Friday is Kickstarter‘s eighth birthday. Since the crowdfunding-platform was founded on April 28, 2009, the site has successfully helped fund more than 123,000 projects. To do this, the company connects the likes of filmmakers, musicians, and artists with financial backers.
With such a creative bent to the organisation, we figured that the Ole Sondresen-designed workspace would be quite a unique office. When we visited in November, we found that we were right.
Here’s what we saw and learned during our tour of the Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based office:
Getting from our Flatiron office to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was a bit of an adventure. We ended up taking an AquaTaxi across the East River on a very cold and windy November morning. The entrance to the building was nondescript, but inside was quite striking. We immediately noticed the abundance of natural light and the delicious smells coming from the kitchen.
We quickly met up with our tour guides, director of HQ Charlie Mirisola, office manager Holly Ryan, and Charlie's dog, Jelly. Kickstarter is a dog-friendly office. Jelly and her canine companions are free to roam the building, but she'll always come running when Mirisola whistles.
Mirisola told us that the building was originally an old pencil factory, and was essentially a 'leaky box' when Kickstarter bought it. The company moved into the space in 2014.
The office has its own solarium, which allows for plenty of natural light, greenery, and even a tiny river when it rains.
Next, we visited the office's theatre. Mirisola pointed out that all the non-structural wood is reclaimed. 'I know it's very cliché, especially in the north Brooklyn scene, but it was one of our earliest efforts to stay green and reuse materials,' he says.
All kinds of events take place in the theatre, from all-hands meetings to beer-making tutorials to creator and employee film screenings. However, with a team of more than 120 employees, not everyone fits anymore. There's now overflow space and a remote video broadcast in the kitchen.
There's so much action in here that Kickstarter opted for industrial standard dishwashers. The kitchen is stocked with breakfast food, snacks, and coffee and iced tea on tap.
Every Thursday, Kickstarter will have a family-style lunch for the whole company. The luncheon was moved from Friday to Thursday to avoid letting leftovers go to waste over the weekend.
Mirisola says that the company consciously doesn't provide meals every single day. 'We're not living in the middle of nowhere,' he says. 'We're in a busy, and fast-growing neighbourhood. For us, to serve lunch every day and give every employee every single thing they need throughout the day, is not only rough because people will never go outside and get fresh air, but it's also harmful to the community.'
When we stopped by, everyone was preparing a Thanksgiving meal: a Navajo stew, with sweet potatoes, beans, and some chicken on the side. It smelled amazing.
... and its own dinosaur hanging overhead. This was a gift from one of Kickstarter's creators. 'Some of the creators are so appreciative and really wonderful they send these customised pieces,' Mirisola says. 'Some are really incredible pieces.'
Other creator gifts include this picture, which shows the state of the solar system on the date Kickstarter was founded.
Kickstarter employees are a creative bunch themselves. Mirisola says among employees are chefs, poets, writers, and filmmakers. 'People come from all kinds of disciplines and bring that to the table here,' he says.
As a result, the have plenty of opportunities to showcase their creativity. For example, Kickstarter has its own wood shop where workers created these rolling easels.
'We try to give people as much freedom and space as possible,' Mirisola says. This extends to the perks as well. Kickstarter often brings in experts to talk to employees for its Always Be Learning program. Past highlights include a seminar on caucuses and a detailed talk on 'Game of Thrones' (both given by the same high school economics and history teacher). Kickstarter provides its employees with education stipends to support their learning goals. 'When people take creative classes and things like that they can come back in and actually share that with the group,' Ryan says.
The Kickstarter office features an open layout with tons of comfortable spots to sit around the office. When we visited, there were plenty of people working away from their desks.
'People make the space their own,' Mirisola says. 'That's where you see the culture coming through.'
'I don't doubt that anybody here would tell you that they're coming to work to just sit around a desk all day and that's it,' Mirisola says.
The office's open layout also allows for communication between teams. Ryan notes that other company traditions boost cohesion, even as the company expands. 'Every year we have a really awesome company retreat where everyone comes together,' Ryan says. 'That's a really great bonding experience for everyone.'
A collective love for cycling is another office tradition (which Kickstarter supports by providing bike stipends). Even on the chilly autumn day we visited, there were tons of bikes in the office. Kickstarter has an entire room devoted to bike storage.
The sticker-coated door to the room is actually an artifact from the team's old Lower East Side headquarters.
Next, we swung by the bleachers. Mirisola says that people can come up and work on these steps. It's also where the company will host its holiday concert. Groupmuse, a string ensemble that delivers concerts to your house, will host a holiday concert here soon.
During our tour we met Benjals, another one of the ubiquitous, remarkably well-behaved dogs roaming the office.
Next, we visited the office's massive library -- a great place to come if you want an extra quiet place to work.
We then headed upstairs to check out the office's most remarkable feature: it's rooftop garden. Mirisola pointed out his lime tree, Zelda (named for F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife due to its Long Island roots). 'This roof is so great for plant life that this tree was basically a stick in the dirt, and then we put it up here and it came back to life,' he says.
'In the summertime, this is a lush bed of grass,' Mirisola says. 'People will just sit and work and lounge.' Jelly's definitely a big fan of the garden too.
When the weather's nice, Kickstarter employees will screen films on the roof. 'We have all kinds of events out here,' Mirisola says. 'It's pretty great.'
The garden provides employees with herbs, blueberries, strawberries, lavender, sage, chard, oregano, figs, radishes, squash, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, lettuces, and kale. When Kickstarter is hosting an event, caterers will sometimes take ingredients from the garden, too.
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