Tell me you work at a start-up without telling me you work at a start-up.
I’ve played this game before on Twitter, to which my answer is “Our office is wall-to-wall IKEA and I built most of it”. Leaving aside a brief period of freelancing, I’ve now worked in six different offices throughout my career and I’ve built a Kallax unit in all but one of them. And so it came to pass that a mere 21 days after joining Project Vault, I found myself - Allen key in hand and fuelled by Dominos - once again reflecting on the greatest lie ever told. Because despite the claims, self-assembly furniture never assembles itself.
All of which is to say that Project Vault has now outgrown the nursery and we’ve moved into our first proper office. Since its inception, the company has been domiciled in the basement flat of our founder Greg’s house. Given he previously co-founded onefinestay, it should come as no surprise to learn it’s an extremely well appointed flat, but by the time I arrived as employee number eight, it was already over capacity. Get in early and you might secure a spot at the dining table, but arrive late and you’d be relegated to the sofa with your back to everyone for the rest of the day. Endearingly, Greg’s daughters drew pictures of dragons all over our whiteboard (rumours that they’re caricatures of our investors remain unconfirmed) but we didn’t dare rub them off. Nor did we dare use the Saniflo toilet, but that’s for another post.
The need to find an office had been clear for a while, but as we’ve intentionally adopted an Office-First policy while many others have been doing the opposite, we haven’t made lives easy for ourselves. As a start-up, your first office is meant to be a bit crap. Anything too flashy sends the wrong signal about what you’re spending the seed money on. The ping pong tables and beer fridges may look cool, but they’re really just a relatively cheap way of diverting attention from dripping pipework or the rats scuttling across the ceiling tiles (true story). In a world where plenty of people now - understandably - don’t want to commute when they could just stay home, even start-up offices are going to have to raise their game.
For my part, I didn’t need much persuading to return to commuter life. Having spent the better part of two years confined to my bedroom with two domesticated cats and two feral children for co-workers, the prospect of being in a proper office again was dizzying. As my start date drew nearer, I found myself fantasizing about using a bathroom without someone trying to join me and sit on my lap, or simply walking from one meeting to another. I’m not denying the benefits of home-working (and I still intend to do it at least once a week) but several lockdowns later and I was undeniably nostalgic for the left-hand side of this diagram.
That said, I don’t want the above to paint a misleading picture. We’ve set ourselves an insanely ambitious goal at Project Vault and achieving it will take a Herculean effort. I’m under no illusion about the fact I’ve signed up for my most challenging role to date. I also know I’m going to be spending a lot of time in this new office, trying to solve mind-bendingly complex problems. And we don’t even have a ping-pong table (yet).
Even so, I consider myself very lucky to be on the ticket, especially at this early stage. Yes, it’s hard work, but it’s the gratifying kind that brings a sense of real accomplishment, not the kafkaesque variety that kills the will to live*. We’ve already assembled an outstanding cast of characters, including our resident designer, Jacob, who’s done a brilliant job of creating an office where we can all do our best work. We’ve found a huge, open-plan space with tonnes of light and character in a great location on Farringdon Road, and now we’re on the hunt for more colleagues to fill it with.
So please take a look at our open roles, and if any of them sound like you, get in touch. We’re on a mission to stick it to the guys who’ve been sticking it to you for years, we’ve made a public commitment to having the best coffee in the world and there’s no danger of being roped into building any Kallax units as we’ve done them all already, so what are you waiting for? Come on in, the water cooler’s lovely.
*Spoiler alert: a post from our COO, Glen, about the differences between Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 “fun” will almost certainly follow.