Our New Chicago Office: An Interview with our CEO
By: Pooja Parthasarathy
Recently, we moved our Chicago headquarters into a new office space in the heart of the Loop—with almost three times the square footage of the old office, double the ceiling height, and amenities such as a library, private phone booths, and kombucha on tap.
We interviewed our CEO, Stuart Frankel, to discuss the reasons behind the move, what the new space means for the company’s growth, and his favorite office perk.
What spurred the move?
Stuart: There were a few reasons why we decided to move into a new office. One was very practical—our lease was coming up for renewal. When we moved into our last office space, we had 30-40 employees. We have over 100 today, and we will have many hundreds in the near future. So as I thought about future growth and because we would have to sign a new lease we decided to look around a bit.
First, we did some research, surveyed our employees, and saw what was available in the market—it felt like the right opportunity to set us up in a place where we could be for a long time. Our goals were to find a space that would be a good fit culturally, located in an accessible location, and within a building that would allow us the flexibility to grow over time.
How do you see the personality and culture of Narrative Science reflected in the new space?
Stuart: It was really important for us to create an environment that reflects who we are. We actually hired a company to observe how we interact with each other in order to build out the optimal space. It was clear that we needed an equal balance of collaborative areas with spaces that are more private. In the new space, we have two seats for every person here. So everyone has an assigned desk and then another space that is not assigned—and I don’t just mean conference rooms—there are a ton of informal areas where people can ideate, be creative, or relax.
The new office also really balances seriousness with fun. This is a serious place to work—you get that feeling when you walk through these doors. On the other hand, there are elements of this space that are clearly for blowing off steam and interacting socially.
What does the future of the company look like how does this space fit into that vision?
Stuart: Our move reflects the evolution of transitioning away from the “start-up phase.” In our old office, if we needed additional desks, we would blow open a wall to create more room. That’s how you run a company in the early days—operationally looking at what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis.
We now need to grow in a planned way instead of an ad-hoc way. As we have more clarity of how we will take advantage of the market opportunity in front of us, we are able to do real planning for the future, not just planning for the next few months or quarters. We look at: what do we need to do today to inform and impact where we want to be in 3 years? Some people think this is a luxury—I think it’s a necessity. Our new office is a metaphor for the future: it’s big, open, and flexible, but there’s also a permanency factor to it.
How does this space support our business goals?
Stuart: Every month, we are acquiring more enterprise companies as customers. The quality of our space reflects the caliber of our customer base. We need to appear as our customers do.
In early days, you get a lot of leeway as a start-up because you are inherently innovative. Today, we continue to raise the innovation bar, but the stakes are higher. Our customer base has expectations of the service we provide and the atmosphere we create. When they walk through our doors, they can see that this is a successful company that’s going to be around for a while and that really cares about its employees.
More than ever, customers want to understand who their vendors and partners are—that they share their values of what’s important to them. When you walk into this office, you get the feeling that we are a true partner to these organizations.
Tell me about the patent wall.
Stuart: Since inception, we’ve been focused on developing IP and protecting that IP through filing patent applications. We have an outsized patent portfolio for a relatively small company, with 19 issued patents and 35 more or so on file.
We’ve made this a feature of the space. When you walk into the lobby, there’s a massive display that very subtly highlights our patents. It serves as an important way to recognize the contributions of our employees—the inventors of our technology—in a professional and profound way.
What is your favorite perk in the new office?
Stuart: The roof deck! It’s easy to spend a lot of time up there.