CubeSpace: The Importance of Community

Officially, CubeSpace is a local for profit business in Portland, OR with two sides to the business. They started as a coworking space where people can work or hold meetings with all of the amenities of a traditional office, but they recently expanded into consulting where they bring groups of freelancers together to bid on bigger projects. Both of these efforts generate revenue for the CubeSpace business.

Unofficially, they are the adopted home of the Portland technology community. They donate their space in the evenings to user groups and other technology gatherings without asking anything in return. They have generously let me hold Legion of Tech meetings, community manager meetups, and they have been a great partner in many of the bigger local events, like WordCamp, CyborgCamp, BarCamp, Startupalooza, and more.

Earlier this week, they put out an open letter to the community letting us know that they were having financial difficulties that would likely result in eviction from their space and / or bankrupcy. I was personally very concerned and sad and outraged by the way US Bank was responding and worried about losing CubeSpace and about the impact this would have on so many of my friends, particularly Eva and David. Most of my friends were experiencing similar emotions, and there was an outpouring of support and offers of help from far and wide within the technology community in Portland.

The community gathered online and offline to find ways to help. We were discussing CubeSpace in the halls between WebVisions sessions, at lunch, and everywhere else we gathered in real life. People started Tweeting with the #savecubespace hashtag. Several ways to help have been emerging: a site where you can donate money (they have raised over $5000 so far), an auction, and more. Various ways to help have been included in the comments of the Silicon Florist post.

All of these activities generated a huge amount of activity on Twitter, which attracted the mainstream media. Stephanie Strickland start putting in calls to US Bank for comment and later KGW did a news story about the incident. Mike Rogoway wrote a great article for the Oregonian. The grassroots support on Twitter led to mainstream media coverage, which finally got US Bank to the table to provide CubeSpace with some options.

Community Case Study

This level of support from the community, both online and offline, is not typical behavior when you are talking about a for profit organization having financial difficulties. Had this been a place where people rented office space and went home at the end of the day, few people would have cared if they went out of business. Because Eva and David have always been so generous with their space for the technology community – letting community user groups meet at CubeSpace for no charge, the community wants to give something back to them. They have been so generous with the community, and now that they are struggling, the community wants to help them.

They didn’t create the Portland technology community, but they joined the community and became active participants. They gave generously to the community, and now the community wants to give back. This is the way strong communities respond when one of their own is in trouble. This isn’t the first time the community has bailed someone out of a tight spot; one of the best examples was the Bram Pitoyo bike fund when his bike was stolen last year.  Eva and David are in trouble, and the community is pulling together to help. I think the past few days in particular speak to the strength of the Portland technology community.

Next Steps

Eva and David have quite a bit to think about this weekend as they weigh their options and decide which path to take. I expect that they will need to take a hard look at their business model and cost structure if they decide to continue with CubeSpace to avoid ending up in a similar situation again. Personally, I think that they should get rid of some more cubicles and increase the flexible space or provide bigger, dedicate office spaces to small companies. So many of us left the corporate world to escape the cubicles and aren’t eager to jump back into one.

I have also been holding off on making any donations until I see how I can best help. Donating money isn’t always the best option depending on which path they choose, so I want to make sure that I can help in a way that would be most productive. Whatever Eva and David decide to do, I will be there to support them in any way that I can as a member of the community that they have been so much a part of. I wish them the best of luck whatever they decide to do.

Update June 16: The end result is that CubeSpace has decided to shut down their business, but I wish them the best of luck in future endeavors.

12 thoughts on “CubeSpace: The Importance of Community”

  1. Thanks for including me in your blog posting about CubeSpace. What drew my attention to the story was the response on Twitter, as you noted. And what was unique about that is the speed in which I could get a read on community reaction. News (good and bad) moves like lightening on Twitter.

  2. Lest we forget, CubeSpace has been the cradle for much of the nonprofit, networking, and job searching folks. It’s like Eva|David are Mother to most the new, worthy, and authentic in PDX since CubeSpace opened it’s doors!

  3. As a local small business owner, many of our customers use CubeSpacePDX as an island and portal for their operations. This is a time where businesses need to step up to help other local businesses. This is a small city where many technology firms intertwine with one another. We’re grateful for KGW’s coverage of this event and the outpouring of support from our customers and the huge array of community members involving themselves to help out CubeSpace.

    Thomas Brenneke
    Network Redux, LLC

  4. I find it ironic that a place where a small business — *any* small business, not just a technology business — can get free or low-cost legal and financial advice on business models has been forced by unprecedented economic events to re-define its own business model. And I am convinced that there *is* a viable business model and that David and Eva will find / create it and prosper. That’s the kind of people they are, and that’s the kind of people Portlanders are. “Yes we can!”

  5. If it hadn’t been for CubeSpace my company would never have really gotten off the ground. David & Eva created the perfect incubator space to help small business migrate from a home office into a dedicated office. Between the contacts made and quiet work environment I was able to bootstrap my way into an office in about half the time typical bootstrap startups can do it.
    I can’t begin to imagine the Portland Tech scene without the culture rich haven that David & Eva setup.
    I do concur however that turning more focus to flexible spaces and possibly changing the business model to adapt to the current economic situation might be a better idea. Perhaps a nonprofit co-op would be the best solution, giving all techies a stake in keeping the geek consulate open to benefit us all?
    We’re thrilled we could help them out the way they helped us just 8 short months ago.

    Cheers to David & Eva (and all of those who have helped make it the great place it is!)

  6. PDXSays, CubeSpace does so much for other communities, too. I tried to focus this post on the technology community, since it is the one that I’m a part of, but it’s great that multiple communities have pulled together to help.

    I’m happy to see the community pitching in and supporting CubeSpace.

  7. Thank you Dawn and Rick and OurPdx and many others for writing post about this. As soon as I heard about it at the tail end of WebVisions, my heart sank for them and I wanted to jump in and help right away.

    CubeSpace has been great and it also given me a chance to know my Portland Tech Community a little better too.


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