In the last 2 years outbrain Israel had a lovely little office in Natanya. It was actually right below Shopping.com (which is the company I came from) office so I had warm feeling to the area. I also hoped that a good Karma will fall down in gravity and give us an Exit luck as Shopping.com had :). Our lease agreement for that warm and cozy office was about to expire and since we were growing, there was no point in extending that agreement. We have been looking for another space in Natanya for very long time and did not find anything that will fit our need and company culture. As always, the luck is the biggest factor in such cases. Saifun, an Israeli semi-conductors company, was looking to sub-lease one of their building's floors. long story short... we took it.
I wanted to draw some of the differences and changes between the old and the new office. Things that we did, to make our engineers more comfortable and of course, more productive.
Standard upgrade: our old office was nice and warm but had lower standard of building. As example, we had only single toilet (unisex) which was not the most "ventilated" place, so for #2 you had to go outside quite a way. Mess! Here there are 3 cabins for each sex and shower for the sportive ones that want to use bicycles and ride to work. Light, sunlight, acoustics, and air condition is by far better then the old office. I'm now connecting my Ipod to a sound system in our Saloon and my Hebrew music does not interrupt the engineers around. All of the furniture are also part of the sub-lease from Siafun and are ergonomics and well designed to the comfort of the engineers that spend long hours next to the computer.
Open Space: we had long debate if it's the best to keep engineers in offices or have them in open space. Our old office had 2 large rooms for the engineers and in them there were 6 work stations for the engineers. We kind of liked that, it enabled the guys to interact freely from their chairs within the teams but also not interrupt from one team to the other on separate discussions. Luckily, the new office have similar design, it is actually cubicals of 4 people, (the perfect size of a software team)that have ~180 cm height of walls. Still keeping the level of collaboration within the team. The acoustics of the Teknion separating walls is just great so, although we are kind of noisy company, it is still pretty quiet in the office.
Communication: One of the biggest productivity factors in an Internet company is the speed and quality of communication. We did not save on that! We've got a 4Mbps symmetric line from Cellcom (the leading Israeli cell provider) to keep the bandwidth to the internet backbone fast and wide. As outbrain is located both in Israel and in NYC, it is very important for us to keep a clear channel between the offices. this "wide" line will use us to connect the telephony systems and most of all for fluent video/audio conferencing. I believe this is crucial to the general feel of "one company" instead of "us and them" that usually get developed in remote sites. A nice project that was done by Shai, our IT consultant, was to put Asterisk telephony system which is totally free and open sourced. it will also allow us to cut many communication expenses significantly. Soon, when our NY office will move to a new place we will have both Asterisk machines connected and act like one, cross Atlantic, phone system which will simply cut all the cost of long distance calls.
Location: people who know me, knows I'm the kind of a country guy that ocean view and green fields out of the window just make my day. Some of the options we had for offices did fulfill my aspirations for that. I have to admit in the new office this was a compromise for me. However, as someone that knows the Israeli High-tech scene, there is nothing more important for employees then proximity to restaurants for lunch. For that matter, our new location is a Home-Run. It's right above lots of good places to eat.
Atmosphere: well, one thing that bothered me when first seeing the property was that it looked too much like an office, It wasn't as warm as our previous, wooden floor, office. It was somehow... Cold. So, right before we moved we did slight changes that made it look much more fun and homy.
First of all we butchered the first cubical and made it a big Saloon - with our well known green sofa, some decorations and our famous Wii equipment. Guitar hero stands in the corner waiting for the next talent to come.
Actually, having no designer to this office made me and Eytan act as designers getting some decorations from IKEA and buying some cushions for the guys to take some rest on. We made a fond of ourselves but the feedback are great so Eytan is considering to change profession now :)
The office is much bigger then what we actually need. However, if you like it and you are a small company that is looking to lease a space and work in nice atmosphere, our new, cool office is ready for partial sub-lease. The main criteria is to be a company with fun people DNA.
More photos of the office move, with some artistic touch of Vered, our Data Analyst and home photographer, can be found here