Loosecubes: Fun, affordable office space

The year was 2009 and Campbell McKellar was not having a lot of fun at her job working in finance at a real estate development firm. "The office environment had become really depressing," she says. "Because of the downturn, we had lost a third of our portfolio. I didn't feel like going into the office much." She decided to take a "work-cation" in Maine. While there, she looked for but couldn't find office space to share -- and there weren't many coffee shops to work from. "I started to think there might be a business in workspace sharing," McKellar says. After doing some research, she learned that UK-based Regus Office Solutions (with £1 billion in sales) has a near monopoly in the flexible workspace business. Regus offers office space, conference rooms and other office services for a fee. "But I felt they were too corporate, expensive and not convenient." 

That's when the idea for Loosecubes was born. "I wanted to create a fun affordable space, where people could go to work anywhere in the world and be inspired," explains McKellar. 

Loosecubes' model differs from Regus' in that Loosecubes is a marketplace where anyone can put their office space on the site and people searching for space find it there. Loosecubes makes 10% from every transaction between people looking for and people finding space. 

The initial Loosecubes site launched in June 2010, with 20 spaces in the system. After relaunching this April, spaces have been increasing 20% a month and membership has grown 40% a month. Loosecubes now has 1,400 unique locations with 3,000 "cubes" for let in its system. 

McKellar advises that being non-technical should not discourage anyone from launching a tech company. "Don't be afraid to ask a lot of dumb questions and drill into the details. Understand that Engineers don't see the world in same way," she says. "They're trying to solve a problem; you're trying to solve a business problem." McKellar's advisors suggested she "practice" asking basic questions while interviewing developers for a fake wedding-related site. She posted an ad on Craigslist.org and was soon quizzing technologists like a pro. "It's important to learn the lingo," McKellar explains. "It's just a language like any other. Once you get that down, the concepts are not so complicated." Here is our discussion about being a non-technical founder, as well as a wide range of other topics

The very first thing McKellar did once she decided to start the business was call a few friends with experience in technology, one a successful CEO and the other a computer science professor. They would later become the core of her advisory board and their advice would prove invaluable in everything from hiring to fund-raising. "Creating my Advisory Board is the most important thing I did early on. I wouldn't be here without them," McKellar says. Here is our discussion about advisory boards and how best to use them.

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    Laurel Touby is the founder of mediabistro, the largest media community website in the US. Touby is an Internet pioneer, who started her company in 1996, took it to profitability, grew it to millions in sales, and sold it in 2007 for $23 million. She currently is an investor in and advisor to small Internet companies.