The co-founder of Houston-based digital agency ChaiONE has launched another company. START is a startup accelerator that provides an environment to learn, network and conduct business in a cooperative setting. Clients will pay rent and in return receive desk space, an address, wifi, printing, with options to receive more services for higher rent. Khandelwal hopes to create a symbiotic relationship, perhaps hiring START designers or programmers to fill outsourcing needs at ChaiONE, referring START tenants to “angel investors” when appropriate, and even setting up networking opportunities.
Russ: This is the BusinessMakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com coming to you today from Start and I'm with the co-founder of Start Gaurav Khandelwal, also a founder of ChaiOne. He's been on the show before but Gaurav, welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show and thanks for having me over here at Start.
Gaurav: Russ, always a pleasure.
Russ: You bet. Well, let's start by you telling us what is Start?
Gaurav: Start is a tech co-working space. We found a niche in Houston that I think needs to be filled.
Gaurav: If you compare cities that are large in the state of the United States, like New York and San Francisco –
Gaurav: - they have a large number of co-working spaces that allow entrepreneurs to create companies.
Gaurav: Houston, unfortunately, has not had that so we want to fill that void.
Russ: Okay, so co-working means that peers kinda show up, maybe a lot of independent contractors, maybe some partnerships, and they work in the same space and perhaps collaborate and share ideas?
Gaurav: Yeah, if you look at the last four to five years, you'll see that there's a big movement towards people working from home or people starting businesses, working out of Starbucks.
Gaurav: Those aren't very conducive to client meetings.
Gaurav: And so we wanted to provide a professional environment where small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers could bring their clients and also create an environment where they could learn and work with other people that were in similar businesses.
Russ: Okay. Well I'm somewhat familiar with co-working operations and stuff and I've thought it sounds really cool, except I always worried what happens if I bring somebody in and I've got a competitor in there? I mean, it's just something, I guess, that you have to live with?
Gaurav: I always believe that a rising tide raises all boats.
Gaurav: So, if you have enough of the same kind of people trying to bring technology to the forefront in Houston –
Gaurav: - we're all going to win.
Russ: All right. That's good positive thinking, for sure. Now I know from ChaiOne and your background that there's been this very successful initiative in the area of mobile computing. Is that perhaps an emphasis here at Start?
Gaurav: You know, we will bring that naturally to the table. We see a lot of movement towards mobile. We want to encourage people in Houston to move towards mobile. There are clients that are demanding it.
Gaurav: We don't' require that folks that come work out of her have had a background in mobile.
Gaurav: We wanna bring that to the table.
Russ: Okay, okay. So from your perspective as a technology owner and operator, you just see this need and you're fulfilling it in a business model because people that come to the co-working space have to pay rent, essentially, right?
Gaurav: This is a for-profit venture.
Gaurav: People have to pay for the desk space that they occupy.
Gaurav: We do want to be very accommodating in the sense that we want to encourage community to come and meet here.
Gaurav: The pricing is very affordable and the space, unlike other spaces, is open 24/7 with free Wi-Fi and free coffee and free printing for the members.
Russ: Okay, so give us a price range, maybe, about what one might expect to pay to come here and take advantage of this.
Gaurav: Sure. So there are four different price plans. The first one is a virtual plan, where you can have an address and have a receptionist and your mail delivered here.
Gaurav: For only $49.00 a month.
Gaurav: With that, you get one hour free of conference time in this room. The next one is –
Russ: One hour free per month?
Gaurav: Per month.
Gaurav: Yes, and they can buy more for additional $25.00 for each hour.
Gaurav: Okay, with a two-hour minimum.
Gaurav: The next plan is a co-working plan, which is $249.00 a month that gives you 24/7 access to the space with unlimited Wi-Fi, coffee, printing, and you get the same amenities that you would get with the virtual plan.
Gaurav: Mail and receptionist 9:00 to 5:00, things like that.
Gaurav: And the third one is a dedicated desk plan for $349.00 a month. They get the same amenities, except you get five hours of conference room time.
Gaurav: You know, with all of the above.
Russ: Really cool.
Russ: And so, but the dedicated desk, so maybe you actually have an assigned desk then, here, in the _____?
Gaurav: Absolutely, there's a desk with your name all over it.
Gaurav: And a drawer with a lock and a key that you can, you know, keep for yourself.
Russ: Okay, really, really cool. Really interesting. Now, you know, once again, being this owner and operator of a technology company, do you see the opportunity or a chance that you might even find new talented people with products that you can use with ChaiOne and develop in partnership with them?
Gaurav: Yeah, you know, there are a few angles to this play.
Gaurav: One, of course, is for us to scale as a company at ChaiOne.
Gaurav: We do need access to a broad variety of developers and designers.
Russ: Okay, okay.
Gaurav: That we can't all afford to hire and so we hope that some of the talent that works out of here, we could send some overflow work to; we could hire those guys in the future; things like that. On another angle, I am involved with the Houston Angel Network –
Gaurav: -and I know a few VCs and Angels in town that would love to meet these developers and designers.
Gaurav: And see if something organic comes out of this space like this.
Russ: Okay, okay. People like angel investors, will they sorta have free access to this cool place?
Gaurav: Yeah, you know, we're going to encourage – we will do a _____ reception here in a couple of months.
Gaurav: Where we'll expose investors to see the type of folks that are working out of here and what they're working on.
Gaurav: Maybe eventually we'll create a fund.
Gaurav: And invest in some companies that might come out of here.
Russ: Okay, really cool. So we're in the conference room right now, right?
Russ: So what this is about is the facility, and I must add the facility is pretty cool. But describe it to our audience.
Gaurav: Sure, so we have a conference room that is available. It's brightly lit, very professional. We have a dedicated office that we want to rent to an anchor tenant.
Gaurav: Preferably someone in the technology space.
Gaurav: We have a lounge and a full kitchen, with a gas burner and something, you know, you can cook things in. We have a large co-working area and then we have a massive garage with a Ping-Pong table. We want to put a few more game tables in there but the space is big enough where we can hold, host events. And then behind the building, we have 10,000 square feet of parking –
Gaurav: - that's available. That's been a gripe with some of the other spaces around town –
Gaurav: - that parking was not easy. We thought it's very important to have parking along with the building.
Russ: Well and if you're wildly successful, you can start adding on the facility there and make a parking garage, right?
Gaurav: Yeah, possibly. You know this building used to be a two-bedroom, two-bath house.
Gaurav: So there are two full baths, with showers, available here.
Gaurav: There's a new bike path that the city has built, two blocks from here.
Gaurav: The Dynamo stadium is three blocks from here.
Gaurav: And the new light rail is three blocks from here.
Gaurav: So quite easy to get to.
Russ: All right, well it sounds like it's very well situated and located and I just love the way it's laid out and I wish you good luck. I wanna kinda stay in touch. Maybe we come back some time in the near term and see what it's like when you have people actually in here co-developing, co-working.
Gaurav: Absolutely. We'd love to host you again.
Russ: That's Gaurav Khandelwal, the co-founder of Start and this is the BusinessMakers Show heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.