Mikael Cho, the CEO of Montreal startup Crew, will open a new coworking space on the first floor of Montreal’s historic Royal Bank Tower at 360 Saint-Jacques Street in the Old Port district. It’s slated to be ready to open in April, once construction has concluded.
The new coworking space will comprise of a public working area, a private space for members, a coffee bar and several other themed areas that will be based on inspiring creativity among its members.
“We’re hoping that this will be a creative hub that grows through a community, grass-roots effort,” Cho told MTLinTech. “We want to keep this not-very-expensive for people who want to rent it, and if you’re a member of the public, you’ll have access to a huge space on the first floor without any barriers. You can just walk in and start working.”
Cho is the founder of Crew, a Montreal-born startup that offers a curated platform connecting about 400 designers and developers with vetted clients that need website, mobile app, or other design work. The jobs range from $500 to $100,000, and the waiting list to become one of the selected freelancers stands at over 10,000 people.
The Royal Bank Tower was Montreal’s first modern skyscraper when it was completed in 1928, and at the time, was the tallest building in the entire British Empire. The first floor, which Crew has secured on a five-year lease, has been vacant for three years since the Royal Bank moved out. The bank actually moved its head office to Place Ville Marie in 1962, but kept a branch in the first-floor hall since it was so aesthetically impressive (and still is).
Its stunning (Baroque-influenced?) ceilings and design, and large surface area make it a true gem within the city of Montreal. Now it’ll become home to hundreds of tech freelancers and startups.
Cho said the idea came to life after Crew raised its $10 million series A round in July of this past summer. At first, Crew wanted a bigger office to meet the needs of its team, now at 25, and even to offer space for its freelancers. From there it became a vision to offer a public office space, especially given that Crew has always been keen on hosting events.
The Royal Bank Tower will be an expensive lease for Cho, but few will deny that it will be a stunning office space to work at. The CEO is already beginning construction for the coffee bar, the private, members-only section and more.
He said it’ll be specifically built for workers. Power outlets will be everywhere, the wifi will be fast and the vibes will be smooth.
“Everything is being designed around the creative process. My background is psychology, so I’ve been thinking about how workers get into their flow, and how they enter different stages of the creative process,” he said. “So there’s a section just for flow, another for inspiration, another for relaxation. Even the food is designed around this.” To that end, each seat in the public area will be able to order coffee delivered right to their seat.
Cho said his vision has always revolved around how he could support his freelancers. With this new space, he’ll be supporting a lot more than just the freelancers who work through Crew.
“My whole thing has always been around how we can have the backs of our freelancers in any way possible, whether its finding work, consistency, feedback, collaboration. We see ourselves as something that represents freelancers.”
The new coworking space also represents a completed cycle of sorts for another reason. Cho, along with those like LP Maurice, have arguably been the first startup entrepreneurs, those that founded their businesses four to five years ago. Now they’re the ones launching coworking spaces, years after just a tiny handful were available for them to use while they founded their businesses.
“LP Maurice has been really focused on community, and our new space came about for a community reason too,” said Cho. “Our members at Crew are freelance workers who either work at home, or are trying to work out of a coworking space. For us it was an almost natural progression to do this.”