Connecting creative people runs through the blood of the Crew business; the Montreal-based startup provides a platform featuring vetted designers and developers, and gets them connected with people who need help with a project.
So it’s not surprising that Crew would apply this philosophy to its newest office space. The Crew team has decided that its new office space, set to open in April 2016 on the first floor of historic 360 Saint-Jacques, former headquarters of The Royal Bank of Canada, will also include space for the startup community. The Crew Collective & Cafe will be part coffee shop, part-members only coworking space, and part Crew office space.
“When we first thought about opening an office, we thought, ‘What would Crew look like if it was a physical space?’” – Mikael Cho, Crew founder
As the nature of work shifts from a typical 9-5 to something more freelancer-focused, Crew founder Mikael Cho said that this can lead to the feeling of being all “on your own” – freelancers often work from home or jump between coffee shops not ideally suited for working. As a platform for freelancers, Cho said that it only makes sense for Crew to create a space where people working on projects feel like they can have access to that creative network.
“We treat our customers and members as if they’re part of our team so we felt our office space should be the same way. Open to our customers and to the community of makers, just like our online site is,” said Cho. “We can create a stronger connection with people and deeper relationships. The online world only offers so much. It’s completely different being at a good party and meeting people there versus seeing it streamed as a video on Facebook.”
While anyone will be able to work out of the public cafe, only 20 spots will be available for those who want coworking memberships within the Crew office. The team is looking for people across industries, from web and mobile design, to industrial design, music, and video. The variety is meant to spur creation within verticals that don’t usually get to collaborate.
“We’ll be looking not only for top makers but also up-and-coming makers who value their craft — Who don’t view work as being solely about the money,” said Cho. “There’s an attention to craftsmanship not only in how they practice their art but how they work with others. Everything starts with the people. Whether it’s a company, an event, a restaurant, or a community, it all comes down to the people that make it.”
The opening of Crew’s office space closely coincides with WeWork opening its first Canadian location in Montreal in March. WeWork, which is headquartered in New York, will move into Place Ville Marie in the heart of the city. Currently, 40,000 people are connected to its network. But Cho said that Crew offers a more intimate space that is “uniquely Montreal”; the office will have a chef-turned-barista behind their bar who has worked at restaurants like Au Pied de Cochon (featured in TIME and visited by Anthony Bourdain). The chef will help Crew craft its natural food-focused menu.
“We don’t care about having hundreds or thousands of people working from our space. We care that every single person who does come by or is a member has one of the most enjoyable work experiences they’ve ever had,” said Cho. “How a space looks and feels has a big impact on you. Our space is one of the most inspirational buildings I’ve ever been in. The 50-foot ceilings and wide open area immediately inspire you.”
That word — inspiration — is one that Cho stresses will differentiate its space. He promises high-quality coffee, reliable Wi-Fi, and an outlet for every seat in the public cafe, but also perks that will help people feel like that space was made for them. “For our monthly members, there will be access to all these things plus a meeting room, free coffee, discounted food, private bunks for naps/focused work, access to office hours with top creative professionals, private events, a personal concierge, and a few extra surprises.”
When BetaKit last reported on Crew last summer, the company had just raised a $10 million Series A. Cho told BetaKit that Crew’s growth “has doubled,” exacerbating the need for the company to shift to focusing on supporting its community of freelancers. “When we first thought about opening an office, we thought, ‘What would Crew look like if it was a physical space?’” he said. “We know the long-term growth of Crew is heavily dependent on our members and our community. Our members are what makes Crew.”