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We don’t have long with sustainable lighting firm Tala: at 2 o’clock their Sustainability Manager is running a meditation class. Having the space to do this type of team activity is one benefit to Tala’s new HQ, Tala Studios, on Vyner Street in Hackney, East London
This is the first HQ for the fast-growing brand, which was founded on the basis that good design can help mitigate climate change. It’s an amazingly cool office; it has a balcony terrace overlooking Regent’s Canal, oodles of natural light, and a calm, almost zen-like atmosphere upstairs contrasting to the hive of activity downstairs. Obviously, there are beautiful bulbs everywhere.
Kontor helped Tala to find the ideal space to house both their headquarters and showroom. Co-founders Maxwell Wood and Joshua Ward tell us about the search.
You’ve grown fast: where have you been?
Max: You want the full story? Well, we started about three and a half years ago in [co-founder] William’s kitchen. Then we moved to an attic on Gower Street…
Joshua: …above the Institute of Measurement and Control. Soon after we got involved with the Camden Collective – a charity that provides free coworking space and subsidised offices for startups in vacant buildings.
Max: From there, we ran our operations from a garage in Camden – very glamorous! We used a trolley to push our boxes to and from the office to the post office. A real hands-on approach in the early days!
Joshua: As the company grew, we required more space and took an old room in a derelict hospital in Hampstead before finding a more permanent space in Regent Studios which could accommodate our team of 12. Regent Studios was our first real office and it was great to be surrounded by such an eclectic mix of brands and artisans, many of whom we forged fantastic partnerships with – such as Rebel Rebel florists.
How big is the team now?
Max: We’re now a team of 50. 43 here in London at our HQ, Tala Studios, and the others located at our satellite office in New York, and in Europe and China. We hope to open offices in these other locations in the longer term.
What was your criteria for your workspace?
Joshua: We were after a space that could accommodate Tala’s 40 London-based and international employees, as well as partners and clients who visit. We also required a space that would allow us to create and test our designs and showcase our innovations. As well as this, it was important for us to find a building with character and history, with plenty of natural light and outside space, perfect for employees but also for entertaining clients.
Max: We also wanted to stay in East London. It’s important for us to have surroundings with creative energy, to be in a location that people identify with design. There’s a growing number of artists, studios and creatives on Vyner Street – we were always pretty keen to be here.
How did Kontor help in the search?
Max: They’re fabulous! I’d like to think we were easy clients – they showed us one office and we loved it! Seriously, though, I’ve dealt with a lot of property firms and Kontor really understood our brief which is why they found us a property so quickly. They got who we are as a brand and our identity.
Joshua: They really helped with all the contract work throughout. It was also nice to work with Polly who has an architectural background, so we could really bounce around ideas for the space. We could think through long-term plans to develop it and so on. Kontor have such genuine enthusiasm.
Location aside, what about this space ticked the boxes?
Joshua: It was a blank canvas for us to customise. It was a beautiful space that had been lovingly restored as opposed to a new build, and this is very in keeping with our own sustainable ethos as a brand.
How did you make the space your own?
Joshua: Our design team starting drafting ideas for the layout about two months before we moved in. They wanted the space to act as a nexus point between the teams. We wanted lots of collaborative areas and breakout spaces to encourage creativity and dialogue between departments.
Max: Our team is split over two floors. Downstairs we have operations, sales and so on and it’s quite lively. There are hot-desking options for our sales team who are usually out and about but also for any friends and clients who might want to work here for the day. Upstairs is very peaceful, where the design, engineering and brand teams can focus on creative work. I think there’s a real resurgence in businesses recognising people need to have their own place to work, as well as spaces to collaborate and relax.
This space acts as your London showroom – have you had many visitors yet?
Joshua: We officially launched Tala Studios during London Design Festival and activated the space with talks, workshops, a VIP banquet and of course a launch party – all of which brought 450 people into the space during the design week which is great.
We are planning more activities to take place at Tala Studios as we head into lighting season. It’s a space we are proud of and which we want to invite clients as well as anyone with an interest in lighting to come and visit.
What’s next for Tala?
Max: We opened our New York office in July and we have plans to go to Shanghai, Berlin and LA in the future. As for Tala Studios, we are working on having the Tala barge moored on the canal adjacent to us. It’s currently down yonder but we’ve got canal games coming soon!
Inspired by Tala’s new space? Get in touch and we can help!
The unique set-up of digital marketing agency Croud is clearly working, judging by its fast growth and global reach. They have a substantial London office for client-facing work, but most client work happens in a larger office in Shrewsbury. They also have a network of on-demand digital experts – the Croudie Network – who carry out about 40% of client work.
