10/03/2013 04:08 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2013

The Right Space for the Right Time: Startups and Office Space

A big challenge most startup founders face is simply trying to figure out where to put their business. It seems almost trivial since it's not a core value for the business, but it can often be a huge distraction of both focus and funds. The right answer is - there is no right answer. When it comes to finding office space for your startup, what you need to focus on is who you are, who you want to be and who would best help you get there.

There are many "startup friendly" solutions out there: Accelerators; Co-working facilities; Shared office solutions; Brokers that specialize in the startup space. Unfortunately, most founders are still conditioned to think about office space in a traditional manner. Office space, like other investments including hiring, data hosting, and marketing, should really be thought of as a stage-based investment. What's right for right now? As the business lifecycle evolves, so do office space needs. The first step is to understand it's more about the cultural fit than square footage.

Very early stage startups can gain an advantage by officing in an environment with other startups. Knowledge sharing across organizations is a huge win since getting answers to questions in a few minutes can make a significant difference to early-stage founders. As the company evolves and founders start hiring additional employees, developing the company culture becomes critical. While large, shared spaces might seem appealing, they also tend to be culturally overwhelming, making it difficult to focus on company needs.

Sharing space with one or two companies with similar cultures provides mutual benefits and cost savings and is a great solution for many companies. Since most founders don't know how big their business will be 5 or 10 years from now, cohabitating offers a greater level of flexibility and significantly limits the risk compared to a traditional lease. The flip-side for those who already signed a traditional lease and are looking to minimize their risk is that they too can share their space with one or two other startups that are trying to get their businesses off the ground.

The key to most options for founders is to understand what matters for right now and to think in terms of dynamic, flexible solutions until a long-term lease is really the only thing that works. If you are a Hawaiian-shirt wearing, Teva repping startup, you most likely don't want to bunk-up in a suit-and-tie, cap toe Ferragamo corporate atmosphere. It's crucial that wherever you end up, it culturally aligns with your company and your employees.