Shared offices growing in S.F., Peninsula

For some entrepreneurs, the idea of managing their own offices just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, they’re consultants sick of working from the dining-room table or buying endless cups of coffee in a cafe. Sometimes they’re bigger startups or satellite offices that just don’t want to deal with buying furniture, setting up fax machines and hiring someone to man the front desk.

So another set of entrepreneurs has sprung up to meet these needs by providing shared office space. A diverse bunch, ranging from multi-state corporations with “plug and play” environments to small companies offering one large workspace, these businesses are growing in both San Francisco and the Peninsula.

“We’re trying to add the community feeling that single business owners and people on the road miss,” said Roman Gelfer, CEO of Sandbox Suites LLC, which opened Monday in San Francisco.

Sandbox Suites offers memberships ranging from $135 to $495 monthly, depending on whether the renter wants a dedicated desk every day or simply a desk and the use of a conference room a few times a week.

“If you’re two to three people, it’s not practical to get an office,” said Max Ventilla, CEO of a startup called Launching September, which has an office but is renting desks from Sandbox as flex space.

It’s a for-profit example of a trend called co-working, which also includes organizations operating without a profit with the aim of spreading community-building ideals.

Citizen Space in San Francisco is an example of the latter. Operated as a write-off by online community building firm Citizen Agency in an open room, the space is designed to foster sharing — even to the extent of members commenting on business plans written on the whiteboard, according to co-founder Tara Hunt.

On the more traditional front, companies such as The Regus Group (RGU), Pacific Business Centers Inc. and Premier Business Centers offer offices, conference rooms and the like with short-term leases.

Splice Communications, a rapidly-growing telecom, has been at a San Mateo office managed by Pacific Business Centers since 2003, CEO Andy Coan said. It rents six single-occupant offices, and has watched the business center gain occupants over the years, he said.

“They answer the phone by your company name. It’s brilliant. It really keeps the overhead low,” Coan said.

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