The Root Ventures Conference Cabin Part I

Kane
Kane
Jun 26, 2017 · 6 min read

Root Ventures is a hardware-focused seed stage VC run by Avidan Ross and Kane Hsieh. We try to build or modify every part of our office. Want to talk shop? kane@root.vc

Our office is a 1000 sqft sublet of a friend’s factory in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco. We chose this for a few reasons: it let us build a machine shop and coffee bar from scratch, we can borrow tools from the factory for projects as needed, and rent is about two orders of magnitude cheaper than standard SF office space.

Look for our sign.

One of the few downsides of the space was the absence of enclosed rooms — visiting entrepreneurs often found it difficult to pitch over the sounds of the factory. The landlord forbid us from putting up walls, so we improvised a solution over a few weekends and built our own conference room.

The conference room had to be comfortable and quiet; we also wanted it to match the aesthetics of the factory while supporting the connectivity and power required by a modern technology company.

Plans from SolidBuild

We considered modifying a shipping container, but it wouldn’t fit through the door (there’s also a high probability of toxic off-gassing which is why you should be very careful about container homes). Ultimately, the closest we found to what we needed was a prefab cabin designed by SolidBuild. It gave us a free-standing structure with a lot of freedom to further modify.

The shed arrived on the back of a truck on a 900 lb pallet. Since the guys down the street that let us borrow their forklift weren’t around, we depalletized on the street and carried it into our office piece by piece.

The shed, depalletized.

We ran into an issue almost immediately. The foundation beams supplied were designed for outdoor storage use, and therefore not very precise. Unfortunately, they were unusable for the floor of a conference room.

Cheap foundation beams.

The solution was to replace the foundation beams with high-quality ground contact pressure-treated lumber, available at any home improvement store like Home Depot (but try to support your local stores! I use Valu Home Centers when I’m back home in Buffalo, NY). Once the foundation was laid, the construction was straight forward — the prefab beams were basically a giant set of Lincoln Logs. It took us less than a day to get the walls stood up.

Don’t skimp on your foundation 😃

While the walls went up with little effort, we encountered a challenge with the roof. The shed had been designed with an awning to shade the entrance, but that was unnecessary indoors and resulted in more than a few head bumps. We modified the roof joists to a more appropriate length for an interior conference room.

Modifying the roof because we kept hitting our heads 🛠

After the roof was done, the last part of the structure was the floor. We laid a plywood sub-floor on top of the foundation to provide additional rigidity for the flooring — an upgrade from the shed’s original design.

Plywood sub-flooring with spruce on top for ~aesthetics~

The final major modification we made to the cabin was to add power, HDMI, and ethernet underneath the floor. Before laying down carpeting, we routed out space in the floor between foundation beams for two double gang electrical boxes. With the wiring installed, we were able to use carpet tiles and a razor blade to achieve wall-to-wall carpeting with minimum effort.

Seamless carpeting is *very* satisfying.

With the cabin completed, the next step was to furnish the interior. Next week I’ll document how we wired the conference cabin with a blend of retro technologies and smart home systems (built in-house, naturally).

The cabin inside our office, with an OpenDesk table, arcade CAD workstation, and espresso machine running custom firmware — topics of future posts.
Next week: wiring the cabin.

Building something like a cabin has never been easier thanks to a Cambrian explosion of low cost digital manufacturing tools, driven by low cost computing, sensors, and actuators (thanks, smartphones!). Everyone — beginners to seasoned hobbyists — are benefitting from new tools. If you’re thinking about starting a project, do it!

From software to CNCs, there are dozens of new and up-and-coming digital manufacturing tools that we’re excited about. In no particular order, and by no means comprehensive:

If I’ve forgotten anything cool products, please let me know at kane@root.vc! We are truly in a golden age of manufacturing.

Root Ventures

Seed VC investing in the future of industrial automation…

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