How Quid Built a Beautiful Start-up Headquarters on a Dime
BY Eric Markowitz
Tour this extremely well-designed space in San Francisco that houses a team of data scientists. Bonus: It was created on the cheap.
Reading Room: Quid's office comes equipped with a 5,000 book on-site "library."
When Bob Goodson first walked into the San Francisco space that would become the offices of Quid, the text- and data-analytics start-up he co-founded in 2010, he was met with a blank canvas. The walls and floors were concrete. There were no conference rooms and no offices. In fact, the space had never been used as an office--it previously functioned as a Spartan showroom for a neighboring furniture company and had become a makeshift storage space.
As a design aficionado, he saw potential. "I was thinking about what it would be like to interact in here, to build things, to solve problems," says Goodson.
Goodson, who grew up in Norfolk, England, says that a building's architecture has always informed how he feels in a space. And Quid's office, which is accessible through a winding corridor from the office's street-level entrance, reminded him of one of his favorite buildings from back home.
"I really like the architecture of Norman Foster," he says. "There's a building called the the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, and it has this long corridor that leads down to the art. So you start on the street level, and you wind down this long passage, and you go underground, and it takes quite a while to get to the art, but it's this deliberate anticipation that's built up by this unnecessary long, winding corridor. I always loved that experience."
Plus, having the office set in the back of the building also gives a sense of security and privacy, says Goodson.
"We're in a nice part of San Francisco, but it feels like you're walking into a bunker," he says. "It recalls a spy-era buildings in London."
Quid has raised $17 million from investors, but it spent surprisingly little of that on the new design. Working with Studio O+A, a local interior design firm, known for designing Facebook, Microsoft, and Yelp's offices, Goodson set a budget of $25,000 for the 5,200-square-foot space. One way he kept to that budget was by striking a deal with Young Office Solutions, the furniture company next door, to supply a discount on some of Quid's furniture in exchange for letting Young's potential clients view the furniture in action.
Likewise, instead of installing plaster walls for a conference room, O+A designed a yurtlike circular meeting space with walls made of industrial-grade freezer curtains--at a cost of less than $2,000. And as the photos below attest, the thoughtful design didn't end there.
The entrance: The long, narrow table lets engineers get up from their desks and interact with their colleagues face to face. Goodson wanted employees to feel connected with one another, which is why the table is in the center of the room. Goodson says the table brings teams from different divisions together and occasionally serves as a communal dining table.
The workspace: Goodson didn't pinch pennies when it came to workstations. "It's really important that people are comfortable," he says. Rather than cubicles, modular desks made by Artopex, which is based in Toronto, save the company space, which was important, as the company plans to eventually staff up to more than 60 employees.
Meeting areas: Rather than build another conference room, which would inevitably make the office feel smaller (not to mention cost extra) Goodson and Cherry commissioned a custom metal hoop and bought industrial-grade freezer curtains to form this circular office space.
Reception area: Quid's office is accessible only through a narrow, winding passageway. It takes visitors at least three turns and more than 30 paces to arrive at the front desk. Besides looking cool, this flowing mural, which is based on the infographics Quid's software generates, helps guests navigate the mazelike entrance.
The library: Many of Quid's 44 employees spent serious time in Ph.D. programs, and Goodson wanted to make them feel at home. "Since we recruit right out of grad school," he says, "we thought it would make a warm and familiar element coming into a corporate environment."