As Croud grew, the team realised they needed a London office that could communicate the brand effectively to their clients. It had to be inspiring, efficient and full of impact.
James Braybrook, CFO, tells us how Kontor stepped in to find the growing team the ideal workspace in Shoreditch.
What was Croud’s first workspace?
The company was founded in 2011 and for the first six months it was run out of a bedroom. The founders then took a small office on Rivington Street.
After about 18 months they had about 15 employees and had outgrown that space, so moved to the office on Worship Street in early 2013. We got to about 40 people there, in 1,900 sq ft. Now we have 5,300 sq ft.
That’s quite a step up – why did you want such a bigger office?
Croud needed a bigger space straightaway, but we were also trying to plan for the next five years. We absolutely want to grow our team in London and have got capacity here for 65.
There is no need to squeeze too many people in, though, as we have a team of about 85 people in Shrewsbury who handle client account work and marketing. In the London office we mainly have client-facing team members and support staff, so the people who set the strategy and overall tone of the business and win new contracts.
Similarly, an important part of the Croud model is the Network, a curated team of specialists in different areas. They don’t really come to the office much as the idea is they’re remote. Some are located overseas so run campaigns for our overseas clients.
Space aside, why else did you want to move office?
One of the main reasons is we needed better meeting space to host clients. As we have grown we have started to engage much bigger clients, so now meetings can include seven or eight members of their own team. We didn’t have a big enough boardroom to host that number of people.
Now we have a room that can hold up to 30 people, it’s quite an impressive space. It’s set up almost like a theatre on one side, which is great when we want to pitch to clients.
Why did you choose this workspace?
Location and budget aside, we really like how light and open it is. It has floor to ceiling windows on three sides of the L shape and high ceilings. It meant we could be creative with our fit out.
We also have access to a roof terrace, which is great. We had seen a couple of roof terraces at previous offices we viewed and decided we really wanted access to one so we could hold client events up there.
Since you’ve only moved down the road, you were clearly keen to stay in the same location.
Yes, we really like this location for our London office as it’s handy for staff and clients, as well as being a great area. We gave Jack at Kontor quite strict guidelines for where we were looking – a square mile area around Old Street really.
How did the search for this office go?
We started looking in January and we weren’t in a rush immediately, although we could foresee we’d need more space soon. At first, we started looking for an office ourselves. Our office manager looked at listings and we viewed four or five, but they weren’t quite right. That’s when we decided to appoint Kontor to help us.
How did working with Kontor help with the process?
Jack did a good job at drawing up an initial shortlist within a week and we went from there. This space wasn’t actually on the market when we were looking, but Jack knew it would be available soon. That’s one benefit of using an agent to help. It was a building site when we first looked around.
The most useful aspect of working with Jack, though, was that he saw us through to the end of the transaction. Once we chose this space it was quite a long process before completion – I had no idea it would take so long. For example, the office is located behind Wesley’s Chapel, which means our overall landlord is the Methodist Church, sublet to our landlord, so there were two sets of solicitors to go through.
There were complications with getting our design signed off by the landlord, which Jack handled, and he generally put in a lot of hours to make sure we completed.
What advice would you give to another business looking for an office?
It can be quite stressful, so if you’re looking for a space of this size or bigger, definitely appoint an agent like Kontor at the beginning.
If Jack hadn’t done all the legwork, there are a lot of other things at Croud that wouldn’t have got done in the meantime as I would have been busy sorting solicitors and so on. Jack let me focus on my actual job. So money well spent really!
Inspired by Croud’s new space? Get in touch and we can help!
In a very short amount of time, MADE.com has become a leader in the furniture and homeware market. With its focus on design-led, affordable products sold on its online platform, the company has been gradually furnishing homes across the UK and beyond. The brand now has offices in Paris and Berlin, as well as further afield in China and Vietnam. With rapid growth comes the need for a bigger workspace, and Kontor helped the company to find a home for MADE.com’s ever-growing team in east London. HR director Kate Humber, who led the office search, tells us what they were looking for.
Why did you need to look for a new space?
Quite simply we outgrew our old office. We’re a rapidly growing business and now have about 200 people in our London office. The company’s been going for over eight years and has grown hugely since its inception as a small start-up in a single room to about 400 employees globally. We’ve moved offices a few times. In the early days from Notting Hill to an office behind our showroom on Charring Cross Road and now to our new home here on Singer Street.
What were your main criteria when searching for your new office?
