Have spare office space in Portland? Host a startup

From meandering through complicated lease agreements to budgeting for rent, finding office space can be a daunting challenge for many young companies.

Boulder, Colo.-based PivotDesk is aiming to ease that pain for fellow startups by connecting them with existing companies that have a little room to spare. And starting today, the company is offering its matchmaking services in Portland.

PivotDesk isn't merely a marketplace for open desk space; it aims to add value by focusing on matching up companies that will work well together. "One of our biggest focuses is on culture. … Having complimentary people and companies in unused space enriches the work environment and encourages collaboration," said co-founder and CEO David Mandell.

The company tested its service in the summer of 2012 in its hometown of Boulder to prove the business model. The response was good enough to formally launch in New York City and San Francisco in April this year. It's since expanded to Boston, Denver and now Portland.

"Portland's an incredibly hot market for startups, so we expect to see growth there," said Mandell over the phone. The company is using a campaign it calls the "Spaced Out Cities Initiative" to measure interest in potential cities before deciding on where to expand.

While organizations like downtown Portland's NedSpace and Beaverton's BESThq offer a low-cost, shared real estate option for startups, Mandell says PivotDesk's model doesn't directly compete with traditional co-working outfits. "We're complimentary to the existing co-working space model. We fit into a different place in the company life cycle … our advantage is developing culture."

The company makes money by collecting a 10 percent fee from the host business on each sublease agreement. It's also working directly with real estate brokers, convincing companies to move into larger spaces than they would generally need and use PivotDesk to fill extra space while they grow.

PivotDesk is backed by a seasoned roster of investors, including the managing director of Foundry Group and the founder of TechStars. The company currently employs one person in Portland, but plans to add more boots on the ground if things go well following its formal launch today. As of this writing, there were eight offices available in Portland with room for two people.

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