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Tech start-ups are known for thinking outside the box--especially when it comes to office space. From garages to grocery stores, here's a look at the quirky spaces where some of the biggest dot-com brands got started.--Francesa Louise Fenzi
Where it started: A garage
Nest Labs re-designed what the home thermostat could look like and do, so it should come as no surprise that the company grew out of re-designed garage space in Palo Alto. During the warm summer months, the Nest team would open the garage door to let in some sun--and a few early admirers.
Squirrels used to run in and disrupt the hardware engineers soldering, giving the term "nest" a literal significance. One software engineer put up a sign to deter the furry invaders. Unfortunately, squirrels can’t read. But the sign became an office icon, and the team’s favorite conference room in the new office still bears the warning: "No Squirrels."
Where it started: The cafés of Buenos Aires
Brothers and co-founders John and Patrick Collison took a trip to Argentina where they began work on their start-up Stripe, an online payment platform that makes it easy to for websites to start accepting credit card payments. Tthe brothers spent three weeks working around the clock, wrangling their first customer, and befriending baristas in cafés throughout Buenos Aires.
Where it started: A bus
You know that awful, gut-wrenching feeling you get when you’ve left something crucial behind? Dropbox founder Drew Houston is well acquainted with that feeling--it’s exactly how he felt when he boarded a bus from Boston to New York, intending to work on a specific project, and discovered that he had left a thumb drive containing all of his previous work at home.
Houston was so frustrated by the experience that he spent the rest of his bus journey writing code for a file-sharing program that would allow people to share and access files from any location.
Where it started: Living room
It’s tough to find a good bra. At least, Michelle Lam thought so. Before launching the online lingerie store True&Co, Lam hosted living room lingerie parties--like Tupperware parties, but for bras--in her apartment. The company has since transitioned to a real office space, but the in-home feel of those early fittings lingers: True&Co sends boxes of lingerie to customers' homes, where women can try on and select items in an intimate and comfortable setting.
Where it started: A co-working space
Eventbrite is an online service for event registration and ticket sales that aims to "bring people together." Maybe it's appropriate then, that the company began in a space that brought together entrepreneurs from other tech start-ups like TripIt, Flixter, Boxbee, and Zynga. Eventually, the Eventbrite team outgrew the space and moved into an office of its own that boasts an open floor plan and a communal cooking and dining space.
Where it started: Whole Foods, New York
Evan Sharp, co-founder and head of design at Pinterest, began work on the popular pin board site at Whole Foods Market in New York. He spent hours in the health food chain’s café developing, iterating, and coding Pinterest’s now iconic grid platform. The major perks? Free WiFi and an endless supply of coffee.
Where it started: A Tribeca apartment
It started as a joke. No really--the video site Vimeo began as a side project of online comedy site College Humor. According to Vimeo CTO Andrew Pile, the company’s early days looked like something out of a 90s movie: skateboards and ping-pong in the office, which was actually a 9th floor apartment above a laundromat in Tribeca.
Both College Humor and Vimeo have since moved to Union Square where, unfortunately, employees can no longer develop hilarious videos and wash clothes in the same location. But the current office sports an “art wall” to keep the jokes--and creativity--flowing.
Read more: How Bobbi Brown Got Started