We wanted and needed more space, so finding the right size to match our budget was the fundamental factor. As a design-led company, we wanted to find a space that would reflect our brand. We wanted a space which we could fill with our own furniture, where we would be proud to receive visitors and which staff would really connect with. Natural light was really important, to complement the design that we planned to implement.
Why did you choose to move to Old Street from the West End?
Before we started the search, we created a map marking the address of every single employee. We quickly realised that everyone is completely spread out, coming from north, south, east and west London. So really, being in central London with a good transport link was important. We looked in lots of different areas within zone one and Old Street felt like a good match for us.
Why did you decide to work with Kontor?
Kontor was recommended to me and as soon as I met Luke and Gavin I could tell straightaway that they understood us and our brand. They’ve got a great track record of working with creative companies and start-ups, so I felt that we clicked. They had a network of interesting spaces that were a bit different, which is what we were looking for, and they took the time to understand our brief and ask questions.
How long did the search take?
We shortlisted buildings and probably looked at about 10 or 12, but this was scheduled well so we only had to knock out a few afternoons to look at different selections. I’m an HR director, not a building specialist, so I really appreciated that Gavin could explain different fundamentals, point out factors and recommend how we could approach different parts of the move.
What attracted you to this workspace particularly?
It’s a lovely building in a great location – Old Street underground is only two minutes’ walk away. We’ve really been able to make it our own and the staff love it. The space has really transformed the whole working experience for the team and reflects MADE. It also gives us room to grow and creative space to hold events.
Were you always looking to lease an entire office?
Although having the whole building wasn’t one of the core criteria for us, it was a really attractive option. It means that from the moment you walk in the door the space is all ours. There’s no generic shared space. We took the space as cat A, so we could really make it our own.
A lot of businesses are choosing to encourage employees to hotdesk, perhaps to save space – why did you decide to give everyone a fixed desk?
Although we have lots of flexible working and break out spaces within the building, we really felt that people like to have their own desk. It gives people much more ownership of and connection with the space as a whole.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking for a workspace?
It’s important to be clear about your requirements from the beginning, defining what you’re after, but at the same time you need to keep an open mind. You don’t know what you’re going to see.
Also, on paper it’s very difficult to really see what a building is going to be like. You need to get out and visit different spaces. It’s a bit like buying a house – you get that feeling when you find the right one.
Two months ago, Kontor helped to introduce a first to the coworking industry – Cuckooz Nest, a flexible workspace with its own on-site creche. Founders Charlie Rosier and Fabienne O’Neill already run a growing co-living business Cuckooz, but this was their first leap into the coworking sector.
Finding the right space for such a unique – and at that point unproven – concept wasn’t easy. It was a lengthy process, but the result is a relaxed, design-led professional workspace for parents to work in, safe in the knowledge their child is only metres away. Charlie tells us about the search for the right property.
Cuckooz Nest has been open about two months now – how’s it going?
It’s going well! Through word of mouth we quickly reached 100 members, people from many different industries – both men and women quite evenly, which is interesting. People love the flexibility we offer for childcare.
We understand that a lot of our members are self-employed or project-based and cash flow is important, so we introduced weekly invoicing for the time they used the previous week – one week they might use eight hours, the next 40 hours. This pay-as-you-go system allows parents to scale up and down depending on their commitments.
We had a real coup recently – our creche is now Ofsted registered! Getting them to understand our flexible set-up is an industry first. We can now have children for eight hours at a time instead of four, which gives members even more flexibility to go off-site to meetings, lunch or even a haircut!
Where did the idea for Cuckooz Nest spring from?
About six months after we launched Cuckooz, our co-living business, I had my first child. I went back to work after six weeks and found it almost impossible to find childcare that was both affordable and flexible. London simply wasn’t addressing the problem. Cuckooz Nest was born from our passion to support families, to help bridge the gap between work and life.
We started planning Nest about two years ago, but it’s taken this long to get to this point. The biggest challenge has been finding the right space.
Why was the search for the right space so difficult?
Mainly because we were looking for a space between 2,000-5,000 sq ft, but with two separate entrances. Not many offices that size have that.
We wanted to be able to split one space in two – about two thirds workspace and one third creche – to allow parents to visit their children whenever they wanted, to accommodate breastfeeding, for example. We wanted parents to relax, knowing they’re in the same space as their child while being able to get on with work.
It was difficult to find the right space, but Kontor managed it!
Why did you decide to work with Kontor?
They were recommended to us and straightaway we knew they’d be able to help us. We love Kontor! They’re well connected, they work with great brands. I knew they wouldn’t waste our time, showing us spaces that we didn’t want. They only showed us spaces that reflected what we needed.
