Two-thirds of the three-person founding team (rounded out by prestigious designer Yves Behar), Steve Mohebi and Amir Mortazavi are reimagining what it means to work and live in a city environment with their coworking space CANOPY. Located in Pacific Heights, an affluent residential neighborhood of San Francisco, CANOPY boasts filling a void experienced by the city’s mature professional crowd. We spoke with Steve and Amir to learn more about what led them to create CANOPY and how they see their business model contributing to the future of work. Without further ado, here’s Steve and Amir’s ‘future of work’ in their own words.
Breaking the startup-focused coworking mold
For us, it really all began with looking for a workspace that fit our needs and coming up short. So really in many ways, we kind of built CANOPY as a workspace for ourselves.
When we looked at the local landscape, searching for coworking spaces available in San Francisco, what we found was that most of the coworking spaces in the city were concentrated in the SOMA neighborhood, in the heart of downtown. This meant that for us, and really anyone who lives in the more residential neighborhoods of San Francisco, these spaces weren’t a great fit for two reasons.
One, traveling to and from the space would cost us valuable commuting time, time we’d rather spend either working or with our families. And even if we were willing to make that commute everyday, there was still the second issue of culture fit – the SOMA spaces were all very start-uppy, very kitschy, just you know loud, very kind of brogrammerish.
Basically for us, it was all wrong. We didn’t really feel like we belonged in that kind of a working environment, either from a design standpoint, location standpoint, or probably most importantly, community standpoint. And that’s really where Canopy was born. What we’re after, as lofty as it sounds, is to create an environment where people wake up each morning and they actually look forward to going to their office space.
Catering to the ‘Accomplished Professional’
Our entire business was created around the type of individual we were hoping to attract to our space, a demographic we refer to as the ‘accomplished professional.’ What we mean when we say that is that our community members are already quite established in their careers. They aren’t on their very first venture out of college, because those people will settle for the absolute rock-bottom, cheapest place to work. They’ll work in a coffee shop, or score a sublease in the basement of some building with no windows.
Because after all, like it or not, your workplace is where you’re going to spend 80% of your waking hours. More time than your home, car, anywhere else. So it’s really the last place on earth that you would want to under-invest in. And if you agree with that statement, then you are immediately in our target demographic.
To be a good fit at CANOPY, you have already accomplished something in your career and are ready to do more. Therefore you’re more thoughtful about where you work, willing to spend a bit more on ensuring you have the perfect work environment. In that way, we think of CANOPY as the premium boutique alternative to the mass market incumbent.
Colleagues that match your station in life
The importance of matching individuals with a community that’s uniquely inspiring to them cannot be overlooked. Probably 90% of our members are what we call “solo warriors.” We have a small handful of teams, but the vast majority of our community members are individuals working either as their own one-person companies or as location-independent employees of a large company.
This kind of puts these individuals out on an island, making coworking a great option. And when you look at the kinds of people we’ve attracted, again it comes back to this idea of the accomplished professional. For example, one of our members is a general counsel for a company based in Japan. Another is VP of Marketing for a startup based in Germany. I don’t know that individuals this far into their career are going to be able to find on-par friendships and interactions at a more traditional, ‘start-up type’ coworking space where the majority of members are half their age and are still green in their careers. To us, that’s why this notion of community is so important, finding a community that ultimately matches your station in life. It’s everything.
Work where you live, live where you work
Ultimately, what we’ve seen in our space is a new style of working. Our kind of ‘corporate religion statement,’ if you will, is where you work affects how you work. People aren’t clocking in at 8am and leaving at 6pm. They’re able to come and do very focused sessions of work for a few hours at a time, maybe have a meeting or two, then walk home to spend some time with their family. And then maybe come back to work and focus again.
That makes us feel we’re onto something, that we really are adding this ‘convenience factor’ by choosing locations for our coworking spaces where people actually live. They can really focus on productivity, whenever their mind is best for getting that work done. At the same time, they can bring their colleagues and clients to this inspiring, almost ‘reverse commute destination’ for meetings.
After all, nowadays there’s no longer much of a reason why people need to be working in a downtown area. Not when you have tools like Google Hangouts for conversations and discussions amongst team members and cloud computing. People don’t need paper anymore, they’re not tied to a physical location. So the concept of having a downtown central office is becoming more and more obsolete.
That’s why we’re so passionate about this new way of working. We believe that this idea of your work environment being so close to where you live, surrounded by inspirational colleagues, is essential for getting the best work done.
Steve Mohebi and Amir Mortazavi, Co-founders of CANOPY, as told to Mara Savina Falstein exclusively for the Optix blog.
The ‘Future of Work’ series shares insights from thought leaders who are on a mission to drive the future of work forward. We speak with members of our diverse network of entrepreneurs, journalists, flexible workplace operators and others, then distill their insights into a 5-15 minute read you can enjoy while sipping your cup of coffee and preparing to start your day.