A tropical island-themed tiki bar. A colorful pop art paradise. An innovative invention lab. And stunning rooftop decks.
Those are some of the attributes of the inspiring and super cool office spaces up for this year’s coveted Geekiest Office Space Award. Three of the finalists this year — Qualtrics, Zipwhip and Avalara — are located near Seattle’s stadium district and Pioneer Square neighborhood, while Intellectual Ventures is located in Bellevue and PicMonkey calls downtown Seattle home. Vote for your favorite below.
We’ve now unveiled finalists in all 13 GeekWire Awards categories. You can visit the event site to vote in the other categories we’ve already announced, including Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Next Tech Titan; Hire of the Year and more.
Winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Business — on May 10th at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle. GeekWire readers nominated companies, people and organizations for the GeekWire Awards earlier this year, with finalists selected by a panel of judges from those community nominations.
Make sure to cast your ballot for Geekiest Office Space — presented by Knoll — in the poll below. A big thanks to the team at Knoll, which spent the past few weeks touring our nominated companies, helping to come with with the five finalists below
Read on to learn more about this year’s finalists, with summaries from Knoll’s Chelsea LaBelle. Be sure to grab tickets for the big Awards show — head here to get yours before we sell out.
When Avalara began on Bainbridge Island 14 years ago, a 114,000 square foot office space certainly seemed out of the question.
Now, with 1,400 employees — 400 of whom were most recently split between several buildings in Seattle’s Pioneer Square — the maker of tax automation software needed to bring their people under one roof. It found the perfect spot at Avalara Hawk Tower — a new 18-story building just a stone’s throw from Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
Avalara loves the color orange, and you can find it splashed throughout the space, including on the surface of a ping pong table. The company also plays up a tropical beach theme, part of an effort to induce relaxation.
“Early on, it was just a symbol of relaxing, being on a beach, being in a hammock,” Avalara Vice President of Marketing Bryan Wiggins told GeekWire last month. “You can do what you want in your life instead of dealing with your taxes.”
Central stairwells connect several floors, bringing together employees and making amenities such as the patio and top-floor tiki bar even more accessible. The new space has plenty of room for expansion, allowing Avalara to add up to 300 more people in the building.
Intellectual Ventures Lab
If you’re looking for one of the geekiest places in the Northwest, Intellectual Ventures will absolutely blow your mind. This group of tinkerers, engineers, scientists and hackers is built upon the vision and focus of Nathan Myhrvold, who held a variety of executive positions at Microsoft, including being the first CTO.
Their Bellevue building houses a nuclear reactor, a Mach 2.3 supersonic ping-pong ball gun, a mosquito-zapping laser and a house-made Tesla coil that can play Sweet Home, Alabama while dispersing electrical energy in a visually fantastic display.
But that’s only the half of it. From malaria vaccine cooling and transportation devices to new methods to cool artificial insemination tubes in impoverished countries to artificially intelligent microscopes that learn to identify infections in cells, Intellectual Ventures is innovating at nearly every turn.
With a long list of published scientific papers and a plethora of in-house PhDs, IV is a disruptor on every level, including their workplace culture.
Employees are encouraged to build their own parts for experiments in the machine shop, offer their hacking services to Fortune 500 companies in order to test their web security or crack the safe that’s currently residing in the middle of the lobby (there are rotating challenges for the people to partake in).
Science takes the front seat at Intellectual Ventures, but their employees are fighting the good fight while having fun and staying engaged along the way.
PicMonkey’s new office space at 1505 Fifth Avenue is as vibrant as the images they help customers edit.
The colors are bold. The feel is Pacific Northwest. And the art is lush and cheeky, courtesy of local pop artist Troy Gua.
They have maximized every square foot of the Seattle office, providing a variety of horizons and expandable spaces designed to create pockets of privacy, collaboration and community space. These community spaces are well-loved and well-used. PicMonkey is constantly engaged with events, ranging from happy hours to gingerbread house contests.
At 65 employees and growing, PicMonkey is particularly proud of its culture of inclusion, boasting a 1:1 female-to-male ratio. The online photo editing company offers generous parental leave, and their mother’s room is rarely empty.
Team building and family events are common, and it is not unusual to see employees’ kids tinkering with the office Legos, sketching on the white boards or having an office scavenger hunt.
Editor’s note: PicMonkey chairman Jonathan Sposato serves as chairman of GeekWire.
If you’re looking for one of the best views in Seattle, head to the rooftop of Qualtrics in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Nestled in the epicenter of Seattle’s stadium district and just next door to charming brick architecture, Qualtrics best perks are all about location.
The view of the Olympics, Puget Sound, and a postcard shot of downtown Seattle is one thing. The season tickets to Mariners games and Sounders matches definitely up the ante. And being in experience management, it’s fitting, right?
The workplace is definitely an experience in its own right. Massage chairs and treadmill desks near massive windows make for great places to recharge. Just feet away are “egg chairs” that offer acoustic privacy, so employees have an easy place to focus or jump on a conference call.
Lunch is catered four days a week; between meals, massages, and treadmills, why leave?
Qualtrics is all about employee support. In addition to receiving paid time off for the week between Christmas and the New Year, employees are given an “experience bonus” each year to spend on personal experiences. Upon their return, photos are posted and stories shared on the Qualtrics intranet, so everyone is engaged. Started in Provo, Utah, Qualtrics established a presence in Seattle in 2015 and later dubbed the 47,000 square foot location on 1st Avenue South as its co-headquarters.
It is impossible to enter Zipwhip’s office at Home Plate Center in Seattle’s stadium district without taking notice of an unmistakeable buzz. It’s the buzz that today’s tech company works hard to facilitate, often only successful when paired with a culture that resonates with collaboration and a value of fun.
There’s something in the water at Zipwhip — or maybe it’s the carefully branded mugs at the coffee bar.
Interior Designers of Scout Home Lisa Teplitsky and Erin Lauer — who just happens to be the wife of Zipwhip CEO John Lauer — managed to craft a work environment that feels totally activated.
A group huddled in a comfortable lounge area for a short meeting while one of its members played the guitar.
At an hour typified by the afternoon slump, people were talking — everywhere. Employees chatted over a quick game of mini golf. Part of this buzz was due, in part, from an intentional “shortage” of conference rooms.
Employees engage with one another in natural settings. On warm days, they take to the stunning rooftop deck.
A favorite spot to meet year-round is Conference Room H — a loving nickname for the downstairs dive Hooverville. You don’t have to travel far for a drink, however.
Zipwhip’s Texterator will pour you a drink and engrave the last digits of your phone number onto your cup, just for good measure.
The spirit of fun is apparent in many ways, but it is obvious, too, that it starts from the top. “John Lauer loves karaoke more than anyone I’ve ever met,” our tour guide shared. Work for Zipwhip, and you’ll certainly hear his best Top 40.
That’s a look inside our five finalists. Make sure to cast your ballot below, and make sure to grab tickets here.