Other than two entrances, what other criteria did you have?
We had already decided on the City Fringe as a location, because previously we had found a space in Kings Cross that fell through. The space had to have lots of natural light, a good amount of character and the opportunity for us to create the design aesthetic we were after.
Why did you choose this property?
We could create the space we really wanted. The fit out and design are unique – the walls between the two spaces are soundproof but it’s very much designed as one space. As it’s an old electricity warehouse the high ceilings and wooden floor give it a great character.
We also really like Clerkenwell as there are so many great restaurants and shops. Farringdon and soon Crossrail give us a great reach to a larger demographic.
How did you design the layout of the space?
We worked with a wonderful designer, Leo Wood who founded Kinder Design. Leo is a working mum, which was important to us as we wanted to work with someone who understands the needs of both the child and the parent – not an easy person to find. She is also founder of PlayPen, a pop-up coworking café and creche in Mile End and owner of two coworking spaces in East London, so she had previous experience in this concept.
Leo’s design work is amazing so we knew she’d create the space we were after. She and her husband recently won the RIBA London Award 2018 for their home in Bethnal Green.
Was it difficult to find a landlord that would accept your concept?
Although we already had Cuckooz, Cuckooz Nest was essentially a start-up so we had no bank balance or track record. This is a problem a lot of start-ups face and we had to find a landlord that would take us on – for all they knew we could go out of business within two months! This is where Kontor’s great negotiating skills came into action!
We’re lucky to have found a landlord who went above and beyond to help us get going. It took us six months to get planning permission for change of use to incorporate D1 use class. We’re located in an employment priority zone and the council want to protect B1 office use. We ended up going to committee and received unanimous approval.
What are you planning for the future of Cuckooz Nest?
The model is going to evolve as we respond to members’ needs. We’re small enough to listen to what our members want and change accordingly. We went from five packages to just two after receiving feedback.
We’re hoping to open our second space later this year in another great City Fringe location and are already talking to landlords about schemes further east and north next year.
We’re getting a lot of requests to open more from up and down the country, which is amazing! Honestly, we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from everyone.
Not many businesses go from 0 to 60 employees in under two years. VaynerMedia arrived in London from its New York headquarters in February 2016 and has been cementing its business here ever since. The rapid growth of the digital agency, which works with businesses of all sizes in video production, media planning and influencer marketing, has resulted in several workspace changes. With the help of Kontor, Vayner has now secured two floors in a building managed by The Boutique Workspace Company in Shoreditch and the team has big plans for how it will use the space. Finance manager Ryan Fitzpatrick gives us the details of the search.
VaynerMedia’s London growth is impressive. How did it start?
Eric Fulwiler, our London Managing Director, came over from New York in February 2016, tasked with building a network and to see how business went really. Almost instantly we won quite a bit of work, so the company sent over more people and hired a few people locally. We were up to 25 people in just a few months.
By February 2017 we moved from WeWork to a bigger space in a managed building as the agency had escalated so quickly. We’re now almost 60 people and by the time we’re in our new space we could top that.
Will the agency keep growing at such a fast pace?
Next year, who knows – we’ve grown so quickly globally as well as in London. It can be hard to predict but growth might be steadier next year, perhaps reaching 70 by the end of the year. This is why we wanted a flexible space to work, somewhere we can grow into.
You’ve signed for two floors in a workspace managed by Boutique Workplace. How many people can this accommodate?
In the current setup, the new space could accommodate 130 but if we move some things around wecould get 150 across the two floors. We have the option to take the basement level as well throughout the agreement. I think the golden rule for an agency like us is that once you need 10,000 sq ft you should look to take your own lease, so perhaps we’ll consider that in the future. At the moment, a managed space suits us down to the ground.
What are the main benefits to a managed workspace?
I’ve been very impressed with Boutique as although they’re happy for us to make the space how we want it, we still get 99% of the benefits of being in a managed space. For example, as well as all facilities management we can use event space in their other locations and go to their monthly networking events.
A lease might be cheaper, but once you reach space for 120 people you have to factor in hiring facilities staff on site, IT and so on and the discount isn’t so huge.
How important was it to find a workspace that you could brand and make your own space?
Although we ideally wanted flexible space rather than a lease, part of our criteria was always related to the ability to make a VaynerMedia office. We weren’t sure how far we wanted to go with that.
Our CEO is really keen to get our art and branding on the walls and Boutique have been great at giving us free reign to design the space as we want. Some of the more established managed space operators were less open to letting us do our own fit out so it’s great we ended up finding Boutique. They are one of the up-and- coming operators that are breaking into the UK market, willing to give more flexibility.
