To see a 360° walkthrough of Linden Staub’s space click on the top right pic!)
How are you finding your new workspace?
Tara: We love it! We use the space for everything. We even have family dinners in the evenings here. It’s just a great space for hanging out.
What were your priorities when searching for an office?
Esther: Natural light and space, lots of space as our photographers do shoots here. We wanted an office that could be compartmentalised because we need it to feel communal, but with defined areas. We didn’t want girls to walk in and have to sit with us at our computers while they wait. Our area is now split into a work area, a lounge area, a food/dining area and the studio that has a glass partition wall.
Tara: The models hang out here all the time, they keep food in the fridge or lounge on the sofa. If you have one model in it feels like 10, they have so much stuff, so it was important we had a comfortable area. Then we have studio area and can always shut the door if we need a private room.
Why did you decide to set up in Shoreditch?
Tara: We didn’t mind where we were in central London, but we’ve got girls coming in all the time, on their own or with families, so it had to be accessible. We looked at a workspace we really liked along the waterfront between Old Street and Angel, but we couldn’t imagine girls leaving the office at 5pm in the winter and walking in the dark.
This is our dream location; so convenient and such incredible buildings. Plus, the majority of our clients are based in east London nowadays, so this location makes the most sense.
How important was finding the right workspace to suit your brand?
Esther: Very important, its advertising for our brand. If a girl visits a shoddy office with her family, they’re not going to think we’re a very good agency.
The whole message of our brand focuses on empowerment of women, so we needed to reflect that. For example, we’ve never worked anywhere with a dining area before, but we’re firm believers that it’s not healthy to eat at your desk. Now at least once a week we all sit together, chatting, flicking through magazines. We meet girls at such a young age that we had to have a space to bring them to that is homely, that has a family atmosphere while remaining professional.
Have you had good feedback from employees?
Tara: They love the space. If you work somewhere and you’re proud of your workspace, that’s going to be uplifting and you’ll be more productive.
Were you looking for flexible space?
Esther: We didn’t realise when we starting looking that we’d need to sign a lease for several years, so we had to find a space that was a bit flexible. We did look at some co-working spaces such as WeWork, which didn’t suit us but made us realise we needed to be able to use space in different ways, have places to interact with each other.
Did you have any knowledge of the property market before looking?
Tara: Not a clue! We told Kontor that from that beginning and the team were brilliant. They showed us exactly the spaces we were after – before, other agents had shown us a load of basements, even though we said we needed natural light. They didn’t seem to take us seriously as a new, young modelling agency. Kontor were able to show us this place before it even came to market and the costs came in below budget.
Do you think you’ll stay here a while?
Esther: When our lease is due to finish here will probably be the perfect time to reconsider what we need. If we do need more space it will be an upgrade, the same vibe but larger. We love the aesthetic here – we’re supposed to return it to its original condition at the end of the lease, but the landlord loves what we’ve done so much he’s said we’ve added value!