“Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to Founders Den…”
When I set out to find an office for PandoDaily’s newest series “Office Crashers,” Founders Den Managing Partner Jason Johnson invited my photographer and me to his shared office space, which has only been around for 15 months. I say “only,” because it seems so long ago that I did the story on the launch party, where Mayfield Fund Managing Director Tim Chang was rocking out with his band singing the Black Eyed Peas song, “I Gotta Feeling.”
“People always say that to us,” exclaims Managing Partner Jonathan Abrams. “In that time about 50 companies have had desks here.”
Founders Den only offers short-term leases, so it’s meant to be transient. They’re very selective in who they choose to house and it’s by referral only, as they want to ensure the companies have the ability to grow fast enough so they’re forced to find new, larger space to continue to expand. The typical number of employees companies have before they start bursting out of the seams is six.
I was under the impression that it was going to be home to mainly serial entrepreneurs, but it turns out that many members are first-timers, and companies to which the Managing Partners Jonathan Abrams, Jason Johnson, Michael Levit and Zachary Bogue are advisors –which could some could argue would make the Founders Den more of an accelerator. But it’s not. Founders Den does not provide funding, take equity, have mandatory programming, have a formal application process, or start and graduate startups all at the same time. It’s a community of the experienced and not-so-experienced all under one roof, with each entrepreneur trying to build his/her own company. The goal of Founders Den is for members to grow their start-ups, have an exit, and return to start another one. So, if they’re not serial entrepreneurs now, they likely will be at some point.
The biggest challenge the managing partners have faced over the past year is that they didn’t realize how much work was involved being a “landlord.”
“The dishwasher breaking down, and the door breaking, the toilets breaking, all kinds of stupid little things,” laughs Abrams.
Managing the Den was not intended to be a full-time job. Each of the managing partners are entrepreneurs themselves, starting new companies. It has taken some time, but they’re learning to balance the two. They now have a Den Mother, Shannon Chircorp, who manages the house so that Den partners can focus more on their startups. They also are focusing more on the foundation of Founders Den, which is to be a community of quality entrepreneurs, and truly avoid any possibility of being seen as an accelerator.
Heading into year two, the partners don’t have any plans to expand the size of the Den or add more locations — although they have had many offers to expand to cities across the globe.
“As much as we’d like to be the ‘community center’ for founders around the world, we intend to stay focused on the founder community of the Bay Area”, added Jason Johnson.
Founders Den by the Numbers:
15 Months in business
12 Companies at the start
20 Companies today
65 Desks in use
30 Companies come and gone
50 Million dollars in venture capital accepted by member companies
1 Exit: Mark Cuban bought “Jungle Cents”
100 cups of coffee, Red Bull, Diet Coke, and Rockstar Energy Drink consumed daily
Notable Visitors: Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, Evernote CEO Phil Libin, MC Hammer, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (Has a desk), BranchOut CEO RIck Marini, SimpleGeo CEO Jay Adelson, Slide CEO Max Levchin, Justin.tv Creator Justin Kan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, just to name a few.
* If you have a cool office for us to crash over the next two months, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org We’re looking for unique cultures, activities, off-campus or on-campus retreats, and more. Remember, we need high-speed Internet so we can work out of your space for the day! Next week we visit Zynga. I hear they have an actual candy shop at their headquarters as well as their own Barista.