Think Tech Labs CEO Vijay Mehra wants to shake up the Austin co-working scene.
On Aug. 1 Mehra is launching ATX Factory, a co-working space in East Austin that he says will be different from other similar offerings in the area. The nearly 14,000-square-foot solar-powered building will be located at 5323 Levander Loop, at the intersection of Cesar Chavez, Airport Blvd. and Interstate 83. A total of 130 desks will be spread over two levels. Showers and locker rooms will be available for members, as will individual sleeping pods and a health and wellness area. A small food truck park will be onsite.
The goal is not to just create a place for people to work. Mehra wants to create a community.
“We will also include outdoor space and a bar and restaurant area so that members can interact and socialize with others,” he said. “People will have dedicated desks and enjoy Google-esque perks. It’s not just a co-working space.”
After starting his software company eight years ago and expanding into different markets, Mehra found it to be difficult as a startup “to get plugged into an environment and office space that offered culture, energy and a turnkey solution.”
The seed was planted in his head and about two years ago, he decided to do something about it. Mehra purchased an empty warehouse on the East Side, gutted it and began building out his vision about nine months ago. He leased adjacent land to be able to provide 150 free parking spaces. His own company’s 25 employees will work out of ATX Factory. In addition, around 7 or 8 other members have signed up so far. Rather than lease space, members pay a set fee based on whether they choose dedicated desks, a team table or private office.
“It’s an eclectic group so far, with everything from startup tech companies to creative types, individuals, real estate agents and companies like mine who are growing aggressively,” Mehra said.
Barbary Brunner, CEO of the Austin Technology Council, admits the city is “low on space for small companies, entrepreneurs and enormous companies” alike.
“Every time you turn around there’s a new co-working space opening up,” she said. “It makes perfect sense. Passionate, creative people – whether they are writing code or creating a beautiful piece of art – are inspired by being around others like them.”
Brunner thinks that ATX Factory’s plan to add showers and sleeping pods is a great idea.
“Many folks that work in tech – just like artists and musicians – are doing what they are passionate about for a living, so giving them the option to commute by bike to work or take naps will be appealing,” she said. “Plus, traffic conditions are terrible so the free parking is a big deal.”
Amanda Adams, president and founder of Austin-based Zette Marketing, is one of those that have signed up to be an ATX Factory member. She considered multiple other co-working spaces in the city because she was drawn to the appeal of an open desk space within a bigger community. Adams ultimately decided on ATX Factory.
“I found coffee shops and many co-working spaces give the illusion that we’re making a human connection. There’s small talk, but it’s unlikely you’ll have a meaningful conversation with someone,” she said. “By limiting membership so that the majority of members have dedicated desks, as opposed to offices and to open workspace that’s paid for by the day, ATX Factory promises to establish a true community.”
Jacques Perreault, founder and managing partner at Coho Events, has decided to move his company’s headquarters to ATX Factory when it’s complete. When he first heard about the space, he was interested in using it to hold special events.
“When I spoke with Vijay a few months ago, he described the vision of ATX Factory as a hybrid of a co-working space and social club, the place you go to do business and see friends and make new ones,” Perreault said. “A light bulb went off.”
ATX Factory and Coho Events will now partner on future events at the co-working space, including a music series. Coho Events also will be providing services to generate and produce events there.
Perreault chose ATX Factory over other spaces in Austin and even New York City. “They all were very similar to me,” he said. “The big difference is the outdoor space of ATX Factory and the ability to host events outside along with the concept of a co-work space combined with social club.”