Looking across the street at Elliott Bay and the water’s edge, Zipwhip CEO John Lauer swore he saw some orcas recently from his office in the startup’s new Seattle headquarters. In a walk around the 75,000-square-foot space in the Elliott Bay Office Park, it’s Lauer who is having a whale of a time putting the finishing touches on a home that is finally Zipwhip’s own.
“I love this buildout and this space we’ve got. It’s amazing,” Lauer said during a tour this week, six weeks after the 10-year-old text-messaging business moved north of downtown to Lower Queen Anne. “And we thought we had a good view last time, now we have an even better view. I’m loving it.”
Zipwhip — and its 275 employees — had outgrown space it was subleasing from Real Networks in the Home Plate Center across from T-Mobile Park. A survey of employees found that many lived in neighborhoods at the north end of town, so the new building, which used to be home to Holland America, made sense. Zipwhip has taken the entire fifth floor and half of the fourth, and there’s room to grow.
Across Elliott Avenue is Seattle startup Outreach and the vacant former home of F5 Networks, which just left the neighborhood for a fancy tower of its own on Fifth Avenue. Further north is Expedia and its massive new waterfront campus. The mini tech hub of sorts appears to be booming, even as the old Seattle Post-Intelligencer globe has stopped spinning atop former waterfront offices just a couple blocks away.
Zipwhip has pulled out all the stops in making the spacious floor plan meet its needs.
“Any time you go and move into a new space that’s all your own, you get to design it for the way you work, imbuing your culture into everything. It’s pretty sweet,” Lauer said. “I think everybody’s just like, ‘Oh, wow! All right, now we’ve got to really, really earn this space.’”
The view is certainly a killer amenity. “The sunsets have been epic,” Lauer said as a ferry crossed the bay and the sun began to set behind the Olympic Mountains. And they’ll only get better as plans call for adding a rooftop deck.
Founded in 2007, Zipwhip originally targeted consumers and set out to be the “Facebook of text messaging,” according to GeekWire. But it pivoted in 2014, taking a different approach by working with wireless carriers to enable hundreds of millions of business landlines to receive and send text messages. This allowed companies to text with their customers from landline phones, VoIP services, and toll-free numbers.
And now Zipwhip — which raised a $51.5 million Series D investment round in January — is checking many of the boxes that make modern tech offices desirable places to come to work every day.
There are a variety of workstations catering to introverts and extroverts, whether they prefer open, group collaboration on blocky stacks of colorful seating or tucking themselves away in a dimly lit room on a specially selected pillow or chair.
Core-drilled holes in the concrete flooring have been turned into golf holes and the office has a mini course of sorts, with holes in the middle of walkways, marked by small Zipwhip-branded flags.
A puzzle is spread out on a large table in the marketing department and around the corner is a vending machine that offers up items from the IT help desk if you happen to need a mouse or keyboard on a random occasion.
Like many of the newer offices we’ve toured lately, the artwork on the walls is intentionally curated and names for all sorts of meeting rooms and gathering spaces are not an afterthought but rather a carefully considered collection of nods to innovators, artists, musicians, neighborhoods and Washington travel destinations.
Because Zipwhip is in the business of helping businesses better utilize text messaging, it certainly puts its own tech to use. Want to learn more about Mount St. Helens, the famed volcanic peak which also happens to be a one-on-one room? Just text a specific Zipwhip number and get facts about the mountain sent back to your phone.
Quick facts can also be head for other namesakes, including the Bill Gates conference room, the Kurt Cobain flex room, the Frida Kahlo team room, the Hurricane Ridge work booth, the Marshall McLuhan board room, the Tim Berners-Lee training room and the Hedy LaMarr innovation room, to name a few. In fact, there are 19 conference rooms, 11 one-on-rooms (featuring giant wall-papered photos taken by employees), seven flex rooms, nine team rooms, eight sound-proof demo rooms, and 11 work booths.
There’s also a “recharge” room to get your zen realigned and there are two mother’s rooms. There’s a large room for the production of podcasts and YouTube videos. And there’s a shower room for bike commuters or whomever else might need one. Modular furniture is meant to maximize space between desks and departments, and lower seating along windows is meant to maximize views.
Walking the space with Tom Engstrom, senior manager of IT Operations and Facilities, and Keena Bean, director of Corporate Communications, Lauer jumped in and out of various rooms and seating configurations. He raised and lowered bluetooth-enabled standup desks which will alert an employee if they’ve been sitting for too long. He spun around in a high-backed chair and leaned across the counter of a tech-support help desk.
“As a startup you love getting somebody else’s furniture for free,” Lauer said. “This is the first time we actually bought our own furniture. We were subleasing from Real Networks, it was all their furniture. The space before, I think we got it all for free from PopCap games. The space before was empty, but we just went to IKEA, like every good startup.”
The furniture gets pushed aside every Tuesday at 4 in the training room, where Zipwhip plays host to a yoga class for employees. Every Thursday, dogs are allowed to come to work. And on Fridays, lunch is supplied at the all-hands meeting in an expansive kitchen and dining area.
It’s here that a robotic coffee machine is swinging its arm though the motions as it prepares a double Americano during GeekWire’s visit. Textspresso can, of course, be texted from your desk to get started on your drink. The room, with ping-pong obviously, is the spot for grab-and-go food items and beer and kombucha on tap.
Around the corner near the main entrance, where visitors arrive to that water and mountains view, a large board room features a light-up sign with the company’s core values spelled out. There’s a giant, custom table from Urban Hardwoods in Seattle, made from trees sourced from a property in Lake City.
“We’ve never had a room big enough to actually have our board meetings in. So we had our first,” Lauer said.
Check out more images from the Zipwhip offices below: