January 16, 2019

A Look Inside the Operations and Culture of Industrious

There are an abundance of coworking spaces in New York City and one coworking company that is growing nationwide is Industrious.

Industrious offers desks and suites for companies of all sizes, from companies that have reached a key milestone of post-Series A funding to venture capitalists, and even solopreneurs. The spaces are designed with modern sensibilities in mind and will offer its own set of unique perks to its members, including workout areas and rooms for new mothers.

Anna Squires Levine, Industrious' GM of North America Coworking, sat down with us at one of the locations to talk about the founding of the company. She also shared details on what it’s like to work out of their space, and the company's plans for growth.

Colin Barry [CB]: Before we talk about Industrious, let’s talk about you and your career. What is your background with startups?

Anna Squires Levine [ASL]: I studied organic chemistry in school and I went down on this path of studying biophysics in medical school. I even did a lot of research in drug development, especially with the flu. I was committed to “a life in a lab,” until I took the MCATs and got a little afraid. I knew if I wanted to do this, I had to commit and that’s when I found out I wasn’t.

Anna Squires Levine
Anna Squires Levine, GM of North America, Coworking at Industrious

So, I took a right turn and ended up at McKinsey. I loved it and spent about four years primarily working with healthcare and pharmaceutical companies and organizations in the public health and non-profit sector. From there, that’s how I ended up doing volunteer work in South Africa, where I started my own foundation that focused on leadership development and how to develop and retain leaders within the local government, as well as combating HIV in the country.

Then I moved back home and lived in New York where I started ForAmerica, a for-profit political consulting company that focused on recruiting folks to run for Congress. We had amazing candidates but, long story short, it was a complete failure. We had the right team and funding, but we were a bit naive when it came to running a company in the realm of US politics. I felt like I had people down but, in a moment of extreme sadness, I was telling this story with a friend of mine named Jamie Hodari, the co-founder of Industrious.

In a spur of the moment, he asked me to join Industrious. I replied, “What are you talking about? I’m coming from a different kind of startup world.” But he urged me to meet the team and join the company, knowing my experience with building teams.

Over the next few months, I met with other members of the team and was impressed by the work that they were doing. But, I was most impressed by everyone’s generosity in nearly every category. I think having that mentality of “everyone having your back” is wonderful. Stuff goes wrong in a startup all the time and it's comforting to know that if I mess up, someone will be able to help me out.

That was two-and-a-half years ago since I’ve joined and I’ve had several roles since then, and now I run the whole network of spaces. It’s an honor, and it’s hard work, but I’m proud to be part of the company.

CB: Now onto Industrious itself. What is the origin story behind the coworking space?

ASL: Jamie and his co-founder, Justin Stewart, have known each other since preschool and have been best friends ever since. Their friendship has kind of defined Industrious from the very beginning.

Prior to the company, Jamie was running a virtual university for Rwanda that was exclusively focusing on people who have escaped the [Rwandan] genocide. It was out of a small coworking space in New York City, and he was going back-and-forth from America to Africa. Justin, on the other hand, was working in real estate and had situations where he was unable to meet with potential clients at an office, instead of meeting them at a local coffee shop.

Industrious Founders
Industrious Co-Founders: Jamie Hodari and Jamie Stewart

Their original thesis was to find an office that they both could call home. They both wanted a space that was both professional and transient and one that could appeal to other organizations. So, the two of them rented space in Chicago, but the game changer for them was that early-on, large companies started coming to them, which is something they didn’t anticipate, asking to put teams in their rented space. For example, Pinterest’s entire Chicago team came to them and is still part of Industrious.

Their focus changed almost immediately from the two of them seeing it as a narrowly defined purpose for them, but to a new way on how companies will look at real estate. They also saw that this wasn’t a big city phenomenon, but also something for smaller ones as well.

CB: What are some of the characteristics that set the Boston spaces apart from the NYC spaces?

ASL: We have about 50 locations across the country in 35 different cities. We’ve focused on locations where people want to be and where people are, as opposed to chasing down real estate deals.

In New York, we have two with five or six additional locations in the pipeline. Our first location in New York was in Brooklyn at Prospect Heights, which is a truly residential area; There’s the main strip with some cool restaurants on the side and everyone either walks or bikes to work. The Industrious location in Prospect Heights reflects that, as there are a lot of local community events being held at the space and tons of local businesses and startups work out of there.

Industrious Hi Rise
The rooftop deck at the Prospect Heights is popular for both networking and events.

One thing that’s particularly unique for New York is a lot of investors, both venture and growth, have offices here. There have been situations where an company looking for investment will by happenstance meet with one of the investors. And we’ve had solo entrepreneurs meet up with teams and find out they are a perfect fit for that company’s growing team.

As for smaller differences? Each location will receive locally brewed coffee and food from nearby bakeries.

CB: Who are some of the typical clients of Industrious? What kinds of companies? Are there any member stories that have stood out to you?

ASL: The companies that come into Industrious, from a demographics perspective, run the gamut. We have recruiting companies, tech companies, legal, financial services, and even Instagram influencers. Across the board, we don’t see a concentration of one particular industry that will use Industrious, but on average they tend to be more established. That being said, we will have people joining us from startups that just formed yesterday.

Regarding notable companies that are part of Industrious, some of those include Spotify, Pinterest, Verizon, and the list goes on and on.

We hear about our member’s experiences all the time, but what’s notable for me is how the members interact with one another during the day and look out for one another. Recently, one of our members had an unfortunate family emergency. The other members of that space decided to come together and start a meal train so that they could all eat together every night.

You can work all day and be stuck in your office for 20 hours, but you need a group to personally support you.

CB: What are some of the perks that members can receive? Any one that you appreciate the most?

ASL: While we have a lot of great perks for members, but I think a lot of people stay based on their experience with our community management teams.

Aside from that, members will have all of the features an office can provide, like luxury furniture, Wi-Fi, and access to private meeting and phone rooms.

From a food and beverage perspective, we have catered breakfast and lunch throughout the day and rotated coffee not just locally, but every month, there will be a brand from another part of the country. So, on top of trying a local place, you can try what the Scottsdale or Los Angeles location has to offer their members.

For events, we offer our members happy hours that range from wine tasting to maybe a bruschetta bar.

Union Square Industrious
The Industrious offices in Union Square NYC.

CB: Can you share plans for growth in 2019 for NYC?

ASL: Of course. It’s going to be a big year for us. We plan on launching 50 new locations nationwide.

In New York we plan on expanding into surrounding neighborhoods such as Tribeca, near Bryant Park, and Brooklyn since our location in Prospect Heights is full. When you’re a member, you have access to all of these locations. If you want to go to our Seaport location in Boston, just let a community manager from that location know and they will set it up for you.

Colin Barry is an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash
Photos courtesy of Industrious