The Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.
Notman House director Emma Williams was quick to admit it. The building long known as Montreal’s “home of the web” has cultivated a solid reputation, but it has room to improve.
Williams wants to spearhead the change.
Before the house’s extensive and ambitious Videotron-sponsored renovations throughout 2013 and 2014, Notman House’s tech community congregated in what’s known as the “front portion” of the house. From roughly 2011 to 2013 the large open rooms allowed for a strong community of startups and freelancers to grow. Many of those people were part of FounderFuel’s first few cohorts of its accelerator program.
But after the renovations completed in 2014 the OSMO Foundation (the charity that owns Notman House) placed a heavy emphasis on its small, freshly-renovated private offices in the three-floor back portion.
It has been argued that part of what made the community so collaborative was somewhat lost in the transition.
“One of the big things I want to focus on now is bringing that feeling back because I think it was lost when everyone went to closed offices,” Williams told MTLinTECH. “Notman has a great reputation is because it started as a place for the community, by the community.”
“One of our big focuses is making sure that sense of community grows and gets back to what it was before. We want our tenants to really know each other, to work together and to be caring about the house,” she added.
It would be hard to argue that Notman House’s pricey renovations to the back portion of the building didn’t forge a lasting impact, something Williams was quick to point out.
Today a beautiful Google for Entrepreneurs outdoor terrace hosts weekly summer barbeque’s while the house’s posh OSMO Cafe serves up coffee by day and plays host to regular events by night. Meanwhile, various spots throughout the space provide members of the public free places to work, including Videotron lounges and a Videotron office, a Cisco Room, a BDC lounge and more.
“At your classic coworking space it’s really the people renting the desks and attending events. At Notman House we offer a stronger, larger community because there is no barrier to entry. There’s no check-in or reception. Anyone can come and work from any of our spaces and that facilitates interaction between people. We get students, consultants and professionals all interacting with companies who rent space here,” said Williams.
Williams’ solution to the somewhat lonely feel of Notman House’s back portion offices is simple: get the entrepreneurs out of their offices more. Create more initiatives to get people out of their private spaces and into a more inclusive sense of community.
“One of my goals I established with the board is actually to get the noise level higher,” laughed Williams.
In terms of event space, Notman House offers two large, identical spaces on the third floor of the back portion. Williams said they have “huge demand” for events nine to ten months a year.
What’s left for startups is the 21 private offices that fill the first and second floors of Notman’s back portion. At 119 sq. ft. these cost $650 per month. This price can be seen as competitive when placed alongside the roughly 25 other coworking spaces in Montreal.
Still, Notman House is not without challengers as fat-pocketed competitors like WeWork enter Montreal. Once one of the only spaces in the entire city to offer space for tech entrepreneurs, Notman House now competes in a cluttered, even saturated space according to local experts.
Williams thinks Notman House fits in well with its competitors given that tenants only have to commit for three to six months, a nice alternative from the 12-month contracts other spaces demand.
Throw in the support that tenants can gain from Notman House’s several big-name sponsors like Google, BDC and Videotron and this house is well-positioned to compete, said Williams.
“We see ourselves as a place where once you’re done renting a desk and you’ve got a few employees under your belt, you come here to test it out with a network around you. If it works you can move on to other coworking spaces.”
Have you read the rest of The Coworker series?
Petite Nuwrk has grand visions – August 16
Esplanade creates a familial atmosphere – August 2
Le 402 is small but the price is nice – July 26