Should we make corporations give desk space to startups?

Every once in a while, we get a nice reminder that Cambridge is essentially a small town. Last summer, a package with the following address label was actually delivered to my house.

Address label

We got another reminder last weekend, when we were walking around the neighborhood and met Josh Dawson, who is running to represent our district in the MA state legislature. I never met any elected officials when my zip code was 10003.

One of Josh’s priorities is supporting the innovation economy in Boston and Cambridge. We asked for more details, and he shared an interesting idea. Real estate developers are required to set aside a portion of their properties for low- or moderate-income housing. What if companies that receive tax breaks and subsidies from the state were required to set aside desk space for startups?

Many of our friends are entrepreneurs, and we know how prohibitively expensive it can be to find office space in the city. It’s all well and good to start a company out of your garage, but at a certain point companies need office space to attract employees and meet with clients.

Of course, there would be complications: who would decide which startups were worthy of the space? But programs like Mass Challenge have effectively identified some of Boston’s hottest startups (see: Ministry of Supply). Corporations providing the desk space could even choose the beneficiaries themselves. Social enterprises should be given a shot at the space as well.

What do you think? What else could the government do (or not do) to foster Boston’s innovation economy?

2 thoughts on “Should we make corporations give desk space to startups?

  1. Aman Advani says:

    Great thought Hannah – and I don’t know that there’s an easy answer in my mind. My heart says yes, absolutely. If you receive a gift from the community, give one back. But, on the flipside, office space most certainly isn’t the biggest hangup for most startups (could be totally wrong on that one). That’s not a reason to dismiss your suggestion, but maybe spawn a conversation on how we could utilize this obligation to “give back” – in a different way than office space? Mentorship or small capital funding could be interesting.

    • monogamoney says:

      That’s a really great point! Maybe the desk space could be tied to other resources – mentorship, perhaps, or in-kind donations of supplies or legal servies. I think the desk space could be a really good way to make sure it actually happens, though. It’s something tangible that connects the startup to the corporate mentor.

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