What other criteria did you have – a specific location?
When the team first came over from New York they were based in a WeWork around the corner from here, so they moved close by to be able to walk to work. So ideally we wanted to stay in the Shoreditch, Old Street area. During the search we did open our minds to look at Clerkenwell, Southwark, London Bridge and so on but always either east, central or just south of the river. This location was perfect though.
How many workspaces did you see during the search?
We probably saw 15-20 spaces. Working with Kontor has been brilliant. Sam is always very energetic at getting us into a space within the timeframe we’re looking at and always took us to places that were close to matching our criteria. Kontor has a great network of people to rely on and often got us to the front of the queue to view properties.
What’s next for VaynerMedia?
We’ve grown quickly and next year we have the potential to grow further. We have a lot in the pipeline, not just in London but opportunities across the UK and Europe. A long-term goal could be to make London a hub and take the business from there. It’s great to get a workspace sorted now that will allow us to grow as we need to.
From its London base, Plastic Pictures creates films, photography and animations for some of the world’s most well-known brands. Its long list of clients include the likes of Amazon, Unilver, BT and Thomas Cook.
With this impressive roster of customers, it was essential that the team found a new office that visitors would enjoy spending time in. Kontor helped Plastic Pictures to find its ideal workspace in Aldgate East. Sara Cooper tells us about the search in their colour changing space.
What is the best thing about having found your ideal workspace?
It’s given us breathing space, the headspace to be creative. Before, we felt boxed in. It’s open plan, all on one level which allows us to collaborate in an efficient way. It has also given us room to grow, which is really exciting. We’re 18 people now and we have 28 desks in total. If we need to add to the team or bring in freelancers, we have space to do so.
Where was the company based before this?
Well! When we started almost eight years ago, we worked from a summer house that I built in my garden. There were three of us and we didn’t want to take out a business loan or sign for
commercial space too quickly.
It was a lovely place to work and quite large really! But over the next 24 months, we got so busy that we had eight people working there, which was quite crowded. When clients started asking for meetings we took them to Soho House, but we realised that we needed to bite the bullet and find space of our own.
Our first lease was a 1,000 sq ft old stable house in Camden. It was basically two up, two down house so we converted the downstairs to an open plan space and had studios upstairs. This was great for five years when we reached ten or 11 employees. We weren’t overcommitted with rent and it worked well.
Why did you decide to move?
Things ramped up even more after that and space got tighter as we added more desks. We looked ahead and realised that we if we were going to grow as a company we needed the space to grow with us.
That’s when we found Kontor. I was initially attracted to Kontor’s branding and how dynamic the company looked. I like that it was a small team as I felt as though they’d really get what we needed – and they did. They showed us a range of properties, some out of our league but we loved seeing what else was out there to aspire to.
How did you find the search for the right space?
There definitely aren’t as many suitable workspaces as you’d think and prices have shot up over the years. That’s why we needed to use Kontor. They showed us spaces that we wouldn’t have been able to find online.
Kontor were also really valuable during contract negotiations – helping us find the property was the easy part really. They successfully helped us get a good contract and Jack was heavily involved in smoothing out so many details between the landlord and building management. This part of the service really made me feel it was worth working with Kontor.
Why did you choose this workspace?
It’s in a great, central location – Aldgate is a quick journey for all our employees from around London. It’s surprisingly quiet though as we’re down a quiet street. As soon as we walked in, we knew we could build the two editing suites we needed as well as have the open plan space. It was a blank canvas. As it’s an industrial warehouse space we were drawn to the light we get from taking an entire floor. It has period features but has all the modern factors we need such as fibre internet.
How are you finding the space now you’re in?
Our clients really enjoy coming here. International clients who base themselves in clubs like Shoreditch House or Soho House while they’re in London love walking across and hanging out here. Our team loves the space too! That’s why we wanted to build a large communal area, with a kitchen and enough seating for everyone to enjoy. People can get away from their desks to eat lunch or sit in the leather chairs to chat about a project. It was very important to us to create a creative space away from computers.
We’ve spent quite a lot on plants and hanging baskets to create a relaxing atmosphere. We have vines growing up the columns that will eventually reach the ceiling. We wanted to bring a freshness to what is quite an urban, dense area of the city.
Do you have plans to grow into the space over the next few years?
Absolutely. We wanted to move into a space that we knew would suit us for several years. It might be a bit big now, but it’s an investment in our future.
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, which 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.