The Struggle of Finding Your First Startup Office

Up to January 2015, the accessART team managed to work from home, in (free) co-working spaces, cafes, and public libraries. But after some time we realized we really needed a proper startup office. Unreliable internet, no space for private meetings and pretty big coffee and lunch bills drove us crazy. In addition, we were going to have a  couple of people joining us from abroad so we really needed a proper place to work.

A Startup Office seems easy to find

With the great guys from StartDock, B-Amsterdam, The Startup Orgy, Spaces, BounceSpace, WeWorkThe Thinking Hut and many more (sorry if I missed you!), one would think that finding a place to work wouldn’t be a big issue. Most of these awesome spots have it all: slick websites, great locations, beautifully designed offices, friendly office managers, cool startups, pool tables, internal networking tools,meeting spaces and very important: a great bar! Most of these spaces offer monthly subscriptions. Pay around €100 and you can work 1-3 days a week on a flexible desk. Pay between €200-€400 euro and you get your own fixed desk. I think these prices are more than fair for what you get.

We got very enthusiastic after visiting several of these offices. However when we started doing the math, we lost all hope in finding a space at all! From January 1st we would be a team of 8 (with 1 person working remotely). Even though we have a (pretty) huge team, we are still a bootstrapped startup. If we take an average of €250 a month per desk, that would mean a monthly cost of over €1000 on office space. It was clear that this was not an option.

The challenge for us as a founding team was to find an office space to seat at least 5 people at a time without breaking the bank. In the end, we got extremely lucky with our office. It took about 2 months to find the perfect spot and we visited many big office buildings without any soul or spirit in them. But, we managed to find an amazing spot in the middle of Amsterdam. It’s not big or fancy, but the location and price are unbeatable!

Read here my experience of finding affordable office space in Amsterdam.

The steps in your search for the perfect Startup Office

The Search As with all things you want to do on a budget, finding an affordable office space will take time.  I think in the end, we search for and ended up writing about 40-60 parties dealing in office space in Amsterdam. From anti-kraak  to large international real estate companies, we gave it a shot. We listed

  • our budget
  • preferred square meters
  • preferred location
  • 24/7 access to the building
  • high-speed internet available

I think it’s important to be clear from the start what you are looking for – this will make sure you won’t make useless visits out of your budget. Out of this list, I think the budget and preferred square meters are important. Most real estate agents are quite old fashioned and think 2 people need 30m² to work comfortably. If you’ve ever worked for a consulting firm that hosts drinks on Friday afternoons you know this is not necessary 🙂 .

The Visits This is the fun part 🙂 Visiting the prospective offices. We ended up  in corners of Amsterdam we had never been before and met some cool people. Take enough time for this part of your search as it’s super time consuming. We ended up seeing about 10-15 potential office spaces over the course of one month. From really big (and scary) anti-kraak places to high-end office buildings – we’ve seen it all! Every time we decided not to go for a certain location, we would ask the agent for any tips or contacts he /she had. That way we got some other leads for interesting places. Take a good look at the kitchen and other common facilities, ask about the other tenants and parking spaces etc.

The Contract 

With regards to the contract, traditional contracts for large companies often require a 5-year lease. I guess that’s quite unreasonable for any (early-stage) Startup so this is worth negotiating :). Another important point is the current state of the building. You’re usually required to deliver it in it’s original state, so that limits the possibilities of painting the walls bright red for example ;).  All rent will be listed excluding VAT (in the Netherlands at least), so keep that in mind. Also, most real estate agents will say that you rent 25m², but this ends up being only 20m² in real office space because you also take a share in the common spaces (such as kitchens) and hallways.

The Move  We ended up moving into an office where all old furniture was about to be thrown away. This meant free desks and chairs – yay! Office furniture is really expensive, but auctions or marktplaats.nl can help you to get your first startup office up and running. We moved in a couple of desks and one large table so there would always be enough space for everyone to work! Some plants, a small fridge, an additional big screen, powerpoints and we were ready to go!

And last but not least – the Office Warming Party! After the move, it was time to celebrate! Haha :). Really, it was a good opportunity for all curious friends and family to come take a look at our first Startup Office and also meet the rest of the team members. An additional benefit of this is to create some extra buzz about your startup.

 

Startup Office
Our Startup Office on the Canal Belt 🙂

The Perfect Startup Office

I think the most important part of your office is that whenever you leave home in the morning, you are happy to get to your office. After months of different places to work, opening the door of your office every morning is such a cool feeling 🙂 .

Any questions? Feel free to drop me a note!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Jose says:

    Good luck and be happy!

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