You may have heard the buzz about the hybrid coffeeshop/co-working space that is Crew Collective’s headquarters in Old Port, Montreal. After all, the redesign of the former Royal Bank on St-Jacques Street was described by Slate Magazine as “The World’s Most Elegant Startup Office”. Designed by architect Henri Cleinge, the opulent space retains the old-world elegance of the historic bank, while integrating all the necessities of a modern tech-startup space: integrated office space, conference rooms, individual work stations. What you may not have realized, is that Crew actually got their start at FounderFuel, and worked out of Notman House for the duration of the program.
Crew, at that time going by the name of Ooomf, applied and were accepted into the 2012 Founder Fuel cohort. “That’s where we met our two other cofounders actually,” says Stephanie Liverani, COO of Crew Collective. “At the end of the program we changed the name to Crew and had a slightly different business model.”
Turning their headquarters into a co-working space seems like a natural extension of Crew’s concept; they provide a platform that connects freelance designers and developers with people with project ideas. Their website boasts that many of the Crew team members are themselves former freelancers. The Crew Collective and Café venture has been wildly successful; the Café serves up gourmet food, pastries, and coffee, and the private workspaces have proved so popular there is a waiting list.
But the inspiration for many of these core concepts, of a shared space promoting interaction among like-minded individuals, can be seen in the startup community fostered by Notman House. “I think it was the community feel about Notman House. You were really close together; there were always ongoing events happening at night that you can attend,” says Liverani. And this was especially useful at a time when Crew was just getting off the ground. “For us, it was great being close to our investors because they were working upstairs. And I just think Notman House is really a place for a lot of Montreal tech community to come hang out; whether they’re coming for an event or coming for a meeting, it was constantly being able to see people in our tech community, all the time.”
As they have grown from a team of four to thirty-two, and moved from Notman to their current 13,000 sq. ft. space, Crew has tried to incorporate these ideas into Crew Collective and Café. “I think they [Notman House] did a really good job of hosting; not only having your office space as a place you go in to work, but having it placed as a collaborative space for a lot of people to use. And so that’s kind of what you think of for the Crew Collective as well. We shared our office space with a bunch of people, and it’s not just for us, it’s for people that are coming for business meetings or that want to rent desks, and we really embraced that concept and shared our space with the community of Montreal”.