In the world of start-ups, especially those built around specialized expertise like the medical device variety, many companies get off the ground and head straight for the “cloud”. In the case of one of S2N’s first clients, the scientific founders are on the west coast, the executive leadership is based in Boston (though California Dreamin’ this winter), and the engineering team with the must-have experience just happens to be geographically dead center between the two. In this day and age, such a set up seems strangely normal and quite manageable with a little planning, many gigabytes of ram and a few coach-class airfares (flying business class is so… corporate).
We can review complex engineering designs on-line, skype our sweatpants-clad colleagues for informal chats, catch some REM sleep while software code is being industriously written in India. Besides, the company office can feel like merely rented storage for file drawers of NDAs and the aspirational gym bag awaiting use (or the laundry) someday. With so many conferences, far-flung KOLS, partnering meetings, manufacturing site visits, and the mandatory trip to Disney with the kids, medical device folks rarely sit still for long.
So why even have an office? Why not put the saved overhead expense toward that clinical study FDA might make you do, a cool new 3D printer prototyper, another software engineer or 10 in India, a life-changing project with S2N Health?
Eventually most companies do grow workplace roots; the reasons are varied but some themes emerge. In the early stages, we need that physical connection to the thing we are creating. The lab, the manufacturing room, the places where stuff is conceived, tested and made – this is our hearth, and we derive warmth and energy from being in its vicinity. It also helps to be nearby when TÜV shows up for an audit or the cool new 3D printer starts oozing strange liquids.
And even though our industry is not excessively social, at least not until we add the sales team, the virtual life doesn’t allow for much informal communication and cross-functional trust building. A lot of roadblocks get unearthed and ways around them mapped out at the multipurpose lunchroom/conference room table.
At S2N we are voting with our feet – this whole diatribe is shamelessly culminating in a plea for insider tips on office space in Boston or Cambridge for our nascent little firm. We don’t make anything, except lunch – one thing we will miss about the home-based enterprise – but the barking dogs and cranky children are distracting us from the incredibly difficult, important work we do for our clients. A successful referral will get you a lunch (out, not home) and an hour of free advice to go with it!