By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
During a brief interview, Stewart recounted how he and his childhood friend, Jamie Hodari, founded Industrious. Stewart was running the U.S. division for a Chinese-based company. He was the only one in the U.S. and his boss told him to get some office space in Chicago to host clients.
“I wanted to be around that energy that I was so used to,” Stewart said.
At first he tried an open floor coworking space, but even though it had a ton of energy it was the wrong kind of energy, Stewart said.
“It was kind of young,” he said. “There was a keg in the corner and people were on razor scooters. It was good for traditional out of the box startups who were just thinking up an idea. But it wasn’t right for someone like myself who wanted to bring clients in and meet later stage companies.”
Stewart left and went to an executive suites office, which had an even worse vibe, he said.
“If I wanted to introduce myself to someone in the hallway, no one cared,” Stewart said. “I said this isn’t any good. There has got to be a hybrid between the high energy and the professional. There has got to be an in between. So I decided to start one of my own. I brought my business partner (Hodari, co-founder) on and I said let’s do one of these.”
In 2013, they picked Chicago for their first location, close to their Midwestern roots. Both founders grew up as next door neighbors in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
“Before we had any dry wall up, we had room for 82 spots and we had well over 600 applications,” Stewart said. They were full from day one and they’ve been full ever since, he said.
Then they launched a second location in Atlanta and both of them quit their full time jobs to work solely on Industrious.
Today, Industrious has 12 locations around the country including its only site in Texas on the entire 11th floor of a brand new high rise office building at 201 W.Fifth St., in the heart of Austin’s downtown area. The 19,000 square foot space boasts lots of natural light with floor to ceiling windows in the offices and gorgeous views of Austin. The space has 83 private offices and lots of common spaces. Desks start at $500 a month with private offices starting at $925. The space has superfast Internet. It also plans to have a fitness room with showers, a new mother’s room, concierge service, huddle rooms and members-only events. It also features indoor parking on a first come, first serve basis and a monthly discounted rate with Luxe Valet service.
The core customer for Industrious is later stage, more mature companies, Stewart said.
“Not that there is anything wrong with the startup world,” he said. “I just think people can appreciate being around other like-minded people later in their career. People aren’t trying to sell something or looking for funding. It’s a place where people are on the same page.”
Industrious also works with later stage companies like Pinterest, Spotify and Pandora. They work with established companies looking for flexible workspace, Stewart said.
“You won’t see the name Industrious anywhere in this space,” Stewart said. “We want people to feel like they are coming into their own space – not like they are coming into an Industrious. We want to represent them well.”
The companies are here to showcase themselves, not to showcase us, Stewart said.
The Austin Industrious location is 64 percent full right now. Its members include sole proprietors like a graphic designer or up to 20 person teams like Zynga, the gaming company.
“We put a lot of our energy and efforts into hospitality,” Stewart said.
Industrious members also get access to all the other offices nationwide, Stewart said.
Austin was actually slated to be Industrious’ second location after its Chicago launch, Stewart said. But he couldn’t find the right office space, he said. He began looking in 2013 and he made six trips to Austin before finding the space.
“We wanted a building that would allow a lot of light in and that wouldn’t be super-corporate,” he said.
Industrious faces a lot of competition in the coworking space now in Austin. The coworking options for individuals, startups and companies has just exploded in last five years. Capital Factory was the first downtown coworking space that opened up in 2011. Since then, TechSpace, WeWork, Galvanize and Fiber Cove all have launched downtown co-working offices.
But that doesn’t worry Stewart. He thinks of the coworking space as a similar model to a hotel. It’s all about the hospitality experience and how the staff treat people on whether they want to maintain an office there, Stewart said. He thinks that is Industrious’ competitive advantage in creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and like coming to work.
“Anyone can put glass walls up,” Stewart said. “But it’s about effectively managing the space and getting people to stay….If you are not managed effectively, it’s going to be very hard for you to be sustainable.”
Industrious has two employees in Austin: a community manager and a community coordinator. Sarah Lawton Hawkins is the community manager and Jeremiah Dalmacio is the operations associate for Industrious Austin.
Overall, the company has 44 people nationwide. The company also has retreats twice a year to bring everyone together. The last one was in New Orleans in January and the next one is later this month in New York.
“We don’t want people to feel like they are here for no purpose,” Stewart said. “We believe in them and they’ll believe in our members.”
Industrious this month closed on $37 million in financing. The company is looking at opening up additional locations in Dallas and Houston and it might open a second Austin location in the future, Stewart said.