The Code Factory

By Robert Janelle

Originally Published in National Capital Scan

“I feel like I’m living in one of those home renovation shows,” says Ottawa consultant Ian Graham as he paces out the sparse interior of what used to be the Afghan embassy. The empty rooms and torn up floors don’t look like much now but soon the place will be humming with laptops, discussions and fooseball matches, home of The Code Factory, Ottawa’s first co-working space. A co-working space is designed to provide freelancers and companies of small teams a place to gather and focus on work, while sharing the rent to keep expenses down, similar to artists sharing studio space. The Code Factory was inspired by the high energy Mr. Graham noticed from attending DemoCamp events, where the tech community gathers to show off the latest projects. Equally instructive were the many coffee shops catering to people bringing in their laptops in search of a quiet place to work.

While the laid-back atmosphere of a cafe is has its appeal, there are downsides. The clanging of cups and dishes, the lack privacy for meetings and the fact that it’s still not a real work place with amenities like printers and fax machines.

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a place like that where everyone is working,” asks Mr. Graham?

Combining the start-up excitement of DemoCamp with the work environment of a coffee shop brings Mr. Graham to the 246 Queen St. location, above the Green Papaya Thai food restaurant.

The work space will take up two floors (the second and fourth) of the old building. The fourth floor will be private office space for small teams while the second floor will be the true collaborative workspace.

The second floor will house three private meeting rooms separated by garage doors along with the co-working area filled with bar-height work tables, mobile round tables for discussions and a coffee bar.

“Ideas percolate on the second floor then move up (to the fourth floor),” says Mr. Graham, continuing the coffee shop comparison.

The final touch on the second floor is the laid-back feeling is the lounge area, which will feature couches and a fooseball table. The lounge also doubles as a reception area for venture capitalists and others who’ll be visiting the work groups operating out of The Code Factory.

While the space is set to be ready later this month, it has taken almost a year to get to this point. First there was discussion to make sure the idea was viable, followed by public consultations to find out just what potential tenants wanted. “The first thing that came up was people wanting meeting space,” says Mr. Graham. “And people wanted to pay by the day.”

An initial pricing structure for The Code Factory will offer half-day passes for $12 and $20 gets access to the space for a full day. Mr. Graham says monthly rental should be in the region of $300.

Consultations were the easy part. The hard part for Mr. Graham, a 15-year veteran of Ottawa’s tech-sector, was securing a location.

There was the initial hunt, scouting for an ideal workplace. The criteria were there had to be easy access to public transit, decent amenities but most of all, says Mr. Graham, “it had to be a funky building.”

Finding the space was then followed by negotiations. He first tried to handle negotiations for a location on his own but lost the building to a non-profit organization. The second time around, he says he hired to a real-estate agent to get the job done.

But for Mr. Graham, it’s all about the learning experience. Beginning his career in research and design after completing studies in electronics at Algonquin College, he was later lured over to the customer service side and headed to uOttawa to obtain an MBA.

At present, he’s running his own marketing and consulting firm, Klondike Consulting, which will soon be moving its base of operations to the Queen Street location.

Now it’s just a matter of setting up the Wi-Fi network, bringing in tables, projection screens, photocopiers, printers and of course, people. According to Mr. Graham, there’s already been a fair amount of interest from referrals and even unsolicited e-mails.

“Everyday I meet a new start-up,” he says. “They just need a place to work.”