Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Unconventional Office Gets A Hat Tip From The Mayor And A Swanky Event

The Unconventional Office Gets A Hat Tip From The Mayor And A Swanky Event

Chicago Creative Space hosted a panel discussion and several speeches on cutting-edge offices Thursday night.

If Silicon Prairie is to compete with the titans of the tech world, Chicago’s digital firms need the offices to match. That was the message coming from Mayor Emanuel at last week’s Ethos Event Series 1.0, hosted by Chicago Creative Space at Venue One in the West Loop.

After a brief introduction by the mayor, the crowd of about 200 heard from representatives of several companies that have figured out how to keep elite talent from bolting for the coasts. Ifbyphone keeps scooters around for its programmers. Starter League founder Neal Sales-Griffin’s office is painted to look like a New York subway station. GiveForward co-founder Desiree Vargas-Wrigley cooks for her staff. And Threadless CEO Jake Nickell gives employees a canvas for an outlet—four white office walls and several canisters of spray paint. “Our space shows that we want employees to get ideas out of their head and make it real,” Nickell said.

But keynote speaker Howard Tullman, founder and chairman of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, was careful to note that while an office can reflect a culture, no company can subsist on a floor plan alone. “Bricks and mortar don’t make the business,” Tullman said. “We start by building a culture where people feel comfortable and then the materials follow the mission.”

The event’s organizer and founder of Chicago Creative Space, Max Chopovsky, highlights Chicago’s tech and creative cultures by producing videos of innovative companies’ office spaces. Chopovsky aims to market the videos to firms as an effective recruiting tool while creating a repository for emerging entrepreneurs who are tackling culture and space for the first time.

Photos by Matthew Bowie

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