A New Start-Up Workspace in Williamsburg
Leon Neyfakh Aug. 24, 2010, 7:34 p.m.
New York techies Elizabeth Stark and Matt Langer are opening a workspace in Williamsburg for start-ups, freelancers and entrepreneurs in the former offices of Hot Potato, the Web start-up recently acquired by Facebook. It’ll be called the Makery. Desks are going for $300 per month, and according to Mr. Langer, who worked as the lead Web engineer for Hot Potato, there will be parties on a regular basis and a refrigerator always stocked with food.
The idea of turning the Hot Potato office into a nonprofit workspace first occurred to Mr. Langer on Aug. 11, when he learned about the company’s imminent sale. The following day, he got a message from Justin Shaffer, Hot Potato’s now former CEO: If he wanted the old office, he had to rent it right away. “I had to make a decision, so I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll do it!'” Mr. Langer said.
With the help of Ms. Stark, who teaches at Yale and is working on her own start-up, Mr. Langer rounded up some interested parties and pulled the trigger. “We luckily didn’t have to work with a realtor, and we’re not getting any subsidies or breaks,” Ms. Stark, a veteran of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, said in an email. “As this is a true DIY effort, the fee we’re charging includes rent, utilities, office furniture, and use of the space for events. We’re also hoping to offer a few snacks on top of that, but this is not a high brow affair. We’re talking Williamsburg loft with Ikea furniture and a 24-hour minimart downstairs.”
There are currently 13 people on the Makery’s roster, and the list of start-ups signed up for desks includes Vow.ch, Ms. Stark’s recommendation service, and Immerss, a new kind of RSS reader that Mr. Langer hopes to launch in beta this fall. Other companies in the mix are Jaunt Setter, MessageParty and Bnter, and according to Mr. Langer, there are several more desks left to fill. “We break even at a certain point,” he said, “and then after that, we can actually establish a slush fund for buying better groceries or throwing more parties.”