We asked Sandbox’s CEO Roman Gelfer to tell us about what it’s like to cowork in his facility. Here’s what he had to say.
In 2007, I ran across an article in a business magazine on work/life balance and various options to deal with that in the busy world we live in. Instantly I knew both that coworking is a great idea because I knew the benefits of working shoulder-to-shoulder on the trading floor. I also had the skills and background to launch this venture.
What made coworking a sensible idea is the shift in technology from big bulky desktop machines to a mobile world we live in now, where anyone can work from anywhere. That being said working from coffee shops or your couch isn’t the ideal situation. Technology liberated us from our cubicles and stuffy offices; however, it didn’t provide a better physical space for us.
So I created Sandbox around the idea that a coworking space is going to be a workspace for the 21st century where functionality, efficiency, and community can help members achieve unprecedented heights. Our vision is to create a network of coworking facilities throughout the US that would enable the growing workforce of independent professionals to not only have access to a full-service on-demand workspace and meeting facilities, but also tap into the social capital created by the membership base.
And although we don’t specifically target any market, we do cater heavily to the tech community given that we’re in the Bay area. Some are consultants or independent professionals, others man small outposts for bigger companies. Our network of members is constantly growing and includes those who specialize in mobile applications, sustainability, film, software development, journalism, graphic design, non-profits, social media, public relations, user experience design and many other fields.
Plus, our members come from all walks of life and hail from many corners of the world. France, Italy, Canada, Russia, India, Australia, Japan, UK, Morocco, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia are just a few of those places.
But beyond the people themselves, what makes Sandbox Suites unique is:
- The multiplication model. Your membership and Sandbox Suites provides you with access to meeting rooms, workspace, and community through out the SF Bay Area. You can have a meeting downtown, get some work done uptown, and still that make that business dinner on Union Sq. So our members not only get an office, but they get an office where and when they need it.
- As a member of Sandbox, you have access to tremendous social capital that is our membership base. On Sandbox Connect (our internal social platform) members can find projects, pitch projects to other members, find designers and coders all in-house. In essence, you can have an idea in the morning for a new app and by that evening have a team in place to get it off the ground — all without leaving workspace.
- We spend an significant amount on the design of our location to be as productive, functional, and inspiration as possible. I literally work from every corner of each space to make sure that it fits those three criteria. No one wants to go back to the cubicle world, so we make our locations fun and unlike any traditional office space you may find. We have games spread our through all our lounges (from giant chess and Jenga to various mind bender toys). We use bright colors and fun furniture. I believe your work space should be fun and inspirational, so we embed those concepts into the design.
- Besides providing a workspace, we are also a social outlet for our members. No one wants just a workspace to work alone. If that was the case our members would stay on their couches. We provide natural “ice breakers” for our members by having various events (lunches, tea time, happy hours, educational speakers) at which they can interact, share ideas, and think outside the box. So, in a way, we are also a social club.
The coworking landscape has certainly changed from when we started a few years ago. The days of renting a big room and filling it with table are gone. My suggestion to anyone trying to launch a coworking space these days would be do your research, know your market, and make sure you have funding and a plan. It takes more money, more time, and more planning to launch a successful space today than ever before.
And it definitely takes endless supplies of Internet access and coffee!
About Roman Gelfer: Roman Gelfer has worked in the equity investment field on both coasts of the U.S. and served as the co-founder and managing director of Caliber Financial, a New York-based investment firm, which was later acquired by Hold Brothers Investment Services. While at Cornell, Roman headed College Town Meal Plan, an off-campus prepaid dining option for Cornell students, a version of which was later adapted by the university. Roman was born in Russia, but grew up in SF, where he lives now.