Now open: Mercury Grove, a shelter for aspiring startup entrepreneurs

As I announced at our launch party last week, we’re opening up the Mercury Grove office to innovative entrepreneurs who are looking for an alternative to the local Bridgehead or Starbucks.  It’s a funky place located downtown Ottawa (in the Glebe) with lots of place to work, a lounge, conference meeting space, a video-recording room (coming soon), and a ping-pong room.

And it’s free (almost).

The idea behind opening up our space is that I think that Ottawa has some of the greatest entrepreneurs, talent, and ideas in the world.  But we don’t spend enough time together collaborating on ideas, discussing technology opportunities, or discussing ways we’re changing the world.  I think the more we can be surrounded by people who are facing similar challenges (trying to get launched, trying to get noticed, and trying to get paid) the more we can feed off each other’s successes and learn from each other’s experiences.

There are plenty of models out there, and I think there’s a lot of legitimacy behind them, but I also think there’s a lot of negatives.

You can go out and get your own office if you have a few employees, and this works well to build the team and concentrate on your world domination.  But it can be expensive if you’re only one or two people.  Co-working spaces are an awesome modern alternative to renting office space, but there are costs involved there too, and often these spaces develop cultures that don’t meet everyone’s needs.  OCRI and a lot of experienced executives in Ottawa have been talking about an Innovation Centre (capital I, capital C) to rival MARS in Toronto as an innovation hub, but for web startups I think this is overkill and the focus with most “incubators”, “accelerators”, and other “-ators” is misplaced on “added value” of the mentors, fax machine, and receptionists and the cost is almost always way to high for what you get (usually equity).  What I want and think others may want as well, is a raw space with an internet connection where we can build a movement to change the world.

Last year I wrote about how startups don’t need offices and was interviewed by the Globe and Mail on the same subject.  I STILL don’t think startups need an office and felt compelled earlier this year to get an office in order to receive government funding.  Otherwise, I still wouldn’t have an office.  Mercury Grove has thrived for the last 6 years as a virtual company and I think the office is unnecessary for us to continue to be successful.

But, alas, I conceded, so now I have an office.  So, I figured if I had to have an office, you don’t have to.

Now I admit, it’s a bit of a social experiment and we’ll make it up as we go, but here’s the general idea:

  1. There is no financial cost to use the space
  2. You have to be open to collaborate and share with other people
  3. You can’t be all douche-baggy (not all the time)
  4. You have to participate in some of the events

So… the next time you’re heading out to Bridgehead or Starbucks but are looking for a little more collaboration and fun with other innovative startups, come on by and plug-in.

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