projectY: New cowork space caters to entrepreneurs, startup companies

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By Arin McKenna

ProjectY opened its doors on Wednesday in Central Park Square. The new collaborative cowork space is meant to serve as a hub for connecting startups, freelancers and others to like-mind entrepreneurs, business experts, investors and mentors who will help them achieve their personal and professional goals.
The name pays homage to one of the Manhattan Project’s code names. projectY is a collaborative effort between Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC), Los Alamos County, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL) Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation and its Community Relations and Partnerships Office and Central Park Square owner Philip Kunsberg.
“project Y is a fairly unique collaboration between many different organizations. It’s a collaboration and a partnership that I’ve not seen in 13 or 14 years, that’s as formal and aligned as what we have here,” LACDC Executive Director Patrick Sullivan remarked during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It’s the bringing together of several different entities to help spur entrepreneurship and creativity in Los Alamos.”
According to County Manager Harry Burgess, projectY will fill a critical gap for coworking space options for young professionals, entrepreneurs and home business owners looking to expand their presence in Los Alamos.
“This kind of need has been consistently identified in economic development surveys for small startup businesses in the past, and so it is exciting to see projectY open its doors to those opportunities on June 8,” Burgess said.
The center’s open space environment is meant to encourage interaction between users. Rolling worktables can be configured into different workspaces.
Seating areas include a bench surrounded by beanbag chairs, a counter with bar stools and a lounge-style area. Artwork and some furnishings were set pieces donated by the “Manhattan” television series. The space also has a conference room, a kitchen and office equipment.
The operational model for projectY is similar to a gym membership concept in which users can purchase different levels of access to the space. Options range from $10 day passes for nonmembers to six-month passes that include free admission to all programming and events, wifi and utilities, basic office supplies and printing and coffee, tea and snacks.
The space is also BYOB-friendly.
Both the conference room and cowork space can be rented by nonmembers, based on availability.
“We envision groups like the Los Alamos Entrepreneurs’ Network (which will be holding its meetings at projectY) renting out the space at night, because there’s very limited space for groups that want to meet at night,” said FCI program manager Micheline Devaurs, who has been one of the key figures in launching the project.
According to Devaurs, the collaborative’s research shows that programming such as entrepreneurial education and targeted seminars will be a key component in making projectY a successful venture.
“You need activities in the space that bring people into the space, in addition to people who don’t want to work out of their house and want to work somewhere more stimulating, where there are other people, that’s not Starbucks,” Devaurs said.
Planning is underway to host either weekly or biweekly Ted Talks, monthly entrepreneur roundtables in which professionals will share their areas of expertise and “Office Hours for Entrepreneurs,” which will bring local experts such as attorneys and accountants on site.
It took six to eight months to launch projectY, after the concept surfaced during a brainstorming session.
“I guess in true startup fashion we started up quickly,” Sullivan said. “I think the goal was, if we’re going to do it, we should just do it, and we’ll bootstrap it and get it open. And there’s no better way to gage demand unless it’s here and open and available.”
“And we had a supportive landlord, which is key in this.” Devaurs added. “You need people who are willing to invest in the community beyond what we are able to do with our collaborative partnership. So Philip Kunsberg was really an important partner in this.”
When the Los Alamos County Council was considering whether to support the project, a question was raised about how projectY could succeed where similar ventures such as The Hive and Diamond Mix had failed. Devaurs addressed that with the Los Alamos Monitor.
“One is location. We’re downtown,” Devaurs said. “Two is, we’re not trying to be an experimental lab space. We don’t have the space. And The Hive was more an experimental space. They had a lot of lab equipment.”
Devaurs also pointed out that Diamond Mix had low visibility and that cowork space was incidental to the main use of the space, whereas at projectY it is the central focus.
“I’d say we’re very intentional, and we have a whole series of partners. We have a lot of people partnered, which is rather unique,” Devaurs said. “So we all want it to be successful, and we all bring something to the table.”
Devaurs also believes having Director Lauren McDaniel managing the space will aid in its success.
“We really hope to cater to entrepreneurs, specifically in science and technology, but also across a range of disciplines: freelancers, other businesses, startups, people who are working from home or a coffee shop who want a more social, collaborative environment,” McDaniel said at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“So we really want to be a hub for the community, as a center for innovation, a center for collaboration and entrepreneurship.”
Chief Technology Officer Duncan McBranch, who represented LANL at the ribbon cutting ceremony, spoke about how the lab hopes to use projectY.
“We’re going to try to direct some of the things we already do in entrepreneurial activities and post doc and student activities to create kind of a hub here,” McBranch said, noting that most networking activity has occurred at venues such as Starbucks and Bathtub Row Brewing Co-op. “We like having a central place where people can follow up on those accidental interactions and make them more deliberate.
“We’re also trying to – through the Feynman Center – be more intentional about creating entrepreneurial activities out of our technical staff. So this ties into our strategies.”
Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary represented the county at the ribbon cutting.
“Los Alamos County is very excited that this operation has been created,” O’Leary said. “Spurring business development is a big part of council’s strategic goals. We are very dedicated to seeing a diverse business community in Los Alamos County…and we think this kind of environment is going to be a really productive way for our entrepreneurs in Los Alamos County to be successful. And we want you to be very successful.”
projectY is located at 150 Central Park Square. For more information, go to projectylosalamos.com or call 661-4862.