Collaborative office seeks to become center for local entrepreneurs

A long-empty section of a historic building in downtown Bellingham could soon develop into a center for digital startups and entrepreneurs.

Digial marketing firm Red Rokk Interactive and the BIG Idea Lab, along with partners Pacific Continental Realty and the nonprofit Technology Alliance Group for Northwest Washington, announced in March the opening of a new collaborative office space designed to support high-tech companies.

Creators of the 4,000-square-foot space, located on the top floor of the Crown Plaza building at 114 W. Magnolia St., will initially combine the shared space with other groups, including the Bellingham Angels investment group, a longtime supporter of local technology startups.

Tyler Byrd, president and CEO of Red Rokk Interactive, said the idea was orginally developed after his company saw a need to expand. Red Rokk is the lease holder on the space, which is managed by Pacific Continental Realty.

“We needed a bigger space as a group, so this fits our needs really well,” Byrd said.

Byrd and Shawn Kemp, a tech entreprenuer who leads the BIG Idea Lab, envision the office, which has space for about 40 people, to be the starting point for what they hope will morph into Bellingham’s central entrepreneurship base—one that provides a collective environment for new technology companies to get off the ground and a new local coworking space.

Kemp said the idea was to support, with both physical office space and the opportunity for collaboration with other startups, companies with scalable business models, ones that can quickly grow revenue without increasing their overhead costs.

A desk in the office’s coworking area rents for $150 per month. The flex-seating arrangement allows a member to come in and use any one of the open desks, which include computer and Internet access, along with other shared amenities.

Dedicated offices, most of which ring around the center floor area, start at rents of $550 per month.

The coworking model is slowly catching on locally.

In addition to a coworking space, called The Pond, on Duport Street in Bellingham, the co-founders of local screen-printing company INNATE have plans to open a coworking office at their facility on State Street.

Outside Bellingham and Whatcom County, the collaborative workplace model is gaining popularity in larger metropolitan areas.

2012 survey by Deskmag, an online magazine that covers the coworking movement, estimated that five new coworking offices
open worldwide every business day.

Byrd said he thinks demand for coworking space in Bellingham is largely driven by the degree of awareness one has that such spaces exist. Building that awareness is the most difficult part of creating centers to support local entrepreneurship, he added.

Kemp said he thinks coworking has great value as a transitory model, where professionals just starting their companies can have a space to work through the initial phases of growing their businesses before becoming more established.

Evan Marczynski, lead reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or

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