Last Friday I visited the Aol* building on Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. But instead of the stench of death and decay you would normally find at a dying company, I found joy and the hustle and bustle of youth. More importantly, I found startups, tens of startups with founders eager to show me around the various VC firms (SoftTech, Morado) and incubators occupying the building’s first floor.
Because someone brilliant at Aol decided to give away the space to startup incubators instead of renting it out to
other dead men walking companies, it was filled with light and life. Whoever you are, you’re a genius.
Founded by Stanford MBA and Former Facebooker Maisy Samuelson and Aol Ventures dude Adam Smith, First Floor Labs basically provides office space and amenities like a kitchen and a gym to pre-Series A teams of between one to four people — startups that would otherwise work out of coffee shops or apartments. Thanks to an Aol Ventures sponsorship, the space is free for six months to all accepted startups without further obligation or any equity transferral.
Samuelson says that she and Smith are in it because they are passionate about startups and the tech community (In Smith’s case having early access to hot startups never hurts a VC), “I love working with an established company to help the next generation of entrepreneurs succeed. It’s amazing to have so much talent and energy in one room. ”
“Smoopa grew from 20,000 downloads to more than 100,000 downloads while we were in First Floor Labs and it’s been great to have smart people around to help us scale,” First Floor Labs resident and Smoopa co-founder Mendel Chuang told me, “The amount of knowledge and expertise in this community is incredible.”
Already one startup, Digital Staircase, has gone to Facebook, while three (stealth) others made it into the current YCombinator class (only three applied).
Applications for First Floor Labs spring session, which will house 15 startups instead of 10, are due on March 9th. Also, I’m going to try work out of there every Thursday from now on, so if you’re around, come say hi!
*Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Aol, in case this is your first time visiting the Internet. I think they write it ‘AOL’ though.