Serial entrepreneur Jonathan Abrams is adding a little class to the co-working model with a new office called the Founders Den.
Now, I’m a big fan of some of San Francisco’s other co-working spaces, where very early companies (or, in some cases, anyone else who’s interested) can share an office. But I’ll admit that they get a lot of their charm from their scrappiness. I think the quintessential co-working team is a pair or trio of programmers in their twenties, looking like they walked straight from their bedroom to the office, crammed around a couple of desks, coding.
Abrams, who previously founded Socializr, Friendster, and HotLinks, doesn’t fit into that model. (He’s the furthest left in the photo above.) Neither do the Founders Den’s other managers, Jason Johnson (former vice president of marketing and business development at Dolby Laboratories, pictured center right), Michael Levit (former executive vice president of marketing and business development at Vendio, pictured far right), or Zachary Bogue (pictured center left, co-founder of Montara Capital Partners and, incidentally, husband of Google executive Marissa Mayer).
The quartet said they are all developing new startup projects, and they were interested in working in the same office, but they didn’t find any of the existing co-working options very appealing. So they thought up the Founders Den, which is aimed at a slightly more experienced, exclusive crowd. Abrams said that if most incubators and co-working offices are like college (Dogpatch Labs describes itself as “a frathouse for geeks”), the den is more like grad school.
So how is this space actually different? Well, there are some physical differences. There’s a large clubhouse area for events or hosting guests. The clubhouse includes desks and Internet connections, so guests could stick around and work there for an afternoon. The furniture is a little nicer than what you’d find in most co-working spaces (I spent at least a minute talking to Levit about the softness of one of the pillows). And there are a few small offices (plus numerous conference rooms) for companies who want to be near other startups without literally being in the same room.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the emphasis on exclusivity. There’s no formal application process. You don’t have to be an experienced entrepreneur, but you will need a reference or recommendation to get in, either through one of the managers or their advisors and sponsors. (The sponsors include DLA Piper, Norwest Venture Partners, SecondMarket, and office furniture company Turnstone/Steelcase.) I’m not allowed to tell you the office’s exact address, though I can say that it’s in San Francisco’s South of Market district, near a whole bunch of Web startups including Twitter.
As for how much it costs once you get in, Abrams said the rent is basically market rate. And since the Founders Den isn’t an incubator, tenants don’t have to accept any investment (though there’s always a possibility that one of the managers or advisors may want to invest on their own).