By Shlomo Silber, CEO, Bond Collective
As we enter one of the first days of the new year, I can’t help but look back towards 2017 and reflect on the accomplishments and challenges that myself and Bond Collective faced in the past year. 2017 has not only been a transformational year for Bond Collective and the coworking industry, but a change for the entire country and world. So many new technologies, industries, people, places, and innovations have changed how we accomplish daily tasks -- such as the way we work -- and Bond Collective is so excited to be along for the ride.
Over the past 12 months, as a company we’ve accomplished so many of the goals that we sought after, laying the foundation for the goals that follow suit. And to be honest it hasn’t been easy. Two years ago, if you told me we will have completely rebranded our company from Coworkrs to Bond Collective, I would have told you that you are crazy. However, change provides opportunity, and we’ve definitely learned that this past year. From raising funding to announcing our nationwide expansion, I couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come in 2018.
Defining Our Brand Identity
Around mid-2016 we realized that our former name, Coworkrs, didn’t represent our brand to the fullest extent it had grown to be. We realized the importance of having a brand that portrayed more than just coworking, but instead having one that allows us to grow beyond just shared office space, and find the true meaning behind our company. To that point, we opened up our first event venue at 55 Broadway, The Mezzanine, in late 2016, and found that it was a great offering for both members and the general public. The Mezzanine is allowing us to work with brands in so many different industries, and has introduced us to a new world of event planning and hosting. I’m really looking forward to opening up our event space in Bushwick next Summer, to continue our expansion into the event world.
Defining our brand identity last January was much more than simply changing our name. We transitioned away from the bright colors, certain fonts, an entire website, images, and the way we talked about our brand. Partnering with a branding agency that we’ve known for years was a great decision, because we were working with a team that we trusted and respected. Collectively, we’ve developed a completely new identity for ourselves, flush with colors, fonts, marketing materials, procedures, and more that translate to the true meaning behind our new brand. It was an incredible amount of work to get everything off the ground, but I couldn’t be more proud of the result.
Maintaining Company Culture While Tripling In Size
Ever since I started this business, company culture has been extremely important to me. I always want my employees to feel empowered and involved in every aspect of their job. Starting in 2013 with one location, our company was myself and three other people. Fast forward to the beginning of 2018, and we have a total of 36 people at the helm including our community, corporate, and facilities staff. I am so proud of what we have become as a team, however it’s not always easy to maintain a sense of inclusiveness when your team is on a high growth pattern.
To help manage the changes and growth that were happening, mid-last year our team decided to focus on the culture of our company. Our Community Lead took on this challenge and created a Company Culture Assessment that was completed by every person on our corporate and community team. Following the conclusion of the assessment, our Executive Team actively reviewed and discussed the results with Ashley, then developed a plan to enhance anything we were doing right and fix the wrongs. This was a great exercise to propel us into the New Year and “bond” as a team. Looking back on the experience, we realized the only way the company can grow and prosper is to trust and empower our own team.
Overall, I think completing a Culture Assessment every year is a great exercise for any growing business to make sure employees feel engaged and appreciated, and I’m happy we completed one in 2017.
Getting funding is always a hot topic in the startup and entrepreneurial world. How much to get, where to get it, who to work with, are just the face value questions companies are asking. In 2017, one of my main goals was to secure capital to fund our nationwide expansion plans. As a company, we initially were accepting small investments from friends and family, and while we are appreciative of their time and contributions, we realized that the scope of what we want to accomplish far exceeds that of our initial expectations.
When my partner Elie and I were first starting to look into raising capital, we were drawn to the big VC companies and thought it would be a great place to start. After a few conversations and meetings, we quickly realized that we needed someone that was more than just an investor, but a partner as well. After a few months of searching, we met our current group of investors which are funding the $50 million investment that was announced in November. The process to find capital admittedly isn’t an easy one, but I do suggest waiting to find the right person, or group of people, to invest in your business.
We feel blessed and lucky to have found an investor that not only funds us, but believes in our mission and wants develop the brand into what Bond Collective is today, and beyond. Their involvement completely changed 2017, and the future of Bond Collective as we expand.
Announcing Nationwide Expansion
Bond Collective announced its plans to open our first location outside of New York in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in November 2017. It was an announcement that we waited a very long time to share with the world. The decision to pick Philadelphia as our first national location came relatively easily. I’ve visited the city many times, and have fallen in love with Center City area each time. When we toured Suburban Station, myself and our design team was instantly smitten with the old world feel and light filled space, deciding to move forward with that building was easy.
Bond Station House means so much more than just our first location outside of New York. It marks Bond Collective’s footprint in a brand new city, with a different culture, feel, and vibe that we can’t wait to explore and bring into the interiors of our space. This new location finally made our expansion plans real and have fueled our drive to tour new cities to open up new locations. I will never forget 2017, because it brought us so much momentum as a company and truly transitioned us to a nationwide company.
As the CEO, I feel so blessed that I get to spearhead out expansion plans. This gives me the opportunity to visit and understand different cities across the country, from their neighborhoods to culture to architecture to food. I truly love taking the time to feel the city and seeing if it would be the right place for us to grow. When planning this process, my team and I don’t just look for the best deals or spaces, we take a deep look at what businesses are surrounding us, and get a sense of the up and coming neighborhoods. One of my favorite things about my job this past year, was getting to know different areas and people so intensely.
What’s In Store for Bond Collective in 2018
2017 was a year for the books. From rebranding our company, to nationwide expansion, to securing funding, to growing our team, it’s been a wild ride. Reflecting back on the year, I am so proud of what we at Bond Collective have accomplished, and can’t believe we squeezed all of these milestones into one year.
So what’s in store for Bond Collective in 2018? We will continue to offer our members the most comfortable and sophisticated workspaces possible in New York and Philadelphia, and improve our existing offerings as our brand and team evolves. Not only that, we are full steam ahead with our expansion plans and will be announcing new workspace and event venue locations across the country. I also can’t wait to see our team grow and become stronger, as we add new employees to our staff in other cities and in New York. 2017 was certainly our biggest year yet, but we are eager to continue growing, overcome challenges, and capitalize on opportunities in the new year.
The greatest thing I’ve realized this past year is that we have such amazing people surrounding us throughout this process. Thank you to all of our members, partners, investors, friends, and family for standing by our side in 2017. Here’s to 2018! I can only imagine what my recap next year is going to look like.
Best wishes in the new year.
Shlomo Silber, CEO & Co-Founder of Bond Collective