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.
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.