Bamboo Offers “Family” Style Co-Working Space to Detroit Startups

8/29/13Follow @XconomyDET

Did you know MSNBC’s popular morning talk show, “Morning Joe,” was broadcasting from the Motor City today? I did, because my father, who lives upstate in Lansing, started sending a barrage of text messages urging me to tune in starting at 6 a.m.

Much as I may have wanted to, I couldn’t sit in front of the television all morning because I had an early meeting with the folks behind the new Bamboo Detroit co-working space in downtown Detroit. It turns out Bamboo is doing exactly the kind of economic revitalization, community building, and startup growth work in Detroit that is currently such a hot news topic. “Morning Joe,” after all, just devoted three highly trafficked hours to how to rebuild Detroit.

The story of Bamboo begins with two metro Detroit friends who knew each other through their fathers’ businesses. Michael Ferlito’s family is involved in commercial real estate development, while Brian Davis’s family does construction work.

“We teamed up with them to renovate two clinics in 15 days, which was kind of amazing,” Davis explains. Davis and Ferlito began dabbling in other real estate deals, as well as a startup website that would connect homeowners and construction professionals.

Meanwhile, Davis met Bamboo’s third co-founder, Dave Anderson, at a “lean startup” conference. They clicked, and Anderson suggested they work together on starting a co-working space that very early stage startups could afford.

“It dawned on me that Mike had a building downtown,” Davis says. He feverishly began texting and calling Ferlito once the revelation hit, despite the fact that it was about 1 a.m. Ferlito liked the idea and soon met with Anderson. The two got along so well that Ferlito estimates their first meeting went on for four hours. Anderson suggested the name Bamboo—“grow fast, grow strong”—and, after some renovation and clean-up, the co-working space officially opened in July.

Bamboo provides coffee, wi-fi, and is open 24 hours, accessible by key card. For 9-to-5 access to a shared desk, it’s $89 per month. For 24-hour access to a shared desk, it costs $99 per month. For 24-hour access to a dedicated desk, the cost is $400 per month.

“Our goal with Bamboo is to have partnerships with everybody—we’re not competing,” Ferlito says. “We want Detroit to be the Midwest’s tech hub, but we can’t do that without collaboration.”

So far, Bamboo has 18 tenants working on a range of projects, including one that implements President Obama’s health prevention initiatives on a neighborhood level; Southern Tide, a clothing retailer; and Hell Yeah Detroit and Michipreneur, two local digital-media companies. Anderson is also developing an app called Health Crunch at Bamboo.

Michipreneur’s Amanda Lewan acts as Bamboo’s den mother of sorts. Davis, Ferlito, and Anderson call her “the boss,” and she does the bulk of Bamboo’s marketing and outreach work.

Lewan says Davis sends a text to his Bamboo partners every week asking, “What … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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