Intrepid Labs: Boston’s Newest Co-Working Spot for Maturing Startups

1/25/12Follow @xconomy

Boston has no place for “serious, venture-backed startups” to grow from five employees to 25 employees, akin to San Francisco’s RocketSpace, or New York City’s General Assembly, says Mark Kasdorf.

Enter Intrepid Labs, the co-working space he recently established in the former digs of another co-working space (Dogpatch Labs) at 222 Third Street near Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA.

Intrepid Labs comes as the answer to a problem Kasdorf himself was facing. His mobile development company Intrepid Pursuits started with three people in the co-working unit (C3) of the Cambridge Innovation Center around the spring of 2010. It grew pretty quickly to eight people, so was kicked out of the C3. The building gave them an attractive “transition” rate to move into the more grownup office space, says Kasdorf, but they outgrew that, too, hitting about 15 employees last fall.

“We had to get real office space, which was more expensive than we could afford as a bootstrapped consulting company,” Kasdorf says. “As we started digging into commercial real estate, we realized how bad it is for startups.”

The Boston area has its share of coffeehouse-style co-working spaces for pre-seed companies with a few employees, but nothing for the more mature (revenues, funded, five employees and up) crowd, says Kasdorf. Traditional office spaces require three-year leases, a time period in which a lot could change for a startup, says Kasdorf. They also require companies to get their own furniture, printers and scanner, and the like. “This whole litany of things that CIC had been offering to us became obvious, but it was still really expensive,” Kasdorf says

In October he started checking out other office space in The American Twine Office Park at 222 Third Street, and saw the vacant fourth floor. “We walk in here and I’m blown away,” he says. “Everything about it screams, ‘This would be a fun place to work.’”

Inspired by General Assembly, he signed a lease for three years, with the intent of creating a co-working space for growing startups like his. Kasdorf and his team moved in during November. While Intrepid Labs has the long lease it originally wanted to avoid, it’s subletting to other startups on a month-to-month basis. So what about that big expense? Kasdorf says it is pre-paying some of the rent, while the “landlord has taken a real interest in what we’re doing and is really flexible with us.”

For startup tenants, a dedicated desk costs $500 per month, while contractors and others who don’t need to leave behind equipment can rent a floating, “hot” desk for $300 per month. That $500 price tag is about double what the C3 charges, says Kasdorf. That’s on purpose, as Intrepid wants to attract growing startups with five employees and more. “That’s the pain point we’re trying to solve,” he says.

Intrepid Labs has about 7,000 square feet of open office space and a handful of conference rooms and phone booths. They provide the enterprise-level Internet connection, printer, scanner, and, of course, coffee and breakfast snacks. Kasdorf’s brother Chris is Intrepid’s office manager and community builder.

In addition to Intrepid Pursuits, the Labs houses Leaf, a roughly 15-person startup developing intelligent payment hardware and software for brick-and-mortar stores, and The Tap Lab, a social mobile gaming company that graduated from the 2011 TechStars Boston program. (I see we have a bit of a mobile cluster here.)

Intrepid has 30 desks occupied across the three startups at this point, and it expects that number to hit 50 to 60 by the end of February, Kasdorf says. It has room for 115 desks total, or under 10 companies, but plans to fill 80 desks so it can stick to its mission of giving its tenants room to grow. So, startups with five employees and more: move fast.

Like New York’s General Assembly, a big focus of the space is on startup, outreach, community, and education (though that component won’t be as structured as GA’s), Kasdorf says. Intrepid Labs is holding its first event next Wednesday, featuring One Laptop Per Child, Tip Tap, Brass Monkey, and Coachup.

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