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Is it getting hot in here? Most of the people who work at Glowforge got stuck in an elevator on Thursday, and, thankfully for us, maintained Internet connectivity. (Via Twitter)

Life at a startup can certainly have its ups and downs. For the folks at Seattle-based Glowforge, Thursday was somewhere in between, as 16 of the company’s 28 employees got stuck together in an elevator.

Thankfully, for the sake of storytelling, no one involved was hurt, everyone appears to have had a good sense of humor about the ordeal, and Internet connectivity remained intact so there is a social media timeline.

CEO Dan Shapiro told GeekWire on Friday morning that the growth of Glowforge, makers of a 3D printer, meant that it was time to start looking for new office space. Shapiro’s words follow in assorted email excerpts, along with Twitter posts from employees who were trapped along with him.

We’ve already grown from 12 to 28, and after having three people join us just this week, we realized our old digs weren’t going to cut it much longer. We took the company on a tour of a potential new office space right in the heart of SoDo.  It was big, and beautiful, and … old.

Shapiro said that his team was lead around by a real estate agent from Washington Partners and when they went to check out a lower floor, the stairwell was closed. So they took an elevator.

The doors opened and everyone got onboard. Not actually everyone: co-founder Tony Wright was interviewing a candidate and co-founder Mark Gosselin was on a conference call, and somehow managed to dodge the bullet. As the elevator filled up, two employees waited outside — we were well under the 3,500-pound posted capacity, but it was getting to be a tight squeeze.

A startup elevator pitch usually means one thing, and depending on who’s doing the talking and how good the pitch is, feeling trapped can be relative. For the Glowforge gang, Thursday’s pitch involved a sudden “clunk” as the elevator stopped during its descent.

We stared at each other disbelievingly, and when the doors didn’t open, hit the intercom button. A very helpful anonymous agent started giving us instructions that sounded like CPR for a dead laptop: “First, hold the ‘B’ button for five seconds. Then, hold the ‘Door Open’ button for 10 seconds.”

The majority of Glowforge (16 people) was trapped in an elevator for 45 minutes today. Apparently, it got very hot and…

Posted by Tony Wright on Thursday, March 10, 2016


Shapiro said the temperature started to climb, and condensation appeared on the wall.  The elevator intercom person assured the group that help was on the way, but after 10 minutes said that traffic was bad, and help was at least half an hour away.

In any group of 16 people, there’s going to be a few who don’t like small enclosed spaces, and we were no different.  We discussed how glad we were that we were on the basement floor, so while we might be trapped, at least we weren’t in any physical danger. We discussed forcing the doors, and someone Googled “what to do when you’re stuck in an elevator.” It turns out the one thing you’re definitely not supposed to do is force the doors, so we resigned ourselves to waiting.

To pass the time, Shapiro said, Glowforge community manager Bailey Nelson coordinated some group selfies. Software architect Scott Haug started streaming bad elevator-themed music. Discomfort was setting in in other ways — the temperature eventually broke 90 degrees and no one could sit down.

Shapiro said other residents of the building, apparently hearing repeated elevator alarms, became worried enough to call 911. Seattle Fire Department personnel arrived minutes later and pried the doors open and the group was breathing fresh air in no time.

The whole ordeal lasted nearly an hour, we were laughing about it minutes after we got out. As our firmware engineer Matt Sarnoff put it: “Company morale events are expensive, but wirecutters only cost 10 bucks.”

Shapiro said that the Glowforge team usually hangs around on Thursdays and has dinner and makes personal projects on the company’s printer. The 3D lasers will definitely be cutting an “Elevator Adventure ’16” plaque.

Now that it’s over, it’s amazing and funny to look back on. There’s definitely one thing we learned: if we move into that building, we’re all going to take the stairs.

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