Dear Project Spaces,
It was nine years ago when I first found you the same way most people did at the time: through a blogTO article listing the cheapest desk space in the city.
Like most members at that time, I initially joined for that reason—as bootstrapping founders, that’s exactly what we needed.
When I first walked in, Project Spaces was this big empty room with foldable chairs and foldable desks.
But what started off as cheap place to work ended up meaning more to me than I ever could’ve predicted.
Throughout the years to come, the community at PS helped me grow my business. You supported me when I hit hard times. And we came out of it all with some pretty incredible experiences along the way.
Surrounded by a community of resourceful founders (who had all managed to pay the absolute least amount possible for their office space), the lounge became a Mecca for discussions and problem solving.
It didn’t matter what you were stuck with.
Needed help with grants? All you had to do was ask Trung from Axis Blinds, who had raised upwards of $300,000 in just grant money.
Wanted to hire interns? Talk to Jerry of Ippinka (or me).
You don’t know how to distribute your new app? Sit down with Dawson Whitfield while he has his Freshii bowl out at lunch and he’ll help with some growth hacking approaches.
Need to learn how to sell and hire sales (like I once did)? Sit down with Aly Baker. Hearing Aly close a deal off a cold call was like seeing magic happen.
In need of some negotiating inspiration? Have a sit next to Brandi. She once shred the President of FedEx to pieces for messing up her container import documents, got him to make things right, fixing the issue as well as extending additional credit to her startup.
If you shared your goals or challenges at lunch, you could count on the rest of the founders to help. You could also count on everyone to follow up with you to see if you executed.
And if you had a BS excuse, you would get called out on it eventually.
A fellow founder at the time and one of my closest friends now, Brenton, asked me about what I thought of a logo. He told me he needed some honest feedback. After I told him I thought it was done by a fifth grader, we sat down and worked on how to make it better.
Over the last nine years at Serind, we’ve worked with over 100 founders starting their dream startups.
I always like to say that if you really want to pursue your dreams, don’t share them with your family and friends. They care way too much about your safety. And if it comes down to choosing between a risky dream and your safety, their advice will always be biased towards your well-being.
Instead, find a group of people who have done what you want to do. Let them share their mistakes. For most founders, that’s the hardest part: finding others who have charted their own course.
And in that sense, Project Spaces is that refuge for founders.
It didn’t matter how bad your problem was. Odds are that someone at PS had lived through it just a few months or a year prior to you.
I once received a CRA audit letter. After throwing up twice over a sleepless night, I told a few (thou shall remain unnamed) souls at PS. They shared their experiences, what they did to resolve it, what to look out for, and it was all the hope and courage I needed to continue running the company.
To me, Project Spaces started out as a melting pot of a bunch of rule breakers figuring stuff out together—and it’s always remained that way. That’s why we’re still here to this day.
But it wasn’t just the coworkers who made this place special. It was you guys—Jeff and Neil—and the way you truly cared about every person in that space.
When Serind Labs wasn’t doing well, I didn’t have any money for my apartment rent—let alone office rent.
I told Jeff that I couldn’t cover the bills so I would move out and come back when I could. But rather than accepting my departure, Jeff told me this:
“Don’t worry about it, you can stay here, work on your business, and pay us when you’re ready.”
Then a month goes by. I still don’t have cash. I’m trying to avoid Jeff because I’m three months behind on rent.
So, I figured I’d just move to the open space because it was cheaper and at least I wouldn’t be taking up their most valuable real estate.
When Jeff saw me out there, he asked why, and I told him. But instead of letting me stay in the open area, he said, “don’t worry, I trust you, you’re gonna do just fine.”
Then, a few weeks later, I finally went to pay him the month’s rent and he told me:
“Keep it in your business and pay me when you’re really able to pay me.”
And I did. We were able to get back on track and pay off our balance.
The obvious reality is that you aren’t going to get that from WeWork. You wouldn’t get that from a big corporate office space.
That kind of genuine care only comes from a place where you really matter and your community has your back.
Along with all the hard work and hustling away, there were also some unforgettable nights of partying and fun.
I remember one night where we had literally 30 beer pong and flip cup games going across the entire office. Some of the best parties I’ve ever been to have taken place right here at Project Spaces.
And as Project Spaces has evolved into this incredible community where people connect and businesses grow, we’ve gotten better as a result.
Today, the combined startup valuation of the founders I mentioned in this letter would be well over $500 million.
But they all started right here at Project Spaces—with one cheap desk, two friendly co-founders, and a big community of rule breakers.
So, as one of your longest-standing members, I just want to say this:
Thank you for 11 incredible years of supporting the success of founders like myself; for being incredible people to be around; and for curating a community of people who have gone on to be lifelong friends.
It’s not often you find a place like this but I’m sure glad I stumbled across that blogTO article all those years ago.
Founder-friendly coworking in downtown Toronto for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. EST 2011. We create original workspaces, fill them with relentless entrepreneurs, and watch the magic happen. Learn more