Real Office Centers is more than just a co-working space — it is a living, breathing entity filled with multiple layers of interweaving communities that make up LA’s tech ecosystem.
You have one-person operations that tap away on their laptops at the tables in open workspaces. You have incubators (Howard Marks’s StartEngine), financial & legal services (Silicon Valey Bank, Western Alliance, Sheppard Mullin), up & running startups (Zingy, Buddytruck), full-on businesses that occupy multiple units (Simply Hired, MD Insider, Greenspire).
Hell, you even have a media enterprise, Business Rockstars, whose daily shows, featuring top names from business and entertainment, broadcast from the lobby-based studio.
And this is all by design, courtesy of ROC CEO Ron McElroy.
McElroy, a veteran of the shared work space industry, had sold his 15 executive office spaces in October 2007 — a full year before the world woke up to a massive recession (talk about fortuitous timing!). Not content with staying retired, McElroy re-entered the shared workspace in Newport Beach in 2010 with a vision far beyond the staid executive spaces that dotted the landscape during two decades prior.
Says McElroy, “Every industry has evolved at a breakneck pace. Except co-working. If you’re gonna spend 14 hours a day grinding at work it might as well be social. To make the office / workspace evolve, I felt like it needed these dimensions that would make it more meaningful than just an office. I wanted it to be a space where people could engage, make money, and do something purposeful.
“For an office to evolve beyond this physical thing, you need to bring in everything that’s important to a company — capital, a good environment where they want to send a lot of time, a social environment, which had been completely opposed to going home to work or in front of computer (part of why social sites exploded), to make it an enriching environment.”
With weekly juice bar & food truck socials (yes, totally LA), monthly happy hours (and a few member-hosted gatherings in between), an open kitchen on each floor (the second floor even has a big screen TV for impromptu football nights) and a huge rooftop for communal dining and gathering, Real Office Center is a space that makes it easy for its members to get to know each other, share ideas, and even collaborate if the fit is right.
Add to that member benefits from Microsoft, IBM, AWS, Rackspace, and ESRI, you can see why ROC maintains a consistent occupancy rate above 95%.
ROC even helps companies scale up & down with minimal risk, such as when early tenant UBER grew from five guys to 50 in three months, and then moved divisions inside and out ROC as they worked towards building a more permanent workspace to house all their operations (Uber’s permanent LA office is set to open soon in a 50,000 square foot space blocks away from ROC).
“The days of going to an office, closing your door, and grinding a day out shouldn’t exist anymore. It should be more like come to work, be fulfilled, engage, socialize, and make as much money, if not more, and have good purposes behind doing what you’re doing. So consequently, events, education, capital, and green sustainable initiatives are the four components that I felt were important to bring into this shared office environment.”
Santa Monica was the prototype to prove that concept, opening in March 2012 in a 45,000 square foot, three story building previously occupied by the likes of Google, Oracle, and PacBell.
It was a huge gamble, especially when you consider its size and the economic times surrounding its opening, but the investment has paid off nicely, which has allowed McElroy to focus on expanding the ROC concept into new markets.
Says McElroy, “We have witnessed a synergy of all these things that came colliding together — incubators, accelerators, the VC guys, the angels — all focused on this location as a hotbed of new up & coming companies. This market is one of the most vibrant active markets I have ever seen, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“On top of what we’ve been able to prove in Santa Monica under one roof, [we asked ourselves] how do we get the next evolution to create an environment that not only can make people feel good that they can come to, but draw from this environment to contribute to their success on so many other level that you cant find anywhere else?”
It is this size + community model has allowed ROC’s relationships to expand into other communities, including Honolulu and Irvine, creating spaces that are deeply interconnected with the surrounding schools, businesses, and governments to make living, breathing workspaces in other markets.
In the 90’s, cities everywhere rushed to build Central Entertainment Districts as a means to provide a safe, fun environment for locals to enjoy parts of town that had long been abandoned. And because of these CEDs, communities everywhere are thriving. Now, in the 21st century, local governments are looking to build Central Business Hubs to lure and develop its own local tech talent.
ROC has spent the past year renovating a 120 year old building in Honolulu’s Chinatown, the result of working with Hawaii’s State Economic Development Board to develop a viable platform for their startup industry, which has received sizable Federal funds to stimulate small business growth, particularly via the Navy to develop alternative energies and clean technology.
ROC also formed a partnership with UC Irvine and ExoNexus, whose accelerator CommNexus (backed by Qulacomm, Broadcom, Cisco, Peregrine, and others) is providing capital to seed small companies throughout Southern California, which is known for its focus on hard sciences & bioscience.
It is this local education + business ecosystem that ROC has been working with to grow & produce more jobs, by forming deep ties up & down the west coast with USC, UCLA, Pepperdine, Irvine, SDSU, USD, among others, and recently launched a paid internship program that pairs UCLA’s Anderson School of Business entrepreneurs with ROC-based companies.
Each new location is being built out via strategic partnerships, partners that according to McElroy, “Believe in expanding the cause of education, small business development to help their communities grow & produce more jobs… that at the end of the day is what the concept is all about.”