It’s a familiar scene — professionals and students packed into Starbucks typing away on tiny end tables and chairs fashioned into laptop desks; surrounded by standing hopefuls eyeing their valuable real estate.
It’s easier than ever to work remotely and that makes a coffee shop with WiFi a hot commodity. Though there are plenty of work-friendly businesses beyond the ubiquitous Starbucks chain, resources for locating the perfect workspace are limited.
Enter Workfrom. The young Portland-based startup provides detailed listings of the best places to work remotely based on reliable WiFi, hours of operation, food and refreshments, seating options, and group-friendliness. The Workfrom team updates their listings, but the app also relies on submissions from the community — any Workfrom user can add locations.
“We aim to make it simple for anyone to discover great places to get work done and we’re building an ecosystem for work-friendly businesses to showcase themselves to a loyal, growing and increasingly influential demographic,” said CEO Darren Buckner. “Workfrom also provides ways for our often ironically disconnected community to connect and cowork in the wild.”
The scrappy three-person Workfrom team is already gaining quite a bit of traction. Though it was just founded in June 2014, the startup has become a valuable resource in Portland and is poised to launch in Seattle some time this month.
“The response in Portland has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Buckner. “This is largely about the people, the community, the people who work remotely or are sort of nomadic in the way that they work.”
Workfrom also started a weekly meetup group with around 125 members, according to Buckner. The premise of the meetups is to foster this community of nomadic workers and support local businesses that facilitate an office-away-from-the-office work environment.
We caught up with Buckner to learn more about the company for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature presented by Comcast Business.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Workfrom makes it easy to find good places to get work done when you need Wifi, power outlets and good atmosphere.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I was working from one of my favorite coffee shops in Portland, looked around and saw 15 out of the 18 people in the shop working like I was.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrapped. We decided to take time to talk to business owners and people who work like us over a period of 3-to-4 months to validate our ideas and business model. We did this before building anything. When we felt we had enough validation to move forward, we leveraged the feedback we received and skill sets we possessed to execute. Our team is really talented and super passionate. We’ve only built what we’ve needed to continue to grow. We’re reaching an underserved market and we knew it would be easily adopted.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We provide a clear picture of the information you need, when you need it. We’ve worked hard not to introduce noise into the experience. The places we list on our website are curated by people in the community. We also work hard to help small businesses reach and gain loyal customers. Our manifesto includes our explicit support for work-friendly businesses that provide these great places we enjoy working out of.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Staying super focused on helping our community find great places to work. There have been many exciting and seemingly attractive paths to follow or problems to solve. While it’s certainly tempting to take on more and more, we’ve distilled our efforts down to a focus on building our community and making it simple to find a good space to work.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not fully realizing sooner that there are many people who are willing to help without asking for anything in return.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “We’d like to have the problem of choosing just one of these gentlemen to be in our corner. If pressed to choose, we’d enjoy having Zuckerberg in our corner. Facebook started as a small community site that addressed a key pain point for it’s users. We’ve started in a similar fashion and we’d love to have Mark’s insights into growing a community across geographic location and the challenges that come with it. Mark — are you listening? :)”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Our tribe of digital nomads all over the world have the tools available in our system to help add great locations they find, whenever and wherever they find them.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We’re our own customers, we eat our own dog food and we scratch an itch we all have. We’re not trying to sell people on the idea of finding good places to get work done. It’s simply something so many of us need these days. The nature of working from all over is not something we’ve created. We are simply providing solutions to real problems, and that’s a recipe for success.”
We are truly unique because: “While others have worked on similar things, Workfrom provides a platform that showcases work-friendly businesses to a community of nomadic workers through beautiful listings, events, meetups and crowdsourced information. It has not been done this way before.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Taking head on the risk that comes with walking away from a traditional day job to pursue a passion, create great things and build a business.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “If you’re not providing a recognizable solution to a problem people know they have, it’s a problem. Stay focused, keep it simple and build great things. Above all, find great people to help you.”
GeekWire’s regular Startup Spotlight feature offers an inside look at emerging Pacific Northwest tech companies. Check out the archive of past profiles here. Do you run a standout startup in the Pacific Northwest? Apply for Startup Spotlight.