This week marks a major milestone for Rome2rio. After a year of searching, planning and fit-out works we are moving into our very own, brand new office in Melbourne’s digital district, Richmond.
Whilst we are excited about settling into and defining our own space the move is bittersweet as we are saying goodbye to our home of six years and Melbourne’s oldest coworking space, Inspire9. We are leaving a community friends, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs that has embraced us and helped us grow.
In the early days of Rome2rio, Bernie and I first visited Inspire9 when it was based across the train tracks in Cremorne, on Dover Street. At the time, Inspire9 was primarily a digital agency run by founder Nathan Sampimon. Employee Pat Allan would organise Melbourne Jelly, a fortnightly casual co-working event, that was sometimes based at their office. Bernie and I attended regularly; it was a chance to get out Bernie’s apartment where we usually worked. Our business was self funded and we didn’t have spare money for office space, so we worked from Bernie’s bedroom and took in the view of the adjacent parking lot.
Nathan had a vision of building a co-working community around his agency business as a way of connecting with potential clients. In 2011, Nathan leased a 800sqm space in the Australian Knitting Mills (AKM) building opposite Richmond Station which was to become Inspire9’s current home. With room aplenty, Nathan kindly let us freeload and work semi-regularly out of the space.
Over the next six years our team grew, and grew, and grew. Inspire9 became part of our company’s community. Especially in the early days, when our team was small, that community was critical to ensure our small team didn’t get sick of each other and drive each other mad. We socialized with fellow residents, shared ideas and gained valuable insights that helped Rome2rio grow. We occasionally hired fellow residents too.
Inspire9 also offered some major practical benefits. Firstly, a wide variety of office management tasks and expenses were taken care of for us. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with buying a printer, organising cleaners, or paying the electricity bills.
Secondly, Inspire9 enabled us to scale without constantly moving office or suffering larger upfront costs. Each new hire meant a fixed increase in costs for an additional desk. It was the perfect arrangement for a lean, growing business. Inspire9 were very accommodating of our needs. We’ve been a poster child success story for them, and an easy going anchor tenant. Our team culture fit in well. However, once we reached around 30 employees, it became clear it was time for us to move on.
Earlier this year we settled on our new office at 29 Stewart St, Richmond. We’ll write more about our new home soon. During our office fit out our team continued to grow and Inspire9 could no longer accommodate us. Fortunately for us, Patrick Llewellyn and the friendly folks at 99designs, based on the floor above Inspire9, agreed to host ten of our staff for a few months. Their generosity saved us from finding temporary accommodation and moving office twice. We think this is testament to the strength of ties in the digital community of Melbourne and example of how we help in each other in order to succeed.
While it is sad to farewell Inspire9, there is a major upside. Our new office is right next door. It is part of the same AKM complex, with the same warehouse history and iconic design. Most importantly, we will still be close to our original home. We’ll still be around for Friday night drinks, potluck lunches, the Inspire9’s outrageously fun end of year parties. We couldn’t be happier.