By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The need that two local entrepreneurs had for a place to work other than a coffee shop has turned into a thriving co-working space in West Knoxville where nearly a dozen startups are helping each other succeed.
UpStart Knoxville is a tech-centric, co-working space that is the brainchild of both Jeff Gotcher and Michael Goldsborough, entrepreneurs with ventures that have been involved in some of the programming offered by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. The two needed a place to work because they had “burned coffee holes in their stomachs hanging out in places with wall-to-wall people, slow internet, and no sense of community.” The two found a landlord willing to offer space at a reasonable price and jumped at the chance.
Located at 110 Center Park Drive, a road that runs between Kingston Pike (Fort Sanders West) and Parkside Drive (AutoNation Honda), the 2,700 square foot co-working space was opened at in January and, as of our recent visit, had just one walled office still available, although there are shared work areas that entrepreneurs can use.
“We needed office space, and we thought that if we got more than we needed, we could invite some other colleagues to work out of it,” Goldsborough said of the initial impetus to do something like UpStart. “We took the risk of paying for a little too much space but the upside was completely worth it. It was an ‘if you build it, (maybe) they will come’ approach.”
Clearly, their concept has taken hold perhaps faster than they had thought it would. The first resident was James Horey of Reviewbox who joined them on January 15. Then, adding from there, they filled the office space with several companies working elbow to elbow. Today, UpStart provides space to Resque (Goldsborough and Gotcher), CTS Software (Bryan Foster), Your Growth Expert (Jason Hubbard), Storage Pug (Matt Huddleston and Tommy Nguyen) Medic Apps (Laura Odom and Gotcher), Entreos (Preston Garland), Right Click Designs (Nguyen), and Audio Hand and Morehous Legal (Haseeb Qureshi).
“Our member’s businesses started growing, and they needed offices to take calls or to have meetings,” Gotcher explained. “We started with a culture of co-working and community, and we’re looking to grow that once again,” Goldsborough added, noting that with the most recent expansion, there is an opportunity to do just that.
The two Co-Founders said one of the key selling points that has worked from “Day 1” is the comradery that exists among the tenants. “Everything we do here is community-driven,” Goldsborough says, to which Gotcher adds, “Being able to be selective about who we invite to join us creates the right culture.”
Both Goldsborough and Gotcher have stressed the importance of being transparent. They explained that the goal is for a member to achieve success, grow, and graduate from the space. “This puts co-working members in a position to potentially take over if they are ready,” said Goldsborough. In order to do this, the two are focusing on building programming that benefits the community as a whole as well as each company on their unique path.
While the companies are not competitive in the specific sectors they are serving, there is clearly a competitive spirit in terms of their individual success. Some are pre-revenue, while others are seeing strong growth. Yet, regardless of their current success, the culture within UpStart is characterized as both “scrappy and focused.”
One of the main benefits of the space is the level of experience and expertise that exists under one roof. “We realize we can use each other’s services and do just that,” Gotcher says. “You’re surrounded by people who can help you grow your business and provide accountability and instead of wasting time making an appointment to meet with a professional, you just walk down the hall.”
UpStart has experienced tremendous growth in eight months, and Gotcher and Goldsborough are considering a second location, either in downtown or in South Knoxville.
If you’d like to come visit or are interested in learning how to get involved, just stop on by. There is always someone at Upstart willing to take you on a tour and talk about their business.