Summit Daily Article:
There’s a new breed of tech-minded entrepreneur in Summit County and Aaron Landau is building them a home.
As founder of Evo 3 Workspace, an alternative office space in the spirit of Denver hotspots likeGalvanize and Industry, Landau has spent the past five months toiling inside the 4,000-square-foot space on the corner of Seventh and Main Street. The main entryway, where a tiered wooden kiosk will replace a live assistant, is still blanketed in sawdust and surrounded by sheets of plywood. It won’t be ready for another month or so — organizers are still waiting on final items like furniture and town licenses — yet the space is coming together, slowly but surely, and the founder is nearly giddy with excitement.
“Literally, every morning I get out of bed, I’m so excited to go in because I have no idea what that day will bring,” says Landau, a former medical device sales representative who’s now tied to the Colorado tech and startup community. “I know it sounds cliché, but that’s something that really drives entrepreneurs.”
Take the Evo 3 construction: Since purchasing the space in late August, Landau has been a combination business founder, general contractor and project manager. He has no background in any of those fields, but he wanted to oversee the entire project, from drawing a floor plan with office suites and meeting rooms to personally drilling lighting fixtures. It was yet another hands-on learning experience for a self-proclaimed “corporate refugee” — a new breed of business junkies who are disillusioned with the cookie-cutter mentality of most corporations. It starts with the Evo 3 name: “Evo” for evolution, “3” for the third industry to thrive in Frisco after mining and tourism.
Evo 3 is Landau’s baby, and like all entrepreneurs — or at least the successful ones — he’s willing to try anything and everything to make it stand out from the rest, including his co-working neighbors down the block at Elevate CoSpace, the first alternative office space to open in Summit County.
“For someone like me, I absolutely love learning,” Landau says. “I decided I wanted to be my own general contractor, my own project manager, and that’s allowed me to learn the process and adapt. I can make changes and pivot on the fly.”
Landau shares that mentality with the untapped community of alpine entrepreneurs he hopes will flock to Evo 3. He believes there’s a healthy corps of young, hungry, talented programmers and developers who want to work where they live and play, not several hours away in a cramped, inner-city office. And he wants to give them a space to call their own.
“This model is not, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Landau says. “The philosophy is build the community first, then build the clubhouse. We followed that — it’s an organic, grassroots type of approach, but that’s one of the most rewarding things about it. We built the community and now we’re building the clubhouse, and I have to tell you, it’s incredible.”
A NEW OFFICE CULTURE
In the past three to four years, alternative office spaces — or co-working spaces, as entrepreneurs know them — have become wildly popular. Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins are home to five large-scale spaces, and big players like Galvanize already have plans for three new locationsacross Colorado by 2016.
Yet mountain towns have been a bit slower to catch on, despite evidence that communities like Summit County are teeming with talented tech entrepreneurs. Thanks to new events likeBreckenridge Startup Weekend in August and improved wireless infrastructure across resort towns, those entrepreneurs now have access to the technical perks previously only found in major metros.
“We weren’t really sure who was out there in Summit County,” Landau says. “Soon enough, we started seeing the tech side of things. We know they are out there, but we didn’t know where to find them. We’re now taking an economy that was nearly nonexistent and giving it room to grow.”
Evo 3 will use the same monthly rent arrangement as spaces like Galvanize, albeit more expensive — it’s still the mountains, after all. Single “seats” (essentially access to basic amenities) start at $215 per month, followed by private desks for $418 per month and two- to three-person suites for $605. A basic membership at Elevate begins at $225.
Evo 3 will have all the basics and more — desks, office chairs, wireless Internet, a printer and copier, kitchen space with a range and fridge — but like the majority of workspace founders, Landau sees amenities are just a means to an end. The community and its interests come first, like a potential production studio he’ll build in the basement once the upstairs is finished.
“Normally, folks would have to go to Denver for this kind of space,” Landaus says of the production studio. “All they need is to bring their equipment and we have the rest, like lighting and other production gear. I think there is a huge need for that kind of a space in Summit County.”
This past May, several months before Landau found the Frisco space, he invited a handful of interested entrepreneurs to his home in Keystone for a laid-back barbecue. Just four people came that first month. By June, nearly 30 people dropped by to hear his thoughts on Evo 3 and give input.
Landau was all ears: Before delving into the general contractor world, he reached out to dozens of co-working pioneers, including the founders of Galvanize and Jasper Welch, a Colorado-based entrepreneurial mentor and founder of the alternative office Durango Space.
“He has been a mentor, a friend, a confidante, just somebody who believes in our vision,” Landau says. “He’s given me tons of great feedback and advice, as well as being a great piece of my support system.”
Longtime New Yorker Mark Bellnkoola was at the first barbecue in May. He and Landau immediately started brainstorming ways to improve the Evo 3 concept, and with the opening date just a month away, Bellnkoola is committed to a year-long lease in a private suite. Landau expects suites to be fully booked by the time doors open.