The Value of a Cool Office

By peter.escher, Director of Creative & Brand at PitchBook

Two things happened this week. I finally saw Episode 2, Season 3 of Silicon Valley and Geekwire held their annual awards for the Seattle tech community. On Silicon Valley, the Pied Piper gang moved into fancy office digs (spoiler alert: “gluten free waffles”) and at the Geekwire Awards, PitchBook was nominated for “Geekiest Office” (we lost: congrats Axon Technology — we’ll get over it… eventually).

The theme of classy office environment begets the question: “What’s a cool office worth?” This is an increasingly important query at PitchBook, where we are growing fast and competing for talent with established tech incumbents down the street such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Zillow.

In an interview last week, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said “where people work and their environment is becoming more and more important, especially for millennials.”

And don’t sleep on other awesome start-ups like Rover, Smartsheet, LiquidPlanner, OfferUp, Remitly, Dolly (disclosure, wife works there) and so many more.

One way to gauge the worth of a cool office is to watch the reaction of first-time visitors when they walk off the elevator on the 12th floor of 901 5th Ave. I often hear, “Wow, cool space, I love it — good use of wood. Hey, is that Mt. Rainier?” My sense is the time and money we spent on our office triggers an emotional and instinctual response that is something like: something big and good and interesting is happening at PitchBook. I witness a small transformation in the visitor — as if they are re-examining their initial biases on PitchBook and where it should exist in the landscape of successful companies.

Looking for a way to quantify this feeling, I ran across this article from Eric Markowitz, which quotes Ben Kunz, author of the blog Thought Gadgets:

“So what is the ROI of a cool office? Say it costs you $20,000 to do something really funky in a small organization, about one-fourth the cost of a full-time employee. Assume you have 10 employees, and this cool thing gets each of them to boost performance by 10 percent. You’ve just gotten the work results of one entire full-time employee (10 current employees x 10% = 1 employee equivalent) for a quarter of the cost … plus ancillary benefits of better morale, reduced employee churn, lower recruitment costs, and potentially happier internal clients and external customers.”

Using feelings or numbers, the end result seems the same to me. The exposed wood and the ping pong tables are worth it for PitchBook. But, while we may invest in areas to attract talent, we may not have free La Croix in our kitchen anytime soon (that’s subject of a separate post though).

Did I mention, we’re hiring?