Coworking Startup Workbox Seeks to Offer More Than Just Flexible Office Space
Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Chicago’s rising startups from last quarter here.
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Coworking spaces have a lot in common. They feature lively and vibrant office space, free drinks and coffee, open seating arrangements and, of course, flexibility for workers or companies not wanting to commit to a traditional office lease. Chicago-based coworking startup Workbox, however, is looking to do things differently.
Founded in 2019, Workbox has four coworking spaces throughout the Windy City, each offering cozy work accommodations and a variety of features such as wellness rooms, phone booths and printing services. Unlike other coworking brands, Workbox also provides mentoring services and investment leads for companies that use the space.
“I just thought that the sector had no differentiation; everybody was just selling space,” John Wallace, CEO and co-founder of Workbox, told Built In. “We started the business to be a toolbox for early and growth-stage companies to be successful.”
Some of the additional benefits that come with the Workbox’s Plus membership include seminars, digital marketing courses, tech developments, bookkeeping and access to capital. Currently, Workbox has a network of around 40 angel investors and VC firms that accept pitches from startups using the company’s office space. While investment is not guaranteed, it is an introduction that founders can then leverage to secure funding in the future.
Workbox also hosts programs and events for Plus members that teach them how to pitch their business to investors.
“We do a lot of programming to make sure that [members] know how to talk to investors because oftentimes founders don’t have a background in finance. They might be brilliant in tech development or in marketing or in sales, but they don’t necessarily know how to tell their story and develop a strategy to raise capital,” Wallace said.
Wallace said because Workbox offers services in addition to office space, it is able to attract and retain workers and companies more than other coworking spaces.
“We’re a lot stickier than some of our peers,” he said.
The Plus membership is Workbox’s highest membership and is meant for smaller startups looking for office space. The two tiers below this membership can be used by individuals or companies. Pricing varies on whether folks want a reserved desk, floating desk or private office.
I just thought that the sector had no differentiation; everybody was just selling space. We started the business to be a toolbox for early and growth-stage companies to be successful.”
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many employees to work remotely, but Wallace says people’s relation to the office and work in general is still going through a major shift and it’s one that Workbox can capitalize on.
The company started with just one location in Chicago, but in 2020 and 2021, it went a bit bullish and added three new locations after it acquired new properties from owners who defaulted on their leases. During this period of growth, Workbox grew its revenue 5x and closed a $3.5 million seed round.
Now, the coworking startup has four locations in River North, the Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast and West Loop.
“We’ve seen a lot of demand from individuals looking to get out of the house because it’s just easier for business development and for networking and culture-building,” Wallace said. “But also we’re seeing corporations not knowing how they work in environments that are remote so they’re increasing exposure to flex and office as well.”
In order to reach more workers and companies looking for flexibility, Workbox is looking to open new coworking locations in the near future. Since it already has locations in Chicago, Wallace said it will target new locations in other large U.S. cities and plans to launch in another major city towards the end of the year.