Like most startups, Social Tables started in my apartment. Between that founding day in early 2011 and late 2015, the company had four more offices in Washington, DC — a slightly larger apartment, an incubator (The Fort), a coworking space (1776), and a subleased office from a government contractor.
As our sublease’s end date was in sight, the search for a more permanent home began. Staying in DC proper was important for me for several reasons. First, we are active members of the #dctech community. Second, we are proud of the renaissance the city has undergone and want to be in the thick of it. Third, most of our workforce lives and plays in DC. Finally, we wanted the new office to be in the heart of the region so that it could serve as the epicenter of our community.
Six months into the search, we zeroed in on a space we liked: 31,000 square feet of contiguous space in Metro Center. As far as the lease went, I cared more about one term than any other: tenant improvements (TI) budget — the funds that the landlord invests in the buildout. The more they spend, the less we have to.
Once the deal was done, we sat down with our architects, VOA, and set out to design the best office in DC.
We started with a clean slate: 100% open plan with meeting rooms lined on the periphery.
We wanted to make sure you could see one end of the office from the other.
Open and flexible. No one has an office and everyone’s desks are on wheels. The goal is to make sure we’re collaborating, colliding, and no seating configuration is set in stone.
This is the part of the space where sales and marketing meet (1 + 1 = 3).
Rohit is moving his desk to join his product team for the quarter.
95% of the desks can be converted to standing desks with the press of a button.
As we were designing the space we realized that we needed the flexibility to give some teams a place to focus as a unit. To address that, we added three 8-person collaboration rooms around the floor.
Each of the three collab rooms has a TV, wall-to-wall whiteboards, and doors.
Music. We have Sonos environments throughout the office so that music is constantly playing. This doesn’t only create a positive vibe but also makes sure Tablers can have a conversation without feeling like they’re being listened to.
Setting up 14 distinct environments wasn’t easy…
The lobby. Instead of the traditional reception area where a designated administrator is forced to greet anyone that walks by, we decided to make our entrance a multi-purpose gathering place. It serves as a destination for employees to cowork, meet, and socialize and as an event space for the startup and hospitality communities in the DC region.
Our entrance is on brand and outrageous.
During lunch time the space fills up.
For our large communal table, we chose serpentine tables because they create more of a sense of community. More people can be seen and more conversations can be had.
One of the two large conference rooms with retractable walls that open up to our lobby. The airwall that separates them is one giant whiteboard. The furniture is writeable and on wheels.
The space can turn into any room setup in minutes. This is what our monthly all-hands looks like.
The inspiration for the lobby area comes from the guest experience at hotels like The Ace Hotel and Viceroy. Following the trend of self check-in at hotels, we setup Envoy, an automated system that lets visitors sign-in from an iPad and informs employees when someone is there to see them.
Being in the hospitality industry, we practice what we preach. Every single employee serves as a receptionist that greets and guides visitors when they enter so that no one has that awkward “patient waiting area” feeling.
Meeting rooms. If there is one thing we pride ourselves on, it’s running great meetings. (Our software powers many of the world’s meetings and events.) We strategically placed 25 meeting rooms around the office with the goal of making them accessible from every part of the office.
We tried to make ordinary meeting furniture pop (and stay on brand, of course).
Theme rooms. In order to get people out of their comfort zone and to let them experience their work in a different way we gave some rooms themes (e.g. we have a room called Grandma’s Living Room and another that is Mad Men themed).
At lunchtime the sun fills up The Park.
Our 4-bike spin studio doubles up as a meeting room.
The ballroom is a meeting room where the chairs are yoga balls and mats
Runway is a meeting room that is furnished with objects from our previous offices’ and serves as a reminder that cash is a startup’s scarcest resource.
Another meeting room, The Greenhouse, is where no idea is a bad idea. Share your ideas, watch them grow, and prune everything at the end.
We designated four corners of the office as areas for Tablers to congregate or relax in a semi-private setting.
This corner is Morocco themed.
Napping is a welcome way to recharge.
Demos rooms. We stood up 5 demo rooms because some of the feedback we got at our previous space was that the floor could get noisy. These are tiny one-person rooms for the purpose of doing sales demos, training customers, or making calls.
Trade show booth. One of the problems software companies have is that showing their wares is not easy so we designed a trade show booth into the space. The area has our software on display 24/7 so that anyone who visits our office can experience our products.
Museum. We also incorporated a small museum into the space. It’s our area for displaying meaningful artifacts that we would feel guilty throwing away. It also serves a way to educate newer Tablers about our beginnings.
The museum houses everything from our original snack stand to magazines that have featured us over the years.
Family kitchen. Despite the fact we have a large space, we wanted to have one kitchen so that everyone would congregate there. We made it open so that it’s inviting and conducive to collisions, which are proven to bring about collaboration and innovation.
The island in the middle of the kitchen doubles up as a buffet during communal meals.
Thanks. The design, buildout, and move, couldn’t have happened without an incredible team: Sam Cicotello, Will Henry, Angelina Cho, Kristin Zeitler, and countless Tablers who volunteered their time. We also relied on some great partners: VOA, our architects; Ezra Weinblatt,our broker; Kurt Phillipson,our project manager from C2C; and our building’s owner.
Moreover, this was all made possible thanks to the hard work of current (and former) Tablers who got our company to where it is today.
Onward. On the 28th, we are holding a ribbon cutting press conference with DC’s Mayor, Muriel Bowser where we will renew our commitment to the DC Tech community (hey, this is an 8 year lease, after all!) and make a special promise to the community-at-large.