A unique spin on the concept of co-working space, Sunfire Offices was started three months ago by ex- Google engineering manager Niniane Wang and and ex-Facebook engineering manager Yishan Wong. While there are plenty of other co-working spaces in downtown Mountain View, like Hacker Dojo and Plug In Play,Wong and Wang, not satisfied with the available options, decided to create a co-working space of their own.
They found an office space and got funding from a number of angel investors including Keith Rabois and Justin Calbeck, who completely sponsored Sunfire Offices, meaning that Wong and Wang were then able to offer space rent free to other startups and individuals working on personal projects, “Our goal was to build a co-working space focused on top-tier talent.”
(They shied away from talking about a future business model.)
While it does incorporate incubator type qualities, the two emphasize that invite-only Sunfire Offices is not a incubator,“We’re optimizing for the quality of people, since they’re what really matter in a start-up,” says Wong. They wanted to “avoid the problem often associated with incubators: the theory that stronger startups don’t need an incubator so the startups that apply to incubators tend to be weaker ones, resulting in incubators naturally selecting for poorer startup performance.”
Unlike most incubators, the only obligation at Sunfire is to attend a weekly mixer where one of the sponsors’ portfolio companies does a pitch or demo. This benefits Sunfire sponsors because they end up getting first look at potential companies and Sunfire residents because they get exposure to potential investors and recruiters.
Looking for “aggressively productive individuals” as residents, Wang emphasizes that applicant pedigree doesn’t matter. But the the inevitable Google and Facebook connection is strong, “due to our backgrounds, we are able to source from a very high-quality pool – Niniane knows all the great early engineers at Google, and I know everyone from PayPal and Facebook.”
Aside from free rent, office residents gain the being around intelligent people/environmental aspect of working at a giant company while still maintaining a small scale. “Working in coffee shops or at home can be very lonely and unmotivating,” says Wang.
Wang also brings up the example of a Nextstop engineer who didn’t want to move to Facebook when Facebook acquired Nextstop — preferring to stay at a startup.
“We invited her to come work at Sunfire, during which time she worked on a small project of her own while talking with various companies associated with our sponsors and network. And just last week, she accepted a position at one of those companies as their first full-time engineer.”
A visit to the offices reveals an amazing view and a lot of people hard at work on some secret and not so secret projects including YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim, former astronaut and Google Manager Ed Lu, and co-founders of iTeleport Jahanzeb Sherwani and Vishal Kapur.
You can get an invitation to the Sunfire weekly mixer (and maybe even to Sunfire) by contacting office manager (and former Googler) Elaine Yu or tag along vicariously as they eat their way through Castro Street.