Having maxed out the first floor of a two-story converted industrial building, StarSpace46 co-working space is expanding upward to make room for its growing client base.
The co-working space (an in-kind sponsor of Free Press) opened October 2016 and immediately started filling it’s first floor offices, co-working areas, and heavily-booked meeting space over the last two years.
Thursday, partners are set to have a ribbon-cutting at noon for the second floor of their unique industrial-turned-office building at 1141 W. Sheridan Avenue west of downtown.
Originally the building was a windowless two-story bunker-like industrial building at the intersection of W. Sheridan Street and N Klein Avenue.
StarSpace46 was born from cutting ample windows for light on both floors, building in an attractive kitchen and high-tech conference rooms, and fitting out wired work tables and quality task chairs.
What was once a drive-through garage with two bays has been converted into a comfortable, flexible meeting space that has hosted a different user group almost every day of the week including weekends.
Techlahoma Foundation, born from the evolution of Oklahoma City co-working spaces, sponsors most of the user groups that meet there.
A hallmark of the space is that most every furnishing is easily moved to accommodate whatever need companies and groups have.
Eight partners have bootstrapped the buildout of StarSpace46 without taking on debt.
The partners are Tommy Yi, Jaret Martin, Jeff Yenzer, Ava Pipher, Ryan Hoegg, Mike Slack, Lucas Watson, Amanda Harlin, and building owner Ryan Johnson.
Johnson has been talking up plans for building a coffee shop directly south across Sheridan.
If the idea comes to fruition, the combination could provide a dramatic shift for that particular intersection of W. Sheridan and N. Klein Avenues.
An outgrowth of Oklahoma City’s quiet, but steadily-growing tech community, StarSpace46 is the third tech-oriented co-working space to be developed by several creative leaders and investors over the last decade.
Partners have been committed to providing a useable space for tech entrepreneurs and the user groups that have helped newcomers learn new computer code languages.
And among that constantly evolving group, Tommy Yi seems to have been the convener.
He sat down with Free Press recently to talk about the latest developments and the evolution of tech co-working spaces in OKC.
“The first floor was a beta test,” Yi said.
Expanding companies that started with just one or two people have outgrown their spaces on the first floor and are already occupying more suitable spaces on the second floor, Yi said.
As they expand to many more office spaces and a new central co-working space on the second floor he said they are looking forward to developing the original co-working space on the first floor into a dedicated training area.
The co-working spaces will have more variety with café-like booths and work tables that can convert up and down to accommodate standing and sitting, an important feature for long hours in front of a keyboard.
The meeting space on the north side of the first floor where user groups meet will continue its heavy rotation of meetings.
StarSpace46 is the latest iteration of a steadily evolving concept in OKC of providing affordable co-working space with flexible rooms that allow for a variety of groups to meet.
Oklahoma City’s first co-working space was Oklahoma City Co-working Collaborative or okcCoCo, collaboratively formed in 2007 by Yi, Derrick Parkhurst and Chad Henderson located at NW 7th and N Hudson.
“Really, there wasn’t much else there at the time but us and the Federal Building,” Yi said.
“That was before Elemental Coffee and Ludivine which most people think of as the early businesses along that part of Hudson.”
It was in okcCoCo that Oklahoma City’s tech user groups began to form where members would meet and contribute to each other’s capabilities in developing computer code.
After a bruising dispute with one of their largest corporate sponsors over the identity and purpose of okcCoCo, the partners formed The 404 in 2012, a smaller co-working space on Film row that was primarily devoted to helping entrepreneurs develop their businesses.
“All of our communication was about putting a face to entrepreneurs,” Yi said.
And it was clear to the partners that when it came to the user groups they would have to find another way.
“We were just too burnt out to host any more events,” said Yi. “So, that’s how Techlahoma got started.”
Once in that space, they supported the idea of forming a foundation that would focus on providing support for the tech user groups that had started at okcCoCo.
That was when wife and husband Amanda and Jesse Harlin, and Vance Lucas formed the Techlahoma Foundation which raises money to provide meeting spaces, food and an information hub for the user groups that have been so instrumental in growing Oklahoma City’s tech community.
Listen to this podcast where Amanda and Jesse talk about the formation of Techlahoma:
In the early years, Techlahoma sponsored the user group meetings at Prototek primarily a maker space that had a big enough meeting area to host the groups.
But, eventually, three dynamics led to the development of StarSpace46:
Entrepreneurs and the growing companies in The 404 needed more space than The 404 could provide.
Techlahoma wanted a better-equipped meeting space that would accommodate live-streaming the meetings and provide easier parking options.
And, the lease for The 404 was coming up for renewal as leases along the growing Film Row area became more expensive.
As the partners are about to cut the ribbon on the second floor, they are clearer now about what they want.
“With StarSpace46, it’s not just about tech anymore. It’s about supporting community. It’s about supporting businesses, no matter if it’s tech or traditional brick and mortar.”
Instead of a place for tech workers, StarSpace46 has evolved into “an ecosystem” as Yi described it.
Various service companies now inhabit the space.
Human resources managers, business coaches, bookkeepers and marketing specialists do business with the startup tech companies that have always been a staple of co-working spaces in Oklahoma City.
Yi said the logo and the space travel theme of the art in building symbolize the openness partners and clients have to an ever-changing future for entrepreneurial business development in Oklahoma City.