The Greater Boston area is recognized on a national scale as home to many innovative companies, but it hasn’t always been this way, specifically for the Fenway neighborhood. Rewind to August 2015, a time when Samuels & Associates played an important role in developing real estate that would support and impact startup culture south of the Charles river.
“No matter where you are in Boston, you’re going to have access to some of the best minds in the country. The thing we loved about Fenway was the idea of renewal in such a historic area,” said Will Ahmed, CEO at WHOOP, a performance tracking startup. He continued, “The Fenway area is synonymous with Boston, and we really wanted to be a part of its revitalization as a hub for innovation. There’s something great about infusing a historic location with a new generation of workers that creates a unique energy.”
Fenway is home to baseball, but the district is casting a spotlight on what many are dubbing the next “Innovation District” in the greater Boston area. This shift has resulted in startup companies, many technology related, now opting to rent office space in places other than Kendall Square or other areas of Cambridge that see innovation regularly. A lot of this has to do with the office space available. With startup companies, it is difficult to find working space that keeps a growing business in mind.
This is where Hatch comes in. Located on the eighth floor of the Landmark Center building, Hatch Fenway is a 110,000-square-foot office space designed with startups in mind.
Samuels and Associates have broken the space up into smaller units for companies, ranging from about 2,000-square-feet to more than 30,000-square-feet, providing accommodation for eight to ten startups.
“We are trying to bring and move some of the innovation back into the Greater Boston area,” said Justin Mott, director of business development at Hatch. “A lot of these companies nowadays feel they have to think and live on the red line—so that’s usually in Cambridge, in Alewife, in Davis Square. So they are usually north of the Charles River…we are trying to break the mold.”
Hatch currently has seven startups leasing and operating in the building. Toast, a restaurant point-of-sale system, is the anchor tenant, utilizing 35,000-square feet of the creative workspace.
Toast landed their first customer in 2013 with only 10 employees. By the end of 2014, they had 450 locations, and closing out 2015 they have over 1,000 locations with more than 120 employees.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth of this area even within the last year. Many new companies have moved here in recent months, all of varying sizes and industries, adding a great and varied community,” said Toast Vice President of Marketing Ellie Mirman.
Toast originally operated from 100 Cambridge Park Drive in Cambridge. Though they did consider staying in Cambridge when they decided a move was necessary for the growth of their company (only because that’s where their previous offices were based), ultimately, the benefits of Fenway drew Toast to Hatch.
“Fenway offered the perks of food, entertainment, and transportation options, while also being a startup center early in its development. There are certainly many startup hubs around the city, but they’re now crowded and expensive—hard for a company of our size to fit and continue to grow. Joining a brand new center allows us to be part of building a new startup hub while also having the space and perks we need to build a strong business,” said Mirman.
It may be more fun to be around the entertainment, but from a business perspective, is the move to Fenway for better, or worse?
“I would definitely say right now Fenway area is pretty much cheaper than Cambridge. It’s because it’s oversaturated. There are so many people and so many companies starting that everybody is on top of each other and there is not a ton of room for growth—for people to survive out there long-term. It just gets so expensive because the way, and the speed, and the rate at which these companies are growing,” said Mott.
Unique to Hatch is the design and structure of the working space.
“At Hatch, we cater to whatever the needs of the company are. Really, the amount of space we give each company is based on where they see themselves for the next few months,” Mott said.
Hatch operates under a gross lease, renting out space for $25 per square-foot and an extra $1.50 per square-foot for utilities as a flat rate. Typically, office space rents under a 12 to 18 month contract, most companies choosing the latter.
“We’re trying to make it simple and easy for a start-up to survive,” said Mott.
According to Tom Eisenmann, Harvard Business School professor and faculty co-chair of the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, who studies the management of new ventures, “Having someone take care of WiFi, package delivery, etc. is a big plus. More attractive, though, is the flexibility of leases for startups that can’t predict when they’ll outgrow space or need to shrink.”
As far as competing with the perks of the surrounding Cambridge environment, the author of “Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts” doesn’t think companies who choose Fenway will suffer any loss.
“Any startup that wanted to work with clinicians in the Longwood medical centers would find this a terrific location. And tech startups, Internet or mobile, wouldn’t be at a disadvantage, relative to Kendall or the Innovation District. Fenway is conveniently located and has great amenities with restaurants, etc.,” said Eisenmann.
But Hatch isn’t the only space driving in new companies to Fenway. Additionally, the Van Ness office tower on Boylston Street, also developed by Samuels & Associates has become a magnet for companies, mostly technology.
Take WHOOP, a fitness tracking startup, which revolutionizes the way teams and players measure stress and recovery created by three Harvard graduates.
Since the inception for the idea, the product has received $12 million in venture capital funding—predominantly from data science investors Two Sigma Ventures and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte.
“We’re getting traction with teams across every pro sports league and major NCAA conference. We’re growing our team to keep pace with demand and to ensure we’re ahead of the innovation curve as data and analytics play an increasing role in sports decision making. We’ve designed our office with collaboration in mind,” said Ahmed.
WHOOP, is on its way, working in the competitive world of elite athletics, used by athletes in the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and several Olympics teams and trainers just to name a few. With nearly 50 employees, they had to keep their growth rate in mind when looking for office space, and it didn’t hurt that their space is right next to Fenway Park.
“Fenway has always been associated with the Red Sox—and always will be. So it’s great to see the area marry athletics and technological innovation as seamlessly as it has over the past few years. This is a concept we’re intimately familiar with…Combining athletics and innovation is working for WHOOP and we’re glad to see it’s working for Fenway as well,” said Ahmed.
It’s clear since the arrival of Hatch, and other launchpad style offices in the Fenway district that the innovation in an area, known predominantly for an assortment of lively entertainment, has seen quite the shift.
“Fenway as a community has really developed into something really special, and people really see that. Once you live in this area or work in this area, just for a while, it doesn’t even have to be for long, you understand that almost immediately,” said Mott.
With more startups flocking to the Fenway neighborhood, it is inevitable that what people refer to as the next “Innovation District,” can only flourish with time.