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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Startup's Guide to Leasing Office Space in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill


As a startup there is constant tension between investing for growth while also trying to minimize burn rate. This is especially true for entrepreneurs considering leasing their first office space when trying to grow a new company. Entrepreneurs often struggle with thoughts of “Do I lease swanky, expensive space that will attract the type of talent we’re looking for, although the expense could potentially tank us, or do I make the financially prudent decision to lease cheaper, cookie-cutter, suburban office space that could make it difficult to attract new employees to work for our startup? Is there a compromise?” As a Commercial Real Estate broker with some experience and expertise in serving entrepreneurs and early growth stage companies this is a conversation I have often. Below I have listed some important considerations for startups looking for office space.


Do you even need office space?

One of the first considerations is whether you even need to lease office space. Some of these considerations should include:
  1. Is your business customer facing?
  2. Do you exclusively engage with your clients online or over the phone?
  3. Will your clients ever need to come to your office?
  4. Do you need physical space to perform part of your business? (Meetings, Production, Collaboration)
  5. Can you work from home or a coffee shop?
With the abundance of Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops and other public spaces there are many free workspace options at your disposal. This is important to consider as a potential option before you commit to a lease for office space.

If your answer to these questions is “Yes, I need office space!” then your first step is to consider a variety of space options in the Triangle that are designed specifically for startups and entrepreneurs. All the options listed below are in harmony with a typical entrepreneur’s desire for a flexible, short-term lease, and generally at a price point that is workable for a startup.

Incubator Environments:

There are several of these types of space options for entrepreneurs in the Raleigh-Durham market designed specifically for startups which offer not only office space (either included with program admission or at a reasonable cost) but they also typically also offer furniture, some form of mentorship, access to a robust network, and some also offer access to capital. The options below are definitely worth considering.

University/Research Accelerators:

There are also startup accelerators associated with NC State, Duke, UNC and the Hamner Institute in RTP. These are certainly worth exploring further if you qualify for their specific guidelines.

Startup Office Spaces:

If none of the above spaces are viable options for you, there are some potential options in the Raleigh-Durham market that have sprung up over the last few years that do not involve any form of application or leasing parameters (as opposed to the above). These are simply flexible real estate solutions that are designed with the entrepreneur in mind. These represent terrific short term office space solutions for your growing startup.

What about traditional office space?

Upcoming in Part 2: A Startup’s Guide to Leasing Office Space in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill:
Blair will walk you through proven techniques and strategy’s that a startup can employ to navigate the complex and arguably antiquated commercial real estate leasing model.

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This is a "Start Something" Guest Post from Blair Graham, a CED Member. Post originally appeared here. This is the first post in a two-part series about finding and securing entrepreneurial office